WASHINGTON (Talon News) — The nomination of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to become the next U.S. attorney general continues to draw scrutiny from Democrats and members of the media. At Tuesday’s White House press briefing, Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked why the White House hasn’t released opinions drafted by Gonzales regarding detainees in the war on terror.
A reporter questioned McClellan on a statement issued on Tuesday by a group of former officers which called on the White House “to release documents regarding the decisions that Mr. Gonzales has made in his role as legal counsel of the president, especially with regard to the detainees and to the period going into the Iraq war.”
“Is the White House willing to release these documents to give the Senate the ability to judge Mr. Gonzales’ attitude towards the law [and] toward [the] Constitution,” the reporter asked.
“First of all, I saw a number of these individuals are people that supported the campaign of the president’s opponent,” McClellan noted. “So let’s keep that in mind when we’re talking about these individuals.”
McClellan added, “[A] number of the documents that I think you might be referring to have been made available publicly. In fact, Judge Gonzales participated in a briefing with Department of Defense officials to talk about some of those very documents I think you’re referring to. And we’ve also responded to some inquiries from the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well.”
The White House press secretary said that Judge Gonzales “looks forward to going before the committee later this week and participating in his hearing.”
“[W]e hope the Senate will move forward quickly on his nomination,” McClellan said. “He is someone who has done an outstanding job for the President here as White House Counsel, and we know he will make a great Attorney General.”
Gonzales is scheduled to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Gonzales, in working with the Justice Department, aiding in the drafting of several opinions and directives on the handling of terror suspects. As Fox News reports, one directive “argued that Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters were exempt from provisions in the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit torture, violence and degrading treatment.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chairman of the subcommittee on the Constitution, said Tuesday that critics of the administration this week have “resurrected a familiar straw man in their attack against the nomination of Judge Gonzales to serve as U.S. attorney general.”
“Despite a good faith effort by the Bush administration to provide Senate Democrats with all relevant information on the nomination, critics continue to expand the scope of their demands, and then cavil loudly about the administration?s ‘secrecy’ and ‘refusals’ when the goal posts are moved,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn agreed with the Bush administration’s position on the release of further information and said that preserving the confidentiality of war memoranda — such as those that some Senate Democrats are asking to be made public — is critical, “as unwarranted disclosure can be particularly dangerous.” Cornyn added that many of the memos in question involve “some of the most sensitive and important aspects of the war against terrorism.”
“It would be dangerous and unthinkable to demand that the United States government announce publicly its military strategy for targeting enemies and enemy locations in wartime,” Cornyn said. “Such a disclosure would give the enemy a roadmap for predicting, preventing, and thwarting an attack, and would dramatically increase the risk of injury and death to members of our military.”
Sen. Cornyn added. “It is equally dangerous to demand that the United States government announce publicly its military strategy for conducting interrogations of enemy combatants, as it would undermine our efforts to obtain actionable military intelligence from enemy combatant detainees.”