Civil Rights Coalition Urges Senate to Withhold Confirmation of U.S. Attorney General Nominee Alberto Gonzales
Washington – Citing his troubling record and continued administration stonewalling on key documents, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, today urged senators to oppose confirmation of U.S. Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales if more information is not forthcoming. Specifically, LCCR said that prior to a Committee vote, an additional Committee hearing, the production of relevant documents under the Administration’s control which have not been previously made available, and more complete responses to written questions already posed are necessary for a full and fair review of Mr. Gonzales’ confirmation.
“The Leadership Conference recognizes the historic significance of Mr. Gonzales’ appointment as the first Hispanic American to serve as Attorney General,” stated Wade Henderson, LCCR executive director. But at the same time, Henderson pointed to “LCCR’s significant concerns with Mr. Gonzales’ past law enforcement record and his failure during the confirmation process to clearly explain his positions on critical civil and human rights issues” as the basis for his organization’s position.
Most critically, said Henderson, “we remain unconvinced that Mr. Gonzales would independently enforce the law, rather than continue to simply rationalize it, as he did while serving then-Governor and now President Bush.”
Chief among LCCR’s concerns are Mr. Gonzales’ failure
- when he was Counsel to then-Governor George W. Bush, to include critical facts in advising the Governor in death penalty cases.
- to fully answer many questions regarding civil rights and liberties issues.
- to make clear that as Attorney General he would be fully committed to respecting the time-honored and vital role of judicial review of executive actions.
- to release important documents related to the Administration’s policy on torture and interrogation that “appear to have paved the way for the recent horrific incidents at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.”
Mr. Gonzales’ role, as Counsel to then-Governor George W. Bush, in advising the Governor in death penalty cases. Mr. Gonzales wrote short memoranda to the Governor that summarized cases, but which often left out critical facts that were presented in clemency petitions. Mr. Gonzales attempted to defend the memoranda, during his hearing, by claiming that he also engaged in “rolling discussions” in which he carefully advised the Governor of all relevant facts of each case. LCCR noted, however, that “to date, Mr. Gonzales has produced no tangible evidence of such discussions or any other communications with the Governor about any death penalty case.” Henderson continued that there are “serious and very troubling questions remaining about whether, under Mr. Gonzales’ tenure, justice was properly administered in every case.”
Mr. Gonzales has failed to fully answer many questions regarding civil rights and liberties issues. For example, in LCCR’s letter, Henderson stated that Mr. Gonzales’ failure to commit to fully enforce regulations enacted under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act “suggests a substantial narrowing of the historic reach of one of our fundamental civil rights laws.” In response to questions about mandatory minimum sentencing and disparities in sentencing for crack vs. powder cocaine offenses, “Mr. Gonzales failed to even acknowledge the racial disparities that the current policies have produced.”
Mr. Gonzales has failed to make clear his position on the vital role of judicial review of executive actions. Referring to Mr. Gonzales’ role in shaping the administration’s “enemy combatants” policy, the letter argued that “Mr. Gonzales has still not made it clear that he, as Attorney General, would be fully committed to respecting the time-honored and vital role of judicial review of executive actions.”
Mr. Gonzales’ continuing failure to release important documents related to the Administration’s policy on torture and interrogation that “appear to have paved the way for the recent horrific incidents at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.” Henderson called again on the White House to release Mr. Gonzales’ memoranda, stating that “we strongly believe that the Senate cannot meet its constitutional obligations in this nomination without full disclosure and review of these materials.”
“The record is very troubling because nowhere is the Senate’s constitutional role in reviewing a presidential cabinet nominee more important than in the case of a prospective Attorney General,” Henderson continued. “It is even more troubling because Mr. Gonzales, in response to questions by Chairman Specter and other members of the Judiciary Committee during his recent confirmation hearing, had repeatedly pledged far greater cooperation with the Committee than his predecessor had extended. Mr. Gonzales and the Administration have utterly failed to deliver on this promised level of cooperation, leaving numerous questions remaining about his suitability for the position of Attorney General and about the impact his tenure would have on civil and human rights in this country and elsewhere.”