Skip to comments.Durbin used the FBI Memo before in Feb 2005
Posted on 06/22/2005 7:05:49 AM PDT by Dog
EXECUTIVE SESSION -- (Senate - February 02, 2005)
Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, after every war, history is written. There are stories of courage, compassion, and glory, and stories of cruelty, weakness, and shame.
When history is written of our war on terrorism, it will record the millions of acts of heroism, kindness, and sacrifice performed by American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other nations. And it will record as well the stunning courage of Iraqi men and women standing in line last Sunday, defying the terrorist bullets and bombs to vote in the first free election of their lives.
But sadly, history will also recall that after 9/11, and after the invasion of Iraq, some in America concluded our Nation could no longer afford to stand by time-honored principles of humanity, principles of humane conduct embodied in the law of the land and respected by Presidents of both political parties for generations.
Next to the image of Saddam Hussein's statue dragged from its pedestal to the dirt below will be the horrifying image of the hooded prisoner at Abu Ghraib, standing on a makeshift pedestal, tethered to electrical wires.
Alberto Gonzales is a skilled lawyer. His life story is nothing short of inspiring. I have the greatest respect for his success, for what he has achieved, and for the obstacles he has overcome.
But this debate is not about Mr. Gonzales's life story. This debate is about whether, in the age of terrorism, America will continue to be a nation based on the rule of law, or whether we, out of fear, abandon time-tested values. That is what is at issue.
The war in Iraq is more dangerous today because of the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison. Our conduct has been called into question around the world. Our moral standing has been challenged, and now we are being asked to promote a man who was at the center of the debate over secretive policies that created an environment that led to Abu Ghraib.
What happened at Abu Ghraib? What continues to happen at Guantanamo? What happened to the standards of civilized conduct America proudly followed and demanded of every other nation in the world?
Some dismiss these horrible acts as the demented conduct of only a few, the runaway emotions of renegade night shift soldiers, the inevitable passions and fears of men living in the charnel house of war. But we now know that if there was unspeakable cruelty in those dimly lit prison cells, there was also a cruel process underway in the brightly lit corridors of power in Washington.
At the center of this process, at the center of this administration's effort to redefine the acceptable and legal treatment of prisoners and detainees was Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to President George W. Bush. And with the skill that only lawyers can bring, Mr. Gonzales, Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee and others found the loopholes, invented the weasel words and covered the whole process with winks and nods.
At the very least, Mr. Gonzales helped to create a permissive environment that made it more likely that abuses would take place. You can connect the dots from the administration's legal memos to the Defense Department's approval of abusive interrogation techniques for Guantanamo Bay, to Iraq and Abu Ghraib, where those tactics migrated.
Blaming Abu Ghraib completely on night shift soldiers ignores critical decisions on torture policy made at the highest levels of our Government, decisions that Mr. Gonzales played a major role in making. If we are going to hold those at the lowest levels accountable, it is only fair to hold those at the highest levels accountable as well.
Let's review what we know.
First, Mr. Gonzales recommended to the President that the Geneva Conventions should not apply to the
war on terrorism. In a January 2002 memo to the President, Mr. Gonzales concluded that the war on terrorism ``renders obsolete'' the Geneva Conventions. This is a memo written by the man who would be Attorney General.
Colin Powell and the Joint Chiefs of Staff objected strenuously to this conclusion by Alberto Gonzales. They argued that we could effectively prosecute a war on terrorism while still living up to the standards of the Geneva Conventions.
In a memo to Mr. Gonzales, Secretary of State Colin Powell pointed out that the Geneva Conventions would allow us to deny POW status to al-Qaida and other terrorists and that they would not limit our ability to question a detainee or hold him indefinitely. So, contrary to the statements by some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, complying with the Geneva Conventions does not mean giving POW status to terrorists. Colin Powell knew that. The Joint Chiefs of Staff knew that. Alberto Gonzales refused to accept that.
In his memo to Mr. Gonzales, Secretary Powell went on to say that if we did not apply the Geneva Conventions to the war on terrorism, ``it will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice ..... and undermine the protections of the law of war for our own troops ..... It will undermine public support among critical allies, making military cooperation more difficult to sustain.''
The President rejected Secretary Powell's wise counsel and instead accepted Mr. Gonzales's counsel. He issued a memo concluding that ``new thinking in the law of war'' was needed and that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to the war on terrorism.
And then what followed? Mr. Gonzales requested, approved, and disseminated this new Justice Department torture memo. This infamous memo narrowly redefined torture as limited only to abuse that causes pain equivalent to organ failure or death, and concluded that the torture statute which makes torture a crime in America does not apply to interrogations conducted under the President's Commander in Chief authority. That was the official Government policy for 2 years.
Then relying on the President's Geneva Conventions determination and the Justice Department's new definition of torture, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld approved numerous abusive interrogation tactics for use against prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, even as he acknowledged that some nations may view those tactics as inhumane. These techniques have Orwellian names such as ``environmental manipulation.''
The Red Cross has concluded that the use of these methods at Guantanamo
was more than inhumane. It was, in the words of the Red Cross, ``a form of torture.''
We have recently learned that numerous FBI agents who observed interrogations at Guantanamo Bay complained to their supervisors about the use of these methods, methods which began at the desks of Alberto Gonzales and the Department of Justice, moving through the Department of Defense to Guantanamo Bay. In one e-mail that has been released under the Freedom of Information Act, an FBI agent complained that interrogators were using what he called ``torture techniques.'' This is not from a critic of the United States who believes that we should not be waging a war on terrorism. These are words from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Let me read the graphic language in an e-mail written by another FBI agent about what he saw:
On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. ..... On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.
These are the words of an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who viewed the interrogation techniques at Guantanamo, techniques that flowed from the memo that came across Mr. Gonzales's desk to the Department of Defense down to these dimly lit cells. And the Red Cross and the FBI agree that they are torture.
I asked Mr. Gonzales: Of the 59 clemency cases he coordinated, how many times did he either recommend clemency, a stay of execution, or further investigation to resolve any doubts about a condemned inmate's guilt?
He replied that he could not recall what advice he may have given then-Governor Bush on any of the 59 cases.
He also said he never once recommended clemency because he believed that he and the Governor were obligated to follow the recommendations of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Relying so heavily on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles might not be troubling if the board's record itself was not so troubling. Between 1973 and 1998, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles received more than 70 appeals of clemency denials. In all those cases, the board never once--not one time--ordered an investigation or held a hearing or even conducted a meeting to try to resolve any possible doubts about a case.
In fact, according to a 1998 civil suit, some board members do not even review case files or skim correspondence they are required to read before voting on clemency petitions. U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks, who presided over that lawsuit, found, in his words:
There is nothing, absolutely nothing--that the Board of Pardons and Paroles does where any member of the public, including the Governor, can find out why they did this. I find that appalling.
Typically, Mr. Gonzales presented a clemency memo to Governor Bush on the day that the inmate was scheduled to be executed. Mr. Gonzales would spend about 30 minutes at some point during the day briefing the Governor before this person was led to execution--30 minutes.
Let me tell you about 2 of the 59 people whose clemency requests Mr. Gonzales handled.
Irineo Tristan Montoya was a Mexican national executed in 1997. In 1986, in police custody, Mr. Montoya signed what he thought was an immigration document. In fact, it was a murder confession. Mr. Montoya could not read a word of it. He spoke no English.
Under the Vienna Convention of Consular Affairs, which the U.S. ratified in 1969 and accepted as our law of the land, Mr. Montoya should have at least been told that he had the right to have a Mexican consular officer contacted on his behalf. He was never informed of this right.
Mr. Gonzales's clemency memo mentioned none of these facts--not one. News accounts say Mr. Montoya was convicted almost entirely on the strength of this confession, a confession which he signed that he could not read or understand.
Then there is the case of Carl Johnson. It has become infamous. Mr. Gonzales's memo on Mr. Johnson's clemency request neglected to mention that Mr. Johnson's lawyer had literally slept through much of the jury selection.
Mr. Gonzales claims that omission of critical facts such as these do not matter because ``it was quite common that I would have numerous discussions with the Governor well in advance of a scheduled execution.''
However, Governor Bush's logs generally show one, and only one, 30-minute meeting for each execution. Thirty minutes for each life. And that meeting generally took place on the scheduled day of the execution.
At the Judiciary Committee hearing, Mr. Gonzales said: If I were in talking to the Governor about a particular matter and we had an opportunity, I would say, ``Governor, we have an execution coming up in 3 weeks. One of the bases of clemency I'm sure that will be argued is, say, something like mental retardation. These are the issues that have to be considered.''
The Texas death house was a busy place when Mr. Gonzales was general counsel. In the 6 days from December 6 to December 12, 1995, for example, there were four executions. In the 9 days from May 13 to May
22, 1997, there were six executions. In the 8 days from May 28 to June 4, 1997, there were five executions. In the week from June 11 to June 18, 1997, there were four executions. And during one 5-week period from May 13 to June 18, 1997, in the State of Texas, there were 15 executions.
Even if Mr. Gonzales found an opportunity, as he says, to mention critical details of upcoming executions during meetings on other topics, is that an appropriate or sufficient way to provide a Governor with information he needs to make a life-or-death decision?
Did Mr. Gonzales really expect the Governor to be able to keep track of these details that were discussed weeks in advance of a decision on clemency? Is that reasonable when a person's life is hanging in the balance?
Regardless of how one feels about the death penalty, no one--absolutely no one--wants to see an innocent person executed. That is not justice.
Over 2,000 years ago, Roman orator Cicero said: Laws are silent in time of war. The men and women who founded this great Nation rejected that notion. They understood that freedom and liberty are not weaknesses; they are, in fact, our greatest strengths.
In times of war or perceived threat, we have sometimes forgotten that basic truth. And when we have, we have paid dearly for it.
In the late 1700s, a war with France seemed imminent. Congress responded by passing the Alien and Sedition Acts. These patently unconstitutional laws empowered the President to detain and deport any non-citizen with no due process and made it illegal to publish supposedly ``scandalous and malicious writing'' about our Government.
President Lincoln, whom I regard as the greatest of all American Presidents, suspended the great writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War.
The first red scare during World War I accelerated into the Palmer raids after a series of bombings on Wall Street and in Washington, DC. Palmer, the U.S. Attorney, ordered roundups of suspected ``reds'' and summarily deported thousands of aliens, often with little evidence of wrongdoing and no due process.
We all know the tragic story of Japanese immigrants and U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry being rounded up and placed in internment camps during World War II.
Another moment that I recall, as I stand here today, is when I served in the House of Representatives and heard two of my colleagues who were Congressmen at the time, Japanese Americans, come forward to explain what happened to them, how they were literally told the night before in their homes in California by their parents to pack up their little belongings, put them in a suitcase, and be prepared to
get on a train in the morning. Bob Matsui was one of those. He just passed away a few weeks ago.
Bob Matsui understood what discrimination could really be. What was his sin? He was born of Japanese American parents. That is a fact of life, and it was a fact that changed his life dramatically. He and others were taken off to internment camps without a trial, without a hearing, simply because they were suspected of being unpatriotic.
During the Cold War, our Nation, fearful of communism, descended into a red scare of McCarthyism, witch hunts, and black lists that destroyed the lives of thousands of decent people.
In the 1960s, the Government infiltrated many organizations and compiled files on its own citizens simply for attending meetings of civil rights or antiwar organizations.
Some on the other side of the aisle have compared Mr. Gonzales to one of our great Attorneys General, Robert Kennedy. With all due respect to Mr. Gonzales, he is no Robert Kennedy. Unlike Mr. Gonzales, Robert Kennedy understood the importance of respecting the rule of law to America's soul and our image around the world.
Listen to this quote from a speech that Robert
Kennedy gave at the height of the Cold War and the civil rights movement. This is what he said:
We, the American people, must avoid another Little Rock or another New Orleans. We cannot afford them. It is not only that such incidents do incalculable harm to the children involved and to the relations among people, it is not only that such convulsions seriously undermine respect for law and order and cause serious economic and moral damage. Such incidents hurt our country in the eyes of the world. For on this generation of Americans falls the burden of proving to the world that we really mean it when we say all men are created equal and are equal before the law.
Those were the words of Robert Kennedy, and if you replace Little Rock and New Orleans with Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, those words ring true today. Mr. Gonzales does not seem to understand, as Robert Kennedy did, the impact such scandals have on America's soul and image.
Today is a critical moment for our Nation. Overseas, our Nation's actions and character are being questioned by our critics and our enemies. Here at home, we want to feel safer and more secure.
There are some who want to repeat the mistakes of our past. They think the best way to protect America is to silence the law in this time of war.
Let me tell you about one man who disagrees. His name is Fred Korematsu. More than 60 years ago, Mr. Korematsu was a 22-year-old student and was one of the 120,000 Japanese-American citizens and immigrants who was forced from their homes into these prison camps, internment camps.
After Pearl Harbor, Mr. Korematsu tried everything he could think of to be accepted as American. He changed his name to Clyde, and even had two operations to make his eyes appear rounder. He was still forced into Tule Lake, an internment camp in California.
He challenged his detention, taking his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a decision that remains one of the most infamous decisions in the Court's history, the Supreme Court rejected Mr. Korematsu's claim and failed to find the internment of Japanese Americans unconstitutional.
It would be another 40 years until an American President, Ronald Reagan, officially apologized for that terrible miscarriage of justice and offered small restitution to its victims.
Today, Mr. Korematsu is nearly 85 years old. He is recovering from a serious illness, but he still loves America and is deeply concerned that we not again abandon our most cherished principles and values. So he has raised his voice, warning his fellow Americans we should not repeat the mistakes of the past.
I respect and admire Alberto Gonzales for his inspiring life story and the many obstacles he has overcome. Some of my colleagues suggested his life story embodies the American dream. But there is more to the American dream than overcoming difficult circumstances to obtain prominence and prosperity. We also must honor Fred Korematsu's dream that our country be true to the fundamental principle upon which it was founded: the rule of law.
Some of my colleagues have suggested that the opposition to Al Gonzales's nomination is all about partisan politics. That could not be further from the truth. This is about our ability to win the war on terrorism while respecting the values that our Nation represents.
I cannot in good conscience vote to reward a man who ignored the rule of law and the demands of human decency and created the permissive environment that made Abu Ghraib possible.
When the history of these times are recorded, I believe that Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo will join the names of infamous Japanese-American internment camps such as Manzanar, Heart Mountain, and Tule Lake where Fred Korematsu and over thousands of others were detained. I cannot in good conscience vote to make the author of such a terrible mistake the chief law enforcement officer of our great Nation and the guardian of our God-given and most cherished rights.
So, Mr. President, I will vote no on the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to serve as Attorney General of the United States. I yield the floor.
42 posted on 06/22/2005 9:28:33 AM EDT by OXENinFLA [ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 41 | View Replies | Report Abuse ]
Look what OX found...
Change that "talk" to "breathe."
Good post, both of you.
Somewhere last week I read that one of our Republican congressmen was making fun of Amnesty International's list of "abuses" and one of them was that terrorists weren't given sugar for their tea.
I can hardly believe that one and would love to have confirmation.
I want all the detainees in GITMO armed and assigned security positions at the U.S. Senate! Let them be together with the Domestic Terrorists that represent them!
Durbin is quite simply a second rate senator from Illinois. He has introduced no serious legislation and has been basically a political hack throwing press conferences whenever there is something in the news so he can make a comment on. Why we in Illinois elected him is beyond explanation.
Let's find something else to piss and moan about. OK?
Also this is one hell of a statement..
In one e-mail that has been released under the Freedom of Information Act, an FBI agent complained that interrogators were using what he called ``torture techniques.'' This is not from a critic of the United States who believes that we should not be waging a war on terrorism. These are words from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
And what would you suggest?
I hear a herd of kitties in the distance.
This is a list of stuff that happened under Saddam's years. Pretty crazy.
I'll keep looking for the tea offenses.
How about you go tell someone else what to post...OK?
Well you know they have their playbook and whatever they find they put in it and keep replaying over and over and over.
And they "tweak it"...
Show us the memo!! It is probably bogus.
Yes, Senator Durbin is truly a despicable partisan hack. He will destroy anyone and everyone to achieve his partisan goals. The man has no shame. I still remember the unearthed memo where he states that Michael Estrada is a real danger because he is Latin. What a slimy POS Durbin is.
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