Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Kickin' some Ash

After Orin Hatch opened the hearing on AssKKKroft's testimony to the Senate with a lengthy diatribe about Ronald Reagan and the marvelous job AssKKKroft's Justice Dept. has been doing to protect our beloved country, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) took the floor...

LEAHY: The president is fond of saying that September 11th changed everything, as if to wipe out all missteps and misplaced priorities of the first year of this administration. After the attacks, you promised a stunned nation that its government would expend every effort and devote all necessary resources to bring the people responsible for these crimes to justice. Certainly the American people would expect no less.

So a thousand days later and it is time to ask for the fulfillment of the promise you made.

Mr. Attorney General, your statement lists accomplishments of the Department of Justice since 9/11, but you leave out a number of things.

For example, of course the obvious, Osama bin Laden remains at large.

At least three senior Al Qaida operatives who helped plan the 9/11 attacks are in U.S. custody, but there has been no attempt to bring them to justice.

The Moussaoui prosecution has bogged down before any trial.

A German court acquitted two 9/11 co-conspirators, in part because the U.S. government and Justice Department and others refused to provide evidence to them.

Three defendants who you said had knowledge of the 9/11 attacks did not have such knowledge. The department retracted your statement and then you had to apologize to the court because you violated a gag order in the case.

The man you claimed was about to explode a dirty bomb in the U.S. had no such intention or capability, and because he's been held for two years without access to counsel, any crimes he did commit might never be prosecuted.

Terrorist attacks on Capitol Hill and elsewhere involving the deadly bioterror agent anthrax have yet to be solved, and the department is defending itself in a civil rights action brought by a man who you probably identified as a person of interest in the anthrax investigation.

U.S. citizens with no connection to terrorism have been in prison as material witnesses for chunks of time, and then, "Oops, I'm sorry," when what the Justice Department announced was a 100 percent positive fingerprint match turned out to be 100 percent wrong.

Non-citizens with no connection to terrorism have been rounded up seemingly on the basis of their religion or ethnicity, held for months without charges, and in some cases physically abused.

Interrogation techniques approved by the Department of Justice have led to abuses that have tarnished our nation's reputation and driven hundreds, if not thousands, of new recruits to our enemies to terrorism.

Your department turned a Canadian citizen over to Syria to be tortured. And then your department deported another individual to Syria over the objection of experienced prosecutors and agents who thought he was a terrorist and wanted to prosecute him.

And one of the most amazing things, your department, under your direction, has worked to deny compensation to American victims of terrorism, including former POWs tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime. You have tried to stop former POWs tortured by Saddam Hussein -- Americans -- you tried to stop them from getting compensation.

And documents have been classified, unclassified, reclassified, to score political points rather than for legitimate national security reasons.

Statistics have been manipulated to exaggerate the department's success in fighting terrorism. The threat of another attack on U.S. soil remains high, although how high depends primarily on who within the administration is talking.

Mr. Attorney General, you spent much of the past two years increasing secrecy, lessening accountability and touting the government's intelligence-gathering powers.


Mr. Attorney General, since September 11th, you blamed former administration officials for intelligence failures that happened on your watch. You've used a tar brush to attack the patriotism of the Americans who dared to express legitimate concerns about constitutional freedoms. You refused to acknowledge serious problems, even after the Justice Department's own inspector general exposed widespread violations of the civil liberties of immigrants caught up in your post-September 11th dragnets.


Now, Mr. Attorney General, your style is often to come to attack. You came before this committee shortly after 9/11 to question our patriotism when we sought to conduct a congressional oversight and ask questions.

You went before the 9/11 commission to attack a commissioner by brandishing a conveniently declassified memo and so unfairly slanted a presentation that President Bush himself disavowed your actions.

So I challenge you today to abandon any such plans for the session. Begin it instead by doing that which you have yet to do: talk plainly with us and with the American people, about not only what's going right in the war on terrorism -- and there are those things that are going right -- but also about the growing list of things that are going wrong, so we can work together to fix them.

Let's get about the business of working together to do our job, a better job of protecting the American people and making sure that the wrongdoers are brought to justice, are brought to trial and are given the justice that this country can mete out.


ASHCROFT: Good morning, and I thank you for the opportunity to make this statement.

Obviously, I would be disappointed to think that I might spend my time responding to all of the charges that have just been leveled toward me. I have an agenda of things that I think are important for us to discuss with the committee. And with that in mind, I'd like to proceed with my statement rather than seek to be responsive to these items.

No doubt!

LEAHY: Today, the Washington Post quotes from a memo from your department that purportedly argues that torturing a terrorism suspect may be justified.

Now, I've been asking for copies of post-September 11th policy memos for over a year, but your department has repeatedly said such documents are classified, or they simply won't release them.

I asked you for the specific memo that's now reported in the press 10 days ago and received no response. I could read it in the press, but I have not received a response from you.

You selectively declassify memoranda to suit your political purposes, such as the Gorelick memo you offered in the midst of the 9/11 commission hearings. But you denied information to members of this committee on both sides of the aisle, and so we conduct our oversight view of what we learn in the press.

So I have four questions.

First, when will you provide a copy of this and all other requested memos to each member of this committee, Republican and Democrat?

Second, all Americans want to know whether anyone followed through on the advice of your Justice Department? Has torture or anything approaching torture been committed by U.S. personnel or in the presence of U.S. personnel anywhere in the world?

Third, has there been any order or directive from the president with respect to interrogation of detainees, prisoners or combatants?

And fourth, can you assure this committee today that your Justice Department will aggressively prosecute any person for whom there is probable cause of committing torture regardless of whether the individual was acting under a direct order of the president and regardless of whether the person being tortured was in U.S. custody?

ASHCROFT: I want to be sure to answer these, so if my note- taking...

LEAHY: If you miss a couple...

ASHCROFT: You'll remind me.

LEAHY: I'll want to help you out by reminding you.


ASHCROFT: Thank you.

Congress has enacted an extensive framework of laws relevant to the way individuals who are apprehended, detained, captured during wartime, interrogated during wartime. The laws are numerous. They relate from everything from the Uniform Code of Military Justice to the torture statute, to the War Crimes Act, to the Military and Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, to the Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction Statute.

In addition to these statutory enactments that have been passed by the Congress and signed by the president as part of our laws, the Senate, in conjunction with the president, has committed the United States to the following of various treaties, and related to these issues would be treaties like the Geneva Convention...

LEAHY: Mr. Attorney General, without -- and I know you have no intention of filibustering the answer, but could we go to my specific questions?

Did your department issue a memorandum that would suggest that torture is allowed under certain circumstances as the press has reported? And that's a simple enough question. It could take a yes- or-no answer.


LEAHY: I would assume that you would carry out your responsibilities; you swore a solemn oath to do so. But does your answer mean that there has or has not been any order directed from the president with respect to interrogation of detainees, prisoners or combatants?

ASHCROFT: The president of the United States has not ordered any activity which would contradict the laws enacted by this Congress or previous Congresses...

LEAHY: Not quite my...

ASHCROFT: ... or the Constitution of the United States...

LEAHY: Mr. Attorney General, that was not my question.


ASHCROFT: ... or any of the treaties.

LEAHY: That was not my question.

Has there been any order directed from the president with respect to interrogation of detainees, prisoners or combatants, yes or no?

ASHCROFT: I'm not in a position to answer that question.

LEAHY: Does that mean because you don't know or you don't want to answer? I don't understand.

ASHCROFT: The answer to that question is yes.

LEAHY: You don't know whether he's issued such an order?

ASHCROFT: For me to comment on what I advise the president...

LEAHY: I'm not asking...

ASHCROFT: ... what the president's activity is is inappropriate if -- I will just say this: that he has made no order that would require or direct the violation of any law of the United States enacted by the Congress, or any treaty to which the United States is a party as ratified by the Congress, or the Constitution of the United States.

LEAHY: Well, it doesn't answer my question. But I think my time is up. We'll come back later.

Read on.

Click graphic for dump ashcroft campaign

Ashcroft portrait made up of porn pictures
Click for enlargement (ha!)
Posters available for sale.

(The image above is located at "" - I'd have named the file image that same thing.