Nation’s Largest Civil Rights Coalition Calls on Senators to Oppose Confirmation of Alberto R. Gonzales to U.S. Attorney General
Citing his troubling record and unresponsiveness to Senators’ questions concerning human rights, detention, torture, the death penalty, and other civil rights issues, 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 R. Gonzales.
“Although LCCR recognizes the historic significance of Mr. Gonzales’ appointment as the first Hispanic American to serve as Attorney General,” commented Wade Henderson, LCCR executive director, “LCCR cannot ignore Mr. Gonzales’ questionable commitment to the rule of law, his refusal to answer key questions, and his failure during the confirmation process to clearly explain his positions on critical civil and human rights issues.”
“Most critically,” Henderson further stated, “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 reasons for opposing Mr. Gonzales’ nomination include:
- Failure to include critical facts when providing advice as Counsel to then-Governor Bush about death penalty cases;
- Failure to fully answer questions regarding civil rights and liberties issues;
- Failure 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; and
- Failure to release important documents related to the Administration’s policy on torture, detention, and interrogation that “appear to have paved the way for the recent horrific incidents at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.”
Mr. Gonzales has refused to address concerns about his 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. During his hearing, Mr. Gonzales attempted to defend the memoranda by claiming that he also engaged in “rolling discussions” in which he carefully advised the Governor of all relevant facts of each case.
However, Henderson noted that “Mr. Gonzales has not produced 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, Mr. Gonzales failed to commit to fully enforce regulations enacted under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Henderson points out that this “suggests a substantial narrowing of the historic reach of one of our fundamental civil rights laws.” Further, 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,” continued Henderson.
Mr. Gonzales did not 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, LCCR 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 did not release important requested 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.”
In conclusion, Henderson said, “Mr. Gonzales and the Administration’s refusal to supply requested documents and critical answers leave numerous questions about his suitability to serve as Attorney General, and about the impact his tenure would have on civil and human rights. Therefore, for these reasons, LCCR sees no choice but to oppose the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales to Attorney General of the United States.”