WASHINGTON – Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales (search) plans to promise to abide by the government's non-torture policies and international treaties if he is confirmed by the Senate, The Associated Press learned Wednesday.
Gonzales, who had a hand in much of the White House's post-9/11 terrorism policies as President Bush's top lawyer, faces condemnation from Democrats at a hearing Thursday over his January 2002 memo arguing that the war on terrorism "renders obsolete" the Geneva Convention's (search) strict prohibitions against torture.
A month later, Bush signed an order declaring he has the authority to circumvent the Geneva accords and reserving the right to do so "in this or future conflicts." The order also says the Geneva treaty's treatment of prisoners of war do not apply to Al Qaeda or "unlawful combatants" from the Taliban.
Gonzales' critics say that decision and Gonzales' memo justifying it led to the torture scandal at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and prisoner abuses in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In a prepared statement obtained by The Associated Press, Gonzales plans to promise the Senate Judiciary Committee to abide by all of the United States' treaty obligations if he is confirmed as the first Hispanic U.S. attorney general.
Bush already has made clear that the government will defend Americans from terrorists "in a manner consistent with our nation's values and applicable law, including our treaty obligations," Gonzales says in his prepared testimony. "I pledge that, if I am confirmed as attorney general, I will abide by those commitments."
Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said President Bush firmly backs Gonzales. "Judge Gonzales is a very trusted adviser to the president (who is) doing an outstanding job," McClellan told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One.
Democrats plan to question Gonzales extensively on his involvement in crafting the government's policies on questioning foreign prisoners. Civil rights and humanitarian groups have portrayed Gonzales as the man responsible for abuses by Americans against prisoners.
Even Democrats say they expect Gonzales to be confirmed. Republicans control a Senate split between 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and the Democratic-leaning independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont.