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Reform Jewish Movement Urges Senate to Further Examine Gonzales’ Record
In a letter today, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Jane B. Wishner, Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, urged the Senate to insist on a fuller picture of Mr. Gonzales’ role in the development of Administration policies pertaining to torture, interrogation and detainment before taking a position on his nomination.

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Saperstein and Wishner: We write today to urge you to insist on further information, including the release of government records, before confirming Mr. Gonzales’ nomination.

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2005 – In a letter today, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Jane B. Wishner, Chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, urged the Senate to insist on a fuller picture of Mr. Gonzales’ role in the development of Administration policies pertaining to torture, interrogation and detainment before taking a position on his nomination.  The letter noted that “The President deserves significant deference in his choice of appointments to the Executive Branch, but this deference cannot mitigate the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to “advise and consent” to nominations. . . Without these answers, we do not believe that senators are in a position to offer their considered judgment on the nomination.”  The full text of the letter follows:

    Dear Senators:

    On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, we write concerning the nomination of White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales to the position of Attorney General of the United States.   Although we do not take positions in support of, or opposition to, presidential nominees except in very rare cases, and we have not taken a position on the nomination of Mr. Gonzales, we believe that important questions remain unanswered about his record.  We write today to urge you to insist on further information, including the release of government records, before confirming Mr. Gonzales’ nomination.  

    The President deserves significant deference in his choice of appointments to the Executive Branch, but this deference cannot mitigate the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to “advise and consent” to nominations.  Mr. Gonzales has not yet answered critical questions with respect his role in crafting Administration polices regarding torture, interrogation and detention nor has he been forthcoming in his views on civil rights and liberties issues.  Without these answers, we do not believe that senators are in a position to offer their considered judgment on the nomination.     

    The Administration has, thus far, also refused to release documents that might shed light on these issues.  Among the documents that have not been released are a memorandum from the Justice Department to CIA providing guidance on twenty permissible interrogation techniques and specifically authorizing “waterboarding;” the presidential order authorizing CIA to set up series of secret detention facilities; and the presidential order, signed by President Bush, renewing and revising a Clinton presidential order, authorizing the CIA to transfer detainees to the custody of foreign nations that engage in torture.  We offer these examples not to prioritize their importance over other documents but to suggest the extent of the documentation yet to be released.  Without the opportunity to review these documents, the Senate cannot make an informed decision about Mr. Gonzales’ role in crafting these policies nor can it fulfill its oversight duties.  

    We recognize, of course, that much of the material we request released may be sensitive.  We do not say that lightly.  While we believe that these documents should be disclosed to the American people, at the very least they should be made available to senators evaluating Mr. Gonzales’ nomination.  And while we respect Mr. Gonzales’ concerns about impinging on attorney-client privilege, the documents that have been requested by members of the Senate and the press and by groups concerned about potential human rights abuses relate directly to government policies that effect both America’s commitment to human rights and civil liberties.  At a minimum, the President and Mr. Gonzales should clarify their claims of executive and attorney-client privilege with regard to the requested documents.

    We urge you to insist on having a full picture of Mr. Gonzales’ role in the Administration’s policy formulation on these crucial issues before making a determination as to his nomination.

    Respectfully,
    /s/  
    Rabbi David Saperstein 
    Director
    Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

    /s/
    Jane B. Wishner
    Chair
    Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.
 



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