January 26, 2005 in Nation/World

Gonzales says abusive tactics may be legal

Frank Davies Knight Ridder

WASHINGTON – Alberto Gonzales has asserted to the Senate committee weighing his nomination to be attorney general that there’s a legal rationale for harsh treatment of foreign prisoners by U.S. forces.

In more than 200 pages of written responses to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who plan to vote today on his nomination, Gonzales told senators that laws and treaties prohibit torture by any U.S. agent without exception.

But he said the Convention Against Torture treaty, as ratified by the Senate, doesn’t prohibit the use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” tactics on non-U.S. citizens who are captured abroad, in Iraq or elsewhere.

Gonzales, White House counsel and a close Bush adviser, described recent reports of prisoner abuse as “shocking and deeply troubling.” But he refused to answer questions from senators about whether interrogation tactics witnessed by FBI agents were unlawful.

He warned that any public discussion about interrogation tactics would help al Qaeda terrorists by giving them “a road map” of what to expect when captured.

He also said the administration was conducting a comprehensive legal review of all practices and that the Justice Department, so far, had concluded that the tactics were lawful.

The committee, with 10 Republican and eight Democrats, is expected to send Gonzales’ nomination to the full Senate today. He would replace Attorney General John Ashcroft, who bade farewell to the department Monday.

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