Attorney General Nominee Must Stand Clearly Against Torture
Statement by Human Rights First Executive Director Maureen Byrnes:
When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned in August, Human Rights First welcomed the development as an opportunity for the administration to make a clean break from the detainee policies he had played such a central role in crafting, first as White House Counsel and then as Attorney General. Mr. Gonzales gave legal cover to a policy of official cruelty in the treatment of prisoners which led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib and at CIA secret prisons around the world, damaging the reputation of the United States.
The Senate recently held confirmation hearings for retired Judge Michael Mukasey, the President’s nominee to replace Mr. Gonzales. HRF Board Member John Hutson testified at those hearings, which we followed closely. Based on Judge Mukasey’s testimony, we have serious concerns about his views on the vital issues of torture and the President’s obligation to obey the law.
We respect the desire of the Senate to confirm an Attorney General who can begin to repair the damage that has been done to the Justice Department over the last several years. And we recognize that Judge Mukasey’s intellect and experience are qualities essential to be an effective Attorney General. But we believe it is imperative that Judge Mukasey be willing to state clearly and without qualification that the President cannot authorize interrogation methods such as torture and other official cruelty that have been outlawed by Congress. A vote on the nomination is being withheld until Judge Mukasey has responded in writing to additional questions from Senators seeking to clarify his views on these issues. We eagerly await these responses.