Friday, January 14, 2005

He Can Do More Than Just Torture

So much more!! Alan Berlow writes about the Attorney General nominee, Alberto Gonzales, and his irresponsible behavior as Bush's legal council in Texas.

If you haven't been paying attention, Gonzales was responsible for briefing Bush regarding the many, many, many clemency pleas from Texas' many, many, many death row inmates. Gonzales didn't see fit to bother to report any of the mitigating circumstances about the crime; circumstances like proof of innocence, for example.

In response to questions from Democratic Sen. Russell Feingold and Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, Gonzales repeatedly stated that each of the so-called execution memos he wrote for then Texas Gov. George W. Bush was nothing more than a "summary" of what he suggested had been an elaborate, ongoing review process for each and every execution Bush approved. "It was not unusual -- in fact, it was quite common that I would have numerous discussions with the governor well in advance of a scheduled execution," Gonzales told Feingold. "There would be a rolling series of discussions in connection with every execution."

This explanation of how executions were reviewed is essential to Gonzales' defense of his record because the documentary evidence is so damning. What it shows is that the only reports Bush reviewed were Gonzales' three-to-seven-page summaries, which not only were heavily biased against clemency but repeatedly failed to make any mention of the most powerful claims on a defendant's behalf, including plausible claims of innocence. Rather than writing a balanced summation of arguments for and against commutation, Gonzales' work product was frequently little more than a brief for execution.

Because the written summaries were so thoroughly unprofessional, Gonzales no doubt felt he had to downplay their significance in his Senate testimony. He did this by suggesting that the summaries were invariably preceded by a real meat-and-potatoes review -- in-depth, scrupulous and balanced discussions of the evidence. Yet senators never asked Gonzales to substantiate this claim, which is unfortunate because Gonzales would have been hard-pressed to do so.

These more complete summaries, the archives report, were sent to the governor's office along with affidavits, court records and clemency petitions -- none of which Gonzales saw fit to submit to Bush, in all likelihood because Gonzales knew his boss would not be interested in them and had no desire to commute the sentences of anyone on death row.

During the period that Gonzales was handling clemency matters for Bush, there were sometimes as many as two executions per week, as many as eight in a single month. And Bush's top legal advisor would have us believe that the way he and Bush kept track of these executions and ensured that no innocent person died -- and that all of the condemned had had a full and fair review in the courts -- was through a series of informal discussions. That's just not believable.

There you have it, Alberto Gonzales, your new attorney general, the highest law enforcement officer in the country. Let's list the things he's in favor of:

  • Torture
  • Secret detention in secret prisons
  • Lying under oath
  • Death penalty for innocent men and women

    Are you looking forward to the next four years? You'd better be, or off to Gitmo with you!

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