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Text: Gonzales Nomination Hearing

One, homeland security at the local and state level.

SALAZAR: For those of us, such as Senator Sessions and Senator Cornyn, who have served as attorneys general, we know the importance of this issue at the local level.

I believe we must do more to support our state and local law enforcement officials and other first responders as we take on the most significant national security challenge of the 21st century, and that is providing security for our homeland against threats of terrorism.

I am pleased that, if confirmed as attorney general, Judge Gonzales has indicated his willingness to work on this matter, and will come to Colorado to meet with local and state law enforcement officials and other first responders to listen to their experiences, needs and concerns. And I am certain that he will do that in other states, as well.

Secondly, on the Patriot Act, I support the Patriot Act and the necessary reasons for its enactment. I have also expressed my support for changes to the act, as have been discussed and proposed by a bipartisan group of leaders in the Congress.

Judge Gonzales has indicated his willingness to work on this important matter so that we might better balance out the needs for national security, while at the same time maintaining the important, fundamental civil liberties of our nation.

I know that there are other serious questions that this committee will explore and ask of Judge Gonzales in these proceedings. It is appropriate to do so in these confirmation proceedings.

I am hopeful that Judge Gonzales will satisfactorily address the concerns of the Senate, and I am hopeful that he will become the next United States attorney general for our nation.

Thank you.

SPECTER: Thank you very much, Senator Salazar.

Judge Gonzales, would you now stand for the administration of the oath? Raise your right hand.

Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you will give before the Senate Judiciary Committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?


SPECTER: Would you begin, Judge Gonzales, by introducing your beautiful family?

GONZALES: Mr. Chairman, Senator Leahy, distinguished members of the committee...

SPECTER: Judge Gonzales, the request is pending for you to introduce your family before you begin your testimony.

GONZALES: With me here this morning my beautiful wife Rebecca...

SPECTER: Mrs. Gonzales, would you stand, please?

GONZALES: ... as well as our three sons, Jared, Graham and Gabriel.

SPECTER: Would you gentlemen please stand? Thank you.

GONZALES: Also here is my mother Maria...

SPECTER: Thank you.

GONZALES: ... my brother Tony, who is a 26-year veteran of the Houston Police Department and a SWAT officer; and my mother-in-law, Lorinda (ph) Turner.

SPECTER: Thank you all for standing, and welcome to these proceedings. Thank you.

Now, Judge Gonzales, we'd be very pleased to hear your opening statement.

GONZALES: Mr. Chairman, Senator Leahy and distinguished members of the committee, it is the highest honor of my professional career to appear before you today as the president's nominee to be attorney general of the United States.

I owe a debt of deep gratitude to the president for the trust he has placed in me.

I also want to thank Senator Cornyn for his kind introduction and for his many years of friendship.

Ken Salazar was sworn in as a United States senator just two days ago. I want to thank the senator for his willingness to extend the hand of friendship across the political aisle to introduce me today.

And although Senator Hutchison could not be with us today, I appreciate her many years of support as well.

Mr. Chairman, the highest objective of the Department of Justice is the pursuit of justice. This noble objective, justice, is reflected in human terms in the hopeful eyes of a new citizen voting for the first time, in the quiet gratitude of a victim of crime whose rights have been vindicated in the courts, and in the pride of a person given the opportunity to succeed no matter their skin color or gender or disability, for justice, properly understood, cannot, in my view, be divorced from the individual.

GONZALES: It always has a human dimension.

And if confirmed, as attorney general, I pledge that I will always remember that.

With the consent of the Senate, I will no longer represent only the White House; I will represent the United States of America and its people.

I understand the differences between the two roles.

In the former, I have been privileged to advise the president and his staff; in the latter, I would have a far broader responsibility: to pursue justice for all the people of our great nation, to see that the laws are enforced in a fair and impartial manner for all Americans.

Wherever we pursue justice, from the war on terror to corporate fraud to civil rights, we must always be faithful to the rule of law.

And I want to make very clear that I am deeply committed to the rule of law. I have a deep and abiding commitment to the fundamental American principle that we are a nation of laws and not of men. I would not have the audacity to appear before this committee today if that commitment were not the core principle that has guided all of my professional endeavors.

Our government's most basic obligation is to protect its citizens from enemies who would destroy their lives and our nation's way of life. And the Department of Justice's top priority is to prevent terror attacks against our nation.

As we fight the war on terror, we must always honor and observe the principles that make our society so unique and worthy of protection. We must be committed to preserving civil rights and civil liberties.

I look forward, if I am confirmed, to working with this committee, the Congress and the public to ensure that we are doing all we can do so.

Although we may have differences from time to time, we all love our country and want to protect it, while remaining true to our nation's highest ideals. And working together, we can accomplish that goal.

While I look forward to answering your specific questions concerning my actions and my views, I think it is important to stress at the outset that I am and will remain deeply committed to ensuring that the United States government complies with all of its legal obligations as it fights the war on terror, whether those obligations arise from domestic or international law.

These obligations include, of course, honoring the Geneva Conventions whenever they apply.

Honoring our Geneva obligations provides critical protection for our fighting men and women and advances norms for the community of nations to follow in times of conflict.

GONZALES: Contrary to reports, I consider the Geneva Conventions neither obsolete nor quaint.

After the attacks of 9/11, our government had fundamental decisions to make concerning how to apply treaties and U.S. law to an enemy that does not wear a uniform, owes no allegiance to any country, is not a party to any treaties and, most importantly, does not fight according to the laws of war.

As we have debated these questions, the president has made clear that he is prepared to protect and defend the United States and its citizens and will do so vigorously, but always in a manner consistent with our nation's values and applicable law, including our treaty obligations.

Having said that, like all of you, I have been deeply troubled and offended by reports of abuse. The photos from Abu Ghraib sickened and outraged me, and left a stain on our nation's reputation. And the president has made clear that he condemns this conduct and that these activities are inconsistent with his policies.

He has also made clear that America stands against and will not tolerate torture under any circumstances.

I share his resolve that torture and abuse will not be tolerated by this administration, and commit to you today that, if confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of Justice aggressively pursues those responsible for such abhorrent actions.

Chairman Specter, if I may add a personal note, I want to congratulate you for your chairmanship of this important committee. And I look forward, if confirmed, to the many occasions that we will discuss important issues facing our country in the months and years ahead.

Senator Hatch, I want to thank you for your dedicated service as chairman of this committee, for the good working relationship we have enjoyed, for all the many kindnesses you have shown me personally.

GONZALES: I appreciate the good working relationship I've enjoyed with Senator Leahy during my tenure as counsel to the president. I know him to be a person of good will and dedication. And I have great confidence that, if I'm fortunate enough to be confirmed, we will build upon that as we reach across the aisle to work together to serve the American people.

Mr. Chairman, it is a distinct honor to appear before the committee today. I appreciate the time and attention that members of the committee and their staffs have dedicated to this hearing and to consideration of my nomination.

And I look forward to answering your questions, not just at this hearing but, if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed, in the months and years ahead as we work together in the noble and high calling of the pursuit of justice.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

SPECTER: Thank you very much, Judge Gonzales.

We will now begin, as stated earlier, 10-minute rounds. And I will observe my time limit meticulously and will ask others to do the same.

Senators necessarily have other obligations, will have to move in and out of the hearing room, so that if it is possible to gauge the timing, knowing how long it will be before their turn up is, it is very useful in arranging schedules. And there will be ample time, as I have said earlier, on multiple rounds.

I'm advised that there may be some photos used. And obviously senators have full latitude on the range of questioning. But I would ask my colleagues to be sensitive to photos. There are children present in the room today and we are being televised.

So that, while we want to have all of the facts and give full latitude to senators on their rights to question, we may want to be in executive session or we want to give children a chance to leave or take whatever other precautionary measures that seem appropriate by all concerned on a consensus of what the committee thinks ought to be done on that sensitive subject.

And now, if the lights will show to limit my 10 minutes, I will begin at the outset of your testimony Judge Gonzales. You've already covered the matter, but I think it is important to have an unequivocal statement and really a repeat of an unequivocal statement of the position of the administration and your personal views.

Do you approve of torture?

GONZALES: Absolutely not, Senator.

SPECTER: Do you condemn the interrogators -- and you already answered this in part -- at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo -- but again for the record -- do you condemn the interrogators' techniques at Abu Ghraib shown on the widely publicized photographs?

GONZALES: Let me say, Senator, that as a human being I am sickened and outraged by those photos. But as someone who may be head of the department, I obviously don't want to provide any kind of legal opinion as to whether or not that conduct might be criminal.

And obviously anyone that is involved in any kind of conduct that he is subject to prosecution, I would not want to do anything today to prejudge that prosecution and jeopardize that prosecution.

But obviously if that conduct falls in the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice, I will pursue it aggressively, and you have my word on that.

SPECTER: Well, having some experience in the prosecution of criminal cases, I don't believe the condemnation of that conduct would impact on what happens at a later date.

But I thank you for your statement of rejection of that and condemnation of those practices.

Do you similarly condemn any similar interrogation techniques at Guantanamo?

GONZALES: I'm not sure of which specific techniques you're referring to, Senator. But obviously there is a range of conduct that would be in clear violation of our legal obligations, and those I would absolutely condemn, yes, sir.

SPECTER: Well, there will obviously be a good bit of questioning on this subject. And I intend to turn to other matters, and we'll come back to the subject in later rounds to the extent that, as chairman, I think further amplification is necessary.

But I do want to move on to what I consider to be the number one issue facing the country, and that is the issue of the fight on terrorism and the balancing of civil rights with some focus on the Patriot Act, which we enacted shortly after 9/11.

SPECTER: Starting with the Patriot Act, I already commented that we had this wall which precluded law enforcement from using evidence of crime which had been obtained through search and seizure warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. And now that evidence may be used in a criminal prosecution.

To what extent has that provision and the other provisions of the Patriot Act been of real importance in our fight against terrorism?

GONZALES: Well, of course, Mr. Chairman, I have not been at the department, so I may not know all of the details of specific successes that the United States and the Department of Justice have enjoyed as a result of the tools given to us by the Patriot Act.

But I am told that they have been very significant, and that for our career prosecutors, for the U.S. attorneys out in the field, they have been very, very beneficial in allowing our law enforcement personnel to defend this country.

I believe that in part because of the Patriot Act there has not been a domestic attack on United States soil since 9/11.

SPECTER: The Patriot Act has stimulated the national counterterrorism center, and that is now part of the new legislation formalized on the national intelligence director.

And I will not go into any detail at this time, but I would urge you to be very diligent there. And this committee is going to exercise oversight on that issue, because it is my own view that had we had proper coordination of all the information prior to 9/11, 9/11 might well have been prevented.

And the FBI has the guiding hand on the national counterterrorism center, and that comes under your purview.

Let me turn now to the issue of the Patriot Act, aspects which have been the subject of concern and legislation is pending where we have people on both ends of the political spectrum, those on the right and those on the left, on concern.

The act requires the court to issue an ex parte order, that is on the application of law enforcement, for an administrative subpoena on a showing which is less than the traditional judicial determination of probable cause. And there's been concern expressed about access to many private records, illustrated by the concern over library records.

Is there any reason in your judgment, Judge Gonzales, why the production of those records might not be subjected to the traditional standard of probable cause before the issuance of the warrant?

GONZALES: Let me just say, Senator, I am also aware of a great deal of debate about the provisions of the Patriot Act. And there are concerns about possible infringement of civil liberties.

I welcome that debate. I think that we should always question the exercise of the power of our government.

The founders of this country -- that is what motivated them in connection with framing the Constitution, concerns about the exercise of government power. And so, I am one of those people that is likewise concerned.

With respect to access to library records, to take a specific point, obviously you're referring to Section 215 of the Patriot Act. 215 relates to obtaining business records. It never mentions library records.

215 allows the government to obtain certain types of business records -- hotel records, credit card records, rental records, transportation records -- in connection with -- it's got to be related to a foreign intelligence operation.

GONZALES: And the government cannot do that without first going to a judge. Government goes to the FISA court and obtains a warrant to do that.

SPECTER: But there is no requirement for a showing of probable cause before that judicial order is entered, Judge Gonzales. And the question is, why can't we have that traditional probable cause requirement on the obtaining of those records?

GONZALES: Certainly, Senator, you could do that. But right now, today, a prosecutor could obtain a grand jury subpoena if it was relevant to a criminal investigation without meeting that standard and obtain access to those very same library records.

SPECTER: But when the prosecutor obtains those records on a grand jury subpoena -- and I have some familiarity with that -- it's subject to judicial supervision. There can be a motion to quash.

Well, I don't want to take up all of our time there. But we also have the sneak-and-peak issue. And you will be here to take a look at that when we have hearings on renewal of the Patriot Act. But that is a matter which, I think, has to be weighed very carefully in the balance.

Let me turn now to the standards of detention on aliens. And immediately after 9/11, as the inspector general's report showed, some 702 aliens were detained without any showing of cause: concern that they might be terrorists, but no real evidence or indications that they were terrorists.

And we have seen the Department of Justice exercise authority after an immigration judge has ordered the release of an alien, and that has been upheld by the board of review, for the Department of Justice to overrule those two levels of judicial review and maintain the detention.

And the issue of standards is really of critical importance. And there has never been a delineation by the Department of Justice of those standards.

At one point Attorney General Ashcroft testified that it wasn't sufficient simply to say "national security," but there had to be some relationship to the individual on the likelihood of flight or on the problem of a criminal record or something relating to the individual.

My yellow light is on now, so I will stop the questioning before my red light appears, and give you an opportunity to respond as to your views as to what kind of a standard is appropriate for the detention of aliens.

GONZALES: Let me just begin by answering your question by saying, Senator, that I do not support or favor the mistreatment, not only of aliens, but anyone by the Department of Justice.

You have to recall that these actions taken by the department were shortly after 9/11. There was a great deal of concern that there may be a second wave of attacks. People didn't know. And so there were undocumented aliens that were rounded up.

I am told is that everyone who was rounded up was either out of status with respect to immigration status or had criminal charges pending against them. There was an independent basis to hold these people.

I am aware of the report by the inspector general. I haven't reviewed it in great detail. I understand the department has made most of the changes recommended by the I.G. Obviously, it's something that I am concerned about.

As to the specific two cases you mentioned, I'm not aware of the details of those cases.

And as to the standard, quite frankly, Senator, that would be something I would have to look at and be happy to get back to you in the event that I am confirmed.

SPECTER: Thank you.

Senator Leahy?

LEAHY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And, first off, I wanted to thank both Senator Salazar and Senator Cornyn for their introduction. Senator Salazar, a Democrat who is showing bipartisanship here, similar to, I remember, Senator Carnahan coming to introduce Attorney General John Ashcroft even though he is the man who'd run against her husband.

I would also note that, while Al Qaida doesn't have POW protection, Geneva still applies, as Secretary Colin Powell has stated very emphatically. I don't want to leave the impression that somehow Geneva doesn't apply just because it involves Al Qaida.

But I'd like to ask you a few questions about the torture memo that is dated back in August 1st, 2002, signed by Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee. And he's now a federal appellate court judge.

LEAHY: The memo is addressed to you. It was written at your request. And it concludes -- this is actually the memo here; it's a fairly lengthy memo, but addressed "Memorandum for Alberto Gonzales, counsel to the president."

And it says, "For an act to violate the torture statute, it must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."

In August 2002, did you agree with that conclusion?

GONZALES: Senator, in connection with that opinion, I did my job as counsel to the president to ask the question.

LEAHY: No, no. I just want to know, did you agree -- I mean, we can spend an hour with that answer. But my -- I'm trying to keep it very simple.

Did you agree with that interpretation of the torture statute back in August 2002?

GONZALES: If I may, sir, let me try to -- I'll try to -- I'm going to give you a very quick answer. But I'd like to put a little bit of context.

Obviously we were interpreting a statute that had never been reviewed in the courts, a statute drafted by Congress. We were trying to interpret -- interpretation of the standard by Congress.

There was discussion between the White House and the Department of Justice, as well as other agencies, about what does this statute mean? It was very, very difficult.

I don't recall today whether or not I was in agreement with all of the analysis. But I don't have a disagreement with the conclusions then reached by the department.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the department to tell us what the law means, Senator.

LEAHY: And do you agree today that for an act to violate the torture statute it must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death?

GONZALES: I do not, Senator. That does not represent the position of the executive branch.

As you know...

LEAHY: But...

SPECTER: Let him finish his answer.

LEAHY: But it was the position in 2002?

SPECTER: Wait a minute, Senator Leahy. Let him finish his answer.

GONZALES: Senator, what you're asking the counsel to do is to interject himself and direct the Department of Justice, who is supposed to be free of any kind of political influence in reaching a legal interpretation of the law passed by Congress.

GONZALES: I certainly give my views. There was, of course, conversation and give-and-take discussions about what does the law mean. But ultimately, ultimately, by statute, the Department of Justice is charged by Congress to provide legal advice on behalf of the president.

We asked the question. That memo represented the position of the executive branch at the time it was issued.

LEAHY: Well, let me then ask you, if you're going to be attorney general -- and I'll accept what you said and let's put on the hat if you're confirmed as attorney general -- the Bybee memo concludes the president has authority as commander in chief to override domestic and international laws prohibiting torture and can immunize from prosecution anyone -- anyone -- who commits torture under his act. Whether legal or not, he can immunize them.

Now, as attorney general, would you believe the president has the authority to exercise a commander-in-chief-override and immunize acts of torture?

GONZALES: First of all, Senator, the president has said we're not going to engage in torture under any circumstances. And so you're asking me to answer a hypothetical that is never going to occur. This president has said we're not going to engage in torture under any circumstances, and therefore that portion of the opinion was unnecessary and was the reason that we asked that that portion be withdrawn.

LEAHY: But I'm trying to think what type of opinions you might give as attorney general.

Do you agree with that conclusion?

GONZALES: Sir, again...

LEAHY: You're a lawyer, and you've held a position as a justice of the Texas Supreme Court. You've been the president's counsel. You've studied this issue deeply. Do you agree with that conclusion?

GONZALES: Senator, I do believe there may come an occasion when the Congress might pass a statute that the president may view as unconstitutional.

And that is a position and a view not just of this president, but many, many presidents from both sides of the aisle.

Obviously, a decision as to whether or not to ignore a statute passed by Congress is a very, very serious one, and it would be one that I would spend a great deal of time and attention before arriving at a conclusion that, in fact, a president had the authority under the Constitution to...

LEAHY: Mr. Gonzales, I'd almost think that you'd served in the Senate you've learned how to filibuster so well. Because I asked a specific question: Does the president have the authority, in your judgment, to exercise a commander-in-chief-override and immunize acts of torture?

GONZALES: With all due respect, Senator, the president said we're not going to engage in torture. That is a hypothetical question that would involve an analysis of a great number of factors.

And the president...

LEAHY: How about this way: Do you think that other world leaders would have authority to authorize the torture of U.S. citizens if they deemed it necessary for their national security?

GONZALES: Senator, I don't know what laws other world leaders would be bound by. And I think it would -- I'm not in a position to answer that question.

LEAHY: Well, the only reason I ask this is this was the -- this memo was DOJ policy for a couple years. And, you know, it sat there from some time in 2002 and then just a couple weeks before 2005, late on a Thursday afternoon, it seems to be somewhat overwritten. Of course, that may be coincidentally because your confirmation hearing was coming up.

Do you think if the Bybee memo had not been leaked to the press -- because it had never been shown to Congress, even though we'd asked for it -- do you think it would still be the overriding legal opinion?

GONZALES: Sir, that I do not know.

I do know that when it became -- it was leaked, we had concern about the fact that people were assumed that the president was somehow exercising that authority to engage in torture. And we wanted to clarify the record that the president had not authorized or condoned torture, nor had directed any actions or excused any actions under the commander-in-chief-override that might otherwise constitute torture.

GONZALES: And that was a reason that decision was made to delete that portion of the...

LEAHY: Well, do you think there's any connection whatsoever between the policies which actually you helped to formulate regarding the treatment interrogation of prisoners, policies that were sent out, Department of Defense and elsewhere, and the widespread abuses that have occurred?

Do you acknowledge any accountability for such things, any connection?

GONZALES: Senator, as I said in my remarks, I categorically condemn the conduct that we see reflected in these pictures at Abu Ghraib.

I would refer you to the eight complete investigations of what happened at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and there are still three ongoing. I'm talking about the Taguba report, the Fay-Jones-Kerr (ph) report, the Schlesinger report, the Navy I.G., the Army I.G., Jacoby, Ryder, Miller, all of these reports.

And if you listen to the press briefings given in connection with the rollout of these reports, they do conclude that with respect to the conduct, not reflected in the photos, not the conduct that we find the most offensive, but conduct related to pure interrogations, that there was some confusion...

LEAHY: The same report you talk about say the Department of Defense relied on the memo, is quoted extensively in the DOD working report on interrogations. That report has never been repudiated, so apparently they did rely on the memo. And when we find out about the abuses, we never find out from the administration, we find out because the press reports them.

Is there any accountability here anywhere?

As I mentioned earlier, my son was in the military. He was held to very, very strict standards.

LEAHY: He's trained for combat, held to very, very strict standards. The vast majority of the men and women in the military are held to those same strict standards.

I'm just trying to find out where the accountability is for this terrible blot that you and I both agree is a terrible blot on the United States.

GONZALES: I believe that is a very good question, Senator. And that is why we have these eight completed investigations and these three pending investigations. And while we've had four hearings involving the secretary of defense, you've had 18 hearings involving the deputy secretary, undersecretary of defense, you've had over 40 briefings with the Congress, because we care very much about finding out what happened and holding people accountable.

Unlike other countries that simply talk about Geneva, if there is an allegation that we've done something wrong, we investigate it. We're very serious about our commitments, our legal obligations in Iraq. And if people have done things that they shouldn't have done in violation of our legal obligations, they are going to be held accountable.

SPECTER: Senator Hatch?

HATCH: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome to the committee, Judge Gonzales and your family. We welcome your family, your wonderful wife, your tremendous mother, brother, mother-in-law. We're really happy to have all of you here. And I hope that this will be not too unpleasant a hearing for you.

You've acted, I think, with the highest honor as the White House counsel. I know that because I've worked very, very closely with you all these years. And I have tremendous respect for you, not only as a human being and for your ethics and high standards, but also as an attorney and as someone who I believe has tried to give the president the best advice you and your staff have been able to give.

You know, this is one of the highest positions in our country's Cabinet -- in the president's Cabinet. It does require a person of deep commitment to the principle of equal justice under the law, and I know that you have that commitment and you'll make it.

I've worked so closely with you, I know firsthand the competency of Judge Gonzales and that he does believe in equal justice for all.

HATCH: I also know that you have the ability to make a very outstanding attorney general of the United States.

Your whole life has been a success story. You've already had a distinguished career as an attorney, judge and civil servant. You made much of the opportunities that you've had by your education at Rice University and, of course, the Harvard Law School.

And I think your background and experience enables you to bring an important set of perspectives to the administration of justice in the Department of Justice.

So I stand ready and willing to help you, Judge Gonzales, in carrying out your new responsibilities.

And I think the American people would expect nothing less than equal justice for all people, and fair justice at that.

Now, I see eye on eye with you on many issues. We've had our differences, but in every case that we've had differences, you have always spoken in a forthright and decent manner, and you've been willing to discuss the issues with me and I think others on this committee.

Now, you're going to be asked some tough questions today and that is as it should be, I suspect.

I think today's hearing is certainly going to dwell to a large degree on ongoing public policy on that debate on how a democratic society with a long tradition of protecting civil liberties should conduct itself when it finds itself threatened and attacked by terrorist groups and individuals who will stop at literally nothing to destroy our way of life and who do not represent a particular country, do not wear uniforms, do not abide by international principles and who really are rogue in every sense of that term.

Now, it's my hope that in addition to providing an accurate record about Judge Gonzales' qualifications to serve as attorney general, one of the outcomes of today's hearing will be to educate the committee and the public about the facts of what actions were taken and were not taken with respect to the treatment and interrogations of various classes of individuals who have been detained and taken into custody by the United States as part of our response to the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.

Now, you have a big job ahead and I personally know that you're capable and you are up to doing that job very well.

HATCH: Now, let me just say, before I ask some questions of Judge Gonzales, I'd like to just take this opportunity to once again recognize the hard work, the dedication and many accomplishments of our current attorney general, John Ashcroft. He has been a terrific attorney general. He's done a terrific job down there, and I think the way crime has come down and a lot of other things have happened for the betterment of the country are, frankly, because of his leadership.

Frankly, it has not been lost on me that many of those who are opposing you today are people who have, in many respects, unfairly vilified the current attorney general over the last four years.

Now, let me just ask some questions by reviewing some of the key points with respect to the treatment of detainees.

Like most Americans, I was appalled by the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Some have stated that the president's February 7th, 2002, memorandum is somehow responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib, at that prison facility in Iraq. But isn't it true that the February 7th, 2002, memorandum actually makes clear that the Geneva Conventions do apply in both Afghanistan and Iraq?

GONZALES: Senator, I don't recall that the memo actually talked about Iraq.

There was a decision by the president that Geneva would apply with respect to our conflict with the Taliban. However -- and I believe there's little disagreement about this as a legal matter -- because of the way the Taliban have fought against the United States, that they forfeited their right to enjoy prisoner of war legal protections.

There was never any question about whether Geneva would apply in Iraq. There was no decision for the president to make. Iraq was a signatory to the Geneva Convention so there was no decision for the president to make.

There was no decision by the Department of Justice as to what kind of techniques should be approved with respect to interrogations in Iraq, because the understanding throughout the administration was the Geneva Conventions apply in Iraq.

HATCH: Well, isn't it also true that the president's February 7th, 2002, memorandum, which is entitled "Humane Treatment of Al Qaida and Taliban Detainees," also requires American forces to treat all detainees humanly regardless of whether the Geneva Conventions apply?

HATCH: Isn't that true?

GONZALES: That is correct. The president gave a directive to the military that, despite the fact that Geneva may not apply with respect to the conflict and the war on terrorism, it is that everyone should be treat humanely.

HATCH: And that was more than two years ago.

GONZALES: That is correct.

HATCH: Am I correct in my understanding that at no time did the president authorize the use of torture against detainees, regardless of any of the legal memoranda produced by various entities of the U.S. government, including the August 2002 Department of Justice memo, the so-called Bybee memo?

GONZALES: Senator, the position of the president on torture is very, very clear, and there is a clear record of this. He does not believe in torture, condone torture; has never ordered torture. And anyone engaged in conduct that constitutes torture is going to be held accountable.

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