Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Ashcroft out -- Gonzales in (is this out of the frying pan and into the fire?)

US Atty. Gen. John "Lemme see what books you read" Ashcroft (who we shouldn't forget lost a Senate election to a dead man -- let the eagle soar, indeed) resigned. While civil libertarians across the US would seem to be rejoicing, they are confused as to whether the suggested replacement, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, will be much better.

On the one hand, Judge Gonzales got a reputation, including his couple of years on the Texas Supreme Court, from some conservatives of not agreeing with them on key social policy issues — abortion and affirmative action. (Which is odd, in that Gonzales successfully argued for White House in opposition to the University of Michigan program -- he just did not push for an end to affirmative action.)

However, this is also the guy who fought to keep the details of VP Cheney's clandestine energy commission meetings secret, defended the administration's right to detain terrorism suspects indefinitely without formal charges, and to deny terrorism suspects them access to counsel or to protection from the court system.

His Jan. 25, 2002 memo to Pres. Bush stated that "As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war. The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians." He added, "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." (Emphasis added) Many have tied this to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, which appear to have fallen out of notice since those damned Scott Peterson jurors keep making news.

Thus, it is not yet clear if those cherishing civil liberties should breathe a sigh of relief, or if they should remain on their oxygen tanks.