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No White House torture memos for Gonzales confirmation hearing

[JURIST] Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales seems likely to face stiff questioning in his Senate confirmation hearing this week after the Bush administration's refusal to provide senators with copies of his memos on the interrogation of suspected terrorists. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, sharply criticized the White House move Monday, complaining that "We go into the hearing with some knowledge of what has occurred because of press reports or leaks but without the hard evidence that will either exonerate or implicate Judge Gonzales in this policy." While he was White House Counsel, Gonzales wrote a draft memorandum [PDF] to the President which was later made public arguing that the "war on terrorism renders obsolete the Geneva Convention's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners..." The White House and the US Justice Department have since backed away from these views. Largely on the basis on Gonzales' apparent views on torture, detentions and other rights and liberties matters his nomination has drawn the ire of rights groups (see, for instance, this report by the ACLU issued Monday, with accompnaying press release), but most observers believe it unlikely that it will fail. AP has more.

12:55 PM ET - In a related development Tuesday, a dozen retired generals and admirals - including former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John M. Shalikashvili - said in a letter released at a news conference called by Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) that they were "deeply concerned" about the Gonzales nomination and urged Senators to question him closely about his knowledge of and views on torture by US personnel:

During his tenure as White House Counsel, Mr. Gonzales appears to have played a significant role in shaping U.S. detention and interrogation operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere. Today, it is clear that these operations have fostered greater animosity toward the United States, undermined our intelligence gathering efforts, and added to the risks facing our troops serving around the world. Before Mr. Gonzales assumes the position of Attorney General, it is critical to understand whether he intends to adhere to the positions he adopted as White House Counsel, or chart a revised course more consistent with fulfilling our nation’s complex security interests, and maintaining a military that operates within the rule of law.
Read the full text of the letter here [PDF], along with an accompanying press release. An HRI briefing paper for the Gonzales nomination hearing is here. AP has more.

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