Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"we don't trust you" - gonzales at judiciary hearing

"We don't trust you" was not a shout out to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales by one of us Code Pinkers at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, but a retort by disgusted Chairman, Vermont Senator Leahy to the smirking head of the Dept of Justice. For nearly four hours, Gonzales ducked and hedged as Senators, almost all Democrats but Senator Specter (R-PA) as well, hammered him on issues ranging from torture to the firing of US attorneys to political briefings of the Peace Corps.

About 10 Code Pinkers, some decked out in vests with copies of the US Constitution printed on them, made a colorful presence among the dark-suited Congressional staffers. We supplemented the official "testimony"/liar-imony by our well-placed coughs, laughter, remarks and flashes of peace signs. I was amused to note that longterm NPR correspondent Nina Tottenberg wore a charming pink suit -- a wink to us, or simply a mood lifter?

Senator Leahy's opening remarks set the context for this Gonzales' repeat appearance to Judiciary. "The Dept of Justice (DOJ) should not be reduced to another arm of the White House!" he proclaimed. Leahy ran down the list: the politically-inspired firings of the US attorneys; stonewalling by the White House; "loyal Bushies" replacing career DOJ employees. The latest straw on the Judicial camel's back today was that the White House is now attempting to block a DC court from even issuing a contempt of Congress citation. In Specter's words, "Carrying this controversy to incredible levels!"

Senator Specter also painted a grim picture of a seriously weakened DOJ with low morale and many vacancies. The Pennsylvania senator laid out legal recourses for the committee: a Special Prosecutor (to be named by the Solicitor General, NOT Gonzales) or a trial in the Senate led by a Senate subcommittee.

Gonzales, by my count, said "I can't recall" or some version of "I can't answer" 33 times in four hours. He was given some relief by Republican senators Hatch (UT) and Kyl (AZ), who mostly nattered on about the badness of immigrants and why can't DOJ deport more of them faster? Bush's pal from Texas was hammmered, however, especially by Senators Leahy, Schumer and Durbin, on several issues.

Leahy went into the poor performance of the Civil Rights Section of the DOJ under Gonzales' reign. Over 500 civil rights abuses are reported every year to the DOJ, yet not one has been acted upon by the General Counsel of the FBI. Leahy also talked about the violations of the PATRIOT Act reported in '05-'06: spying and illegal searches and seizures. When Leahy tried to pin down Gonzales on why these abusive practices have been happening, Gonzales gave a weasley answer about "additional training for DOJ agents."

Gonzales' and Andrew Card's visit to the hospital bed of a post-operative former Atty General Ashcroft to get Ashcroft's OK on continued domestic spying was hashed over relentlessly by Specter and Leahy.

Senator Feinstein pursued a line of questioning she brought up at the hearing with Sara Taylor: who decided on the list of US attorneys to be fired? Gonzales', to no one's surprise, did not know. Or at least so he said. But he did "approve all" the firings, apparently figuring anyone in the White House knew which US attorneys wouldn't play ball with vote-caging, election-results-altering Republicans in various states.

Senators Kennedy and Durbin went into details on the torture issue. Gonzales wiggled around the issue of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions that relates to torture, basically saying that some decisions on abusive treatment were situational. Durbin named 5 horrific "interrogation techniques" that Gonzales and the White House still have not repudiated: painful stress positions for long periods; use of dogs; forced nudity; waterboarding; and mock executions. Mental images of torture victims, both at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, came vividly to my mind. Durbin pointed out two longterm consequences from the continued ambivalence of the US government's position on torture: a shredded international reputation and the possible use of these or other torture techniques on US citizens, whether civilian hostages or prisoners of war.

This is getting to be a long post, and I'll end for now by saying that I cannot cover every important issue raised by the clearly concerned, even angry, frustrated senators on Judiciary. Gonzales, unlike the younger, less hardened Sara Taylor of last week's hearing, never faltered or lost composure, and rarely even turned for guidance from his legal counsel. This is a struggle between titans -- a shameless White House and a deeply worried, Democratic-controlled Congress -- that is clearly headed for the courts, and the Court of Public Opinion. My husband and I went afterwards to Senator Specter's office to give our thanks for his courageous dissent from the Republicans' line of "support the President" and were told by a staffer that the phone calls coming in from Pennsylvania were only 50% behind him. So keep your attention on this issue, and know that Code Pink in DC will continue to bring the pink heat to the DOJ office every Monday and Friday!

by Janet Weil


JimPreston said...

I'm sorry I wasn't there with you all today. Keep up the good work. Don't forget to mention dear old Jeff Sessions in the 'Hatch-Kyl "I'm scared of immigrants" club'. Did Gonzalez try to explain his incompetence by saying that he had been busy prosecuting kiddie-porn, or is it the Canadian Al Queda that we're supposed to be worried about now.

keep the peace,

Eileen Coles said...

So they're letting us back into the Gonzales hearings now, I see. *smirk*

Woooo, go Desiree, rock it!!!

JimPreston said...

Sen. Leahy has been pretty nice to Code Pink, and it was Sen. Spector who let Code Pink stay in the confirmation hearing for William Haynes (torture architect) back when he was chairman.
John Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee has been less friendly (and in fact been quite a pain). The ladies were definitely pushing the limits in there on the video, but little Abu certainly deserves all the abuse that we have heaped upon him!!

caterliz said...

SHAME on senator Kyl
our state atty paul charlton was fired with the other 8
Kyl asked about internet gambling AS HE DID IN A PRIOR GONZALES HEARING
instead of asking the direct questions to the subject of peoples concerns

Arizona and will follow the sinking ship to his political demise.......
we the people are watching with a cautious eye

Anonymous said...

way to harass an intern and make her cry. front row seats are usually reserved for associates of the witnesses and congressional staffers whose bosses arent part of the committee. figured youd know that with all the time you spend parading on the hill. great pr at the hearing, that's how you win hearts.

Eileen Coles said...

Hey anonymous and gutless, there are lots of people crying all over the country and all over the world. Some of them are crying because their children came home from Iraq or Afghanistan in body bags. Some of them are crying because they haven't seen their family members who have been sitting in Guantanamo for up to five years waiting for a trial, or even to be charged for a crime. Some of them are crying because their homes and lives have been destroyed by the US Military for nothing more than a greedy megalomaniac's lie. And some of them are crying because they can't stand the pain inflicted on them by torturers whose goals have been facilitated by the smirking slimeball who pretends to be our Attorney General - on those rare occasions that he can manage to actually remember what an Attorney General is.

I'll feel sympathy for your intern when you and yours start feeling sympathy for those people, ok? If that intern cannot handle the manifested anger of the American people then either she'd better get out of politics, or she'd better learn early that they're best done the right way and for the right reasons!

JimPreston said...

This anonymous is a real trip. I love it when people lecture us about decorum and some archaic, unwritten rules that everyone is supposed to follow when they choose to petition their government. Yeah, dude, we're totally into decorum, cantcha tell?

A Democratic DC Intern said...

I hope that one day you realize how counter-productive you are actually being. Yelling out during hearings and publically upsetting staffers will accomplish nothing but hurt the chairman's image not to mention the cause you seem to be so passionate about. What exactly are you working for? Senator Leahy himself, in a highly unusual display of anger (in its direction toward the public at least), let it be known quite clearly that he was upset by your performance during the hearing. If you respect him and what he is advocating, as you have claimed to on more than one occasion, the least you can do is respect his staff and hearing room. Shame on you.

another intern said...

no one is asking for decorum from you people, simply a minimal display of respect for the people who, unlike you, are actually fighting for change and justice.

more from the interns said...

good for you, you just added to the number of people crying in the world? Does it make you feel powerful and accomplished that you can make some 20 year old who is actually working for a senator you admire cry because "somehow" it will end injustice in the world?

you are helping people like gonzales. congrats!

JimPreston said...

Nice of the interns to weigh in with more interesting and rational arguments than our anonymous friend. Let's take a look at them.

The first intern argues that Code Pink is being counter-productive. I think we'll laugh that one off. Oooooh, Senator Leahy got mad!!! I've seen Senator Leahy yell at witnesses too, but I guess it was OK because he was wearing a tie. I don't think that anyone was trying to hurt the intern.

The second intern claims that it is the interns and not Code Pink who are actually fighting for change and justice. Another laugher! You are certainly welcome to dislike our tactics. In fact, I would have to question our taste if none of the well-scrubbed little interns were turned off by them, but I think that it is pretty silly of you to say that the same people who have been holding vigils outside the DOJ are not fighting for change and justice. There are going to be people who have different approaches to solving the same problems that you are trying to solve. Deal with it. Neither Senator Leahy, nor Code Pink has succesfully caused A. Gonzalez to resign from the administration, so neither one of us has much business telling the other how to pull it off, eh?

The third intern offers a fairly childish argument based on the idea that the really important thing was that one of the interns 'cried' about something. I don't know what she cried about, and I'm sorry it happened, but it really isn't that important to me. The issues at stake here are state-sanctioned torture and extraordinary rendition, the politicization of the justice system, illegal invasions of sovereign nations, and blatant and willful dishonesty to the Congress and to the American people. Sorry kids, but it just isn't time to play nice.

Eileen Coles said...

I agree with Jim.

It's pretty sad that you folks have to communicate anonymously in blogs when it sounds like you were right there and could have raised your concerns while it was going on.

If our government was working properly, protocol would gladly be observed. It isn't, folks. It just isn't, and PEOPLE ARE DYING AND BLEEDING IN THE STREETS while we argue here about etiquette and respect and decorum!!!

The furious anger of 73% of the American people is being ignored. It's swept under the rug in the mainstream media and made light of in the halls of Congress. In case you missed it, the Code Pink women were not yelling at Senator Leahy. They were yelling directly at Gonzales - and if you are going to pretend that that piece of work deserves any better after what he and his superiors have done to our precious Constitution and Bill of Rights as well as thousands of individual lives that have been ruined by their abuses of power, you need a serious reality check.

These are not times when decorum and protocol will solve the problems at hand. We've all TRIED to play by the rules, and the other side isn't even trying - they're making them up as they go and tearing our Constitution to bloody pieces. Be thankful that we even have these options left to us at all, because if you think the peaceniks of Code Pink are disrespectful then you should know that for every one of those inherently gentle souls there are a thousand others who are being very nice, very polite, very quiet, and making sure they've logged a whole lot of time down at their local rifle range, honey.

Now get back to work.

Teachpeace said...

Dear Interns,

Codepink was definitely yelling at Gonzalez. He was the only target of the day. Plus, who really cares if Senator Leahy gets a wee bit upset for having his hearing interrupted. Last time I checked, hearing are public. Codepink is part of the public. And furthermore, you as an intern serve the public, because you work in the government which in theory is suppose to be of the people, by the people, and for the people. When the Democrats on the hill do what it is they were elected to do, which is end the war, then perhaps they will be given the respect of the American people. Interns need to know that all is fair in war, peace, and politics. Don't take it personally. It really is NOT about YOU. For Codepink, it is about ending the war. Period. Playing nice, doesn't always get you what you want, sometimes you have to create a spectacle. We have seen marked results from our in your face tactics. It works. People pay attention. Senators and Representatives meet with us. And now 73% of Americans agree with us about the War in Iraq. There are many avenues to reaching an end of the war and for advocating freedom and justice. Don't think you own the only one.