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Gonzales's Long Record of Lawlessness

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Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is under intense scrutiny these days over the firing of eight federal prosecutors, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle calling for Gonzales's resignation. Not only does it appear that the firings were politically motivated (which is illegal), but Gonzales may have gone so far as to lie about it to Congress.

Prior to this latest scandal, Gonzales was perhaps most notorious for his semantic gymnastics to justify the use of torture on detainees in U.S. custody and to protect the torturers from prosecution for war crimes - moves that paved the way for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere.

Later, so that other countries could do the dirty work for us, Gonzales defended the Bush administration's policy of extraordinary rendition, which is the practice of sending prisoners to other countries (most of which are notorious for their use of torture) for interrogation. Gonzales said that these other countries promised not to torture the people we turn over to them. Right.

But you don't have to be a Muslim to get a taste of the Attorney General's war on human rights. Back in February, Gonzales went before the Senate Judiciary Committee and tried to justify his warrantless spying on American citizens. It's apparently too much trouble for Gonzales's team to get the required court warrant for wiretapping. (Getting one requires that you demonstrate reasonable cause.)

Now let's go back farther, to the 1990s, when Gonzalez served as legal counsel to Texas Governor George W. Bush. According to a statement by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP), Gonzales's track record on death penalty cases in Texas failed to demonstrate a commitment to fairness, due process, and equal protection under the law. "Time and again," reads the statement, "the legal analysis he provided to then-Gov. George W. Bush on the eve of executions failed to include any discussion of the most salient issues, including severe mental retardation and mental illness, abysmally poor legal representation and, in more than a handful of cases, even credible claims of innocence."

So there you have it: Gonzales failed to disclose evidence that may have prompted then-Governor Bush to commute the death penalty for a possibly innocent person.

In short, Gonzales's long-term track record has proven him to be an eager participant in George W. Bush's culture of death, disregard for human rights, and disdain for the rule of law.

The federal prosecutor scandal resulted in eight lawyers losing their jobs for no good reason. That's bad enough. But Gonzales's previous transgressions have resulted in unlawful detentions, torture, and death.

If this latest scandal is what finally calls Gonzales to accountability, then it's a positive step towards restoring true justice in the U.S. But we must not lose sight of Gonzales's other offenses, and he should be held accountable for all of them.

Gonzales's position is that of the nation's highest law enforcement official. As such, he was entrusted with the responsibility of protecting our rights and freedoms, and defending the Constitution. Instead, he has built a career on finding creative ways of ignoring or undermining the rules while evading accountability for himself and for those he served.

It's time to give Mr. Gonzales a refresher course on U.S. and international law, and the consequences of breaking them.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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