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 Wednesday 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-Qaida terrorists by giving them “a road map” of what to expect when

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 on Wednesday. He would replace
Attorney General John Ashcroft, who bade farewell to the department Monday. .


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