Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The cookie defense
Alberto R. Gonzales' confirmation hearings for Attorney General begin in the Senate tomorrow. Gonzales has a pretty repulsive record and I hope the hearings drag it all out and tie it around George Bush's neck. Already some new details are emerging concerning Gonzales' role in adding the United States to the shameful list of countries that use torture.
Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, intervened directly with Justice Department lawyers in 2002 to obtain a legal ruling on the extent of the president's authority to permit extreme interrogation practices in the name of national security, current and former administration officials said Tuesday.

Mr. Gonzales's role in seeking a legal opinion on the definition of torture and the legal limits on the force that could be used on terrorist suspects in captivity is expected to be a central issue in the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings scheduled to begin on Thursday on Mr. Gonzales's nomination to be attorney general.

The request by Mr. Gonzales produced the much-debated Justice Department memorandum of Aug. 1, 2002, which defined torture narrowly and said that Mr. Bush could circumvent domestic and international prohibitions against torture in the name of national security.

Until now, administration officials have been unwilling to provide details about the role Mr. Gonzales had in the production of the memorandum by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Mr. Gonzales has spoken of the memorandum as a response to questions, without saying that most of the questions were his.


A White House spokeswoman, Erin Healy, said Tuesday that while Mr. Gonzales personally requested the August opinion, he was only seeking "objective legal advice and did not ask the Office of Legal Counsel to reach any specific conclusion."

When Gonzales wrote to the Office of Legal Counsel and asked, "does the president really have to follow the Geneva Conventions?" he was just asking a hypothetical question and didn't really ahve a particular answer in mind.

How belivable is that? If a five year-old boy walks up to his mother just before dinner and asks, "if someone ate all of the cookies, would they be in trouble?" do we think he's just curious and either answer would be acceptable? Gonzales is a lawyer who is completely familiar with the concept of a leading question. He was trolling for a prefered answer and the Office of Legal Counsel was happy to give it to him.

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