Points of contention

By Geraldine Sealey

Published January 5, 2005 3:05PM (EST)

Alberto Gonzales has said that the controversial Justice Department memo from 2002 that laid out presidential authority to allow torture of terrorism suspects was in response to "questions." Well, it turns out, those questions were his. The New York Times reports: "Until now, administration officials have been unwilling to provide details about the role Mr. Gonzales had in the production of the memorandum by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Mr. Gonzales has spoken of the memorandum as a response to questions, without saying that most of the questions were his."

Just last week, DOJ repealed that 2002 memo and issued a new one rejecting the language in the previous opinion. Gonzales apparently was involved in the generation of this new memo just days before his confirmation hearing was set to begin, the Times said. Coincidence? You tell us.

Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, is talking tough about his unmet demand for other torture-related documents. From Bloomberg: "In a letter to Gonzales, Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, sought eight memos and documents before Gonzales appears ... at a hearing on his nomination to succeed Attorney General John D. Ashcroft. Democrats previously asked for the material after the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison." Leahy told Bloomberg that White House failure to produce the documents would "be a contentious issue at the hearing." Leahy has been a strong voice questioning the administration on the Abu Ghraib scandal, so he should have lots to grill Gonzales about -- especially these unproduced documents. Other Senate Democrats, though, have said Gonzales' confirmation is pretty much a done deal, even if tough questions are deservedly asked. We'll see just how contentious this thing gets.

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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