Tomorrow, Attorney General Michael Mukasey will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for the first time since he was confirmed in November 2007. Members of the committee will have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to ask Mukasey important questions about the Bush Administration’s politicization of the Justice Department, President Bush’s assertions of broad executive powers, and the Attorney General’s opinions on a variety of controversial legal opinions issued under his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales.
We anticipate that the majority of the committee’s questions will be forward-looking. Though that is certainly important, it is equally important for Senators to ask the Attorney General tough questions about the damage that was done to the Department under Gonzales’ leadership, how he plans to address these problems, and how he plans to keep similar issues from arising in the future. With this in mind, Alliance for Justice urges Senate Judiciary Committee members to pose a series of probing questions, including:
• The Attorney General has called for the President to veto amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act unless they include retroactive immunity for violations of law by giant telecommunications corporations. It is widely believed that these corporations provided private information to the Bush Administration about their customers in violation of both federal law and their contracts with their customers. Some customers have already sued the corporations for redress. What is the justification, legally and as a matter of policy, for protecting these mega-corporations from having to defend their actions in a court of law, and at the expense of ordinary Americans? Is it simply that no contract, no law can stand in the way of the Bush Administration any time it makes a broad-brush assertion of national security?
• Several months ago, Special Counsel Peter Fitzgerald concluded his inquiry into the public disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA operative. President Bush’s pardon of Lewis “Scooter” Libby helped end that investigation. Congress has asked that the Justice Department permit Fitzgerald to release transcripts of interviews his office conducted with President Bush and Vice President Cheney. What is the legal justification for continuing to withhold these documents from public scrutiny?
• Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine has been investigating the politicization of the Department and the firing of United States Attorneys since early 2007. Can the Attorney General give the Senate and the public his personal assurance that every current and former employee of the Department is cooperating fully with that investigation? If not, who is failing to cooperate?
• During his confirmation process, the Attorney General – claiming that he did not know enough about the torture technique called “waterboarding” – refused to declare that it is indeed torture. Now, months later, the question must be answered: Is waterboarding torture? If Attorney General Mukasey is still unwilling to say that it is, does his reluctance stem in any part from a need to protect past or current administration officials from criminal or other liability?
• The New York Times recently reported the following: “Asked if he had found signs of turmoil, Mr. Mukasey said, ‘Based on what I’ve seen, no.’ Asked if reports of turmoil were a fabrication by news organizations, he replied with a wry smile and a hint of sarcasm, ‘I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that’.” Does the Attorney General continue to deny, as did Gonzales, that there are internal morale problems in the Department?