Thursday, October 4, 2007

october 17, 2007: senate confirmation hearing for mukasey, writes sen. leahy -- "secret" torture opinions to be discussed

much to report at the executive
business meeting of the senate judiciary
committee this morning -- take a look:

Senate Judiciary Committee
Executive Business Meeting

October 4, 2007

Providing a new direction and new leadership at the Department of Justice are important to me and to all of us, and to the country. We need to restore the Department of Justice to be worthy of its name and tradition. As Senator Whitehouse put it during our hearing earlier this week with Jack Goldsmith, the “time-honored practices and traditions” that had long guided the Department of Justice and protected it from political influence need to be restored.

Regrettably the White House has chosen not to clear the decks of ongoing concerns and not to produce the information and material they should have and could have about the ongoing scandals that have shaken the Department and led to the exodus of its former leadership. Those matters now encumber the Mukasey nomination and, as he knows, he will be asked about them. Fundamentally, as Senator Sessions, a former U.S. Attorney, also indicated this week, we need to ensure the independence of federal law enforcement from political pressure. Among the next attorney general’s challenges will be to restore morale at the Department and the public’s trust in the Department.

This morning The New York Times reports that the Department of Justice secretly endorsed combinations of the harshest interrogation tactics as legal -- after telling us and the world that torture is abhorrent. After leading us and the American people to believe that they had withdrawn the infamous Bybee memo, it appears that under Attorney General Gonzales they reversed themselves and reinstated a secret regime by, in essence, reinterpreting the law in secret. We on this Committee have been seeking that information without cooperation from the Administration for two years. I suspect that former Deputy Attorney General Comey will again prove to be right in his prediction that the Department of Justice will be “ashamed” when we learn more about all that they have done.

I look forward to meeting with former Judge Mukasey on October 16, if that date is convenient to him. I anticipate that following our meeting the Committee will commence the confirmation hearing on his nomination to be Attorney General of the United States. That could begin as soon as Wednesday, October 17. Before finalizing the date, I want to consult with Senator Specter, and I also want to see whether there are objections from other Senators on this Committee. I apologize to the hardworking Senators and their staffs who serve this Committee that this tentative schedule will necessitate their working intensely through another recess period of the Senate in order to be prepared to proceed our first week back in session.

Now to the matters at hand this morning: We need to complete our consideration of the Free Flow of Information Act. I hope that we will not be delayed and can also consider and report the bill that I have cosponsored with Senator Cornyn clarifying the scope of copyright protection for vessel hull designs. We have a bipartisan resolution establishing a day of remembrance for murder victims and a resolution recognizing hunters’ commitment to safety. There are two U.S. Attorney nominations and another lifetime judicial nomination that we are also seeking to expedite today. I had hoped to have the nomination of Julie Myers of Homeland Security and Michael Sullivan of ATF on the agenda today but have been asked to list them at our next meeting in order to allow Senators to send written questions to these nominees.

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