Sen. Leahy scolds Justice over terror issue
The new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 2 described as “disappointing” the Justice Department’s refusal to release documents detailing the Bush administration’s interrogation and detention policy for terrorism suspects.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, called on the department and the White House to “reconsider their response” and work with the committee “to promptly share this information, with any appropriate confidentiality safeguards.”
Mr. Leahy, who bitterly criticized FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III last month during a committee hearing for refusing to discuss the Bush administration’s domestic terrorist-surveillance program, has promised that as chairman he will target what he called the “unprecedented” efforts by the administration to “hide its own activities from the public.”
“The department’s decision to brush off my request for information about the administration’s troubling interrogation policies is not the constructive step toward bipartisanship that I had hoped for, given President Bush’s promise to work with us,” he said.
Mr. Leahy said he requested documents in November concerning CIA interrogation methods and described the administration’s offer to work with Congress after Democrats took over on Jan. 4 as “political lip service.”
“I have advised the attorney general that I plan to pursue this matter further at the committee’s first oversight hearing of the Department of Justice,” he said.
In November, Mr. Leahy told Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales that the CIA had disclosed the existence of two interrogation- related documents — a presidential directive regarding the agency’s interrogation methods and detention facilities located outside of the United States, and a Justice Department memo regarding CIA interrogation methods.
The CIA disclosures came during an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Prisoner abuse is one aspect of a broader problem, which includes the use of so-called ‘extraordinary renditions’ to send people to other countries where they will be subject to torture,” Mr. Leahy said. “We diminish our own values as a nation — and lose credibility as an advocate of human rights around the world — by engaging in, or outsourcing, torture.”
His request for documents in- cluded records describing CIA interrogation methods or policies for the treatment of detainees, including a directive signed by Mr. Bush governing CIA interrogation methods. He also sought documents regarding the legality of specific interrogation tactics.
In September, the Republicancontrolled Congress passed a bill giving Mr. Bush wide latitude in interrogating and detaining captured enemy combatants. Democrats opposed the measure and have vowed to revisit the issue once they take control of Congress.
Mr. Leahy, joined by several Democrats and outgoing Republican Chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, have challenged a provision in the bill that prohibits a detainee from protesting his detention in court. They have argued that it is unconstitutional.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he will “pursue” the Justice Department for documents detailing its policies on terrorism suspects.