- Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel who advised
that the Geneva Conventions and international anti-torture treaties did
not apply to terrorist suspects held by the US, was yesterday selected
by President George Bush as his new attorney general.
- Officials said that if confirmed by the Senate, Mr Gonzales
would succeed John Ashcroft, whose resignation from the post was announced
on Tuesday. Mr Gonzales, 49, would be the first Hispanic to hold the position.
- Mr Gonzales was among several possible replacements widely
discussed before the election when it was thought Mr Ashcroft would not
serve in a second term. Mr Ashcroft actually proffered his resignation
to the President in a five-page handwritten letter on election night but
Mr Bush waited until after the weekend to accept it and decide upon a replacement.
- If the right-wing, evangelical Mr Ashcroft was among
the most polarising members of the Bush cabinet, Mr Gonzales is not without
considerable controversy. He was at the centre of the effort to publicly
defend the administration's policy of holding prisoners captured in the
so-called "war on terror" without access to lawyers or the courts,
a stance opposed by the Supreme Court. He also wrote a memo in February
2002 in which the Bush administration claimed the right to ignore international
treaties prohibiting torture of prisoners. Campaigners said that memo led
directly to the sort of abuses that were uncovered at Abu Ghraib in Iraq
and which have been alleged at Guantanamo Bay.
- But the controversy surrounding Mr Gonzales dates back
further, to the time when he worked as general counsel to Mr Bush when
he was governor of Texas. An article last year in Atlantic Monthly examined
Mr Gonzales's role in the preparation of memos to Mr Bush on 57 death penalty
cases in which the governor was required to consider the granting of clemency.
- The magazine's investigation found Mr Gonzales "repeatedly
failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand:
ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual
evidence of innocence". The magazine said Mr Gonzales appeared to
exclude factors such as "mental illness or incompetence, childhood
physical or sexual abuse, remorse, rehabilitation or racial discrimination
in jury selection".
- Mr Bush allowed the executions to proceed in all but
one of the 57 cases, including that of Terry Washington, a 33-year-old
mentally retarded man with the communications skills of a seven-year-old.
- Mr Gonzales had also been considered a possible candidate
for the Supreme Court if an opening should emerge. In recent weeks, his
name had been mentioned increasingly, with the announcement that Chief
Justice William Rehnquist was suffering from thyroid cancer.
- Reports suggested that in the end it was decided, somewhat
ironically, that Mr Gonzales was not sufficiently conservative on certain
basic issues to please right-wing Republicans looking for a zealot on the
- The replacement of Mr Ashcroft was first of what will
likely be several reshuffles in the cabinet over the coming days and weeks.
Mr Bush is already looking for a replacement for Commerce Secretary Donald
Evans, who announced his resignation on Tuesday.
- Yesterday Mr Bush was due to meet the Secretary of State
Colin Powell, about whose future there has been intense speculation. It
was generally considered Mr Powell would not serve in a second term but
there has been a flurry of reports suggesting he might.
- Senator John Kerry, the former Democratic presidential
candidate, yesterday offered a statement in which he called Mr Ashcroft
"one of the most divisive faces in this administration". He said:
"With the end of the era of John Ashcroft, the President now has an
opportunity to heal those divisions and make good on his promise of renewed
- But, in an early sign of the increased control held by
Republicans, the Energy Secretary, Spencer Abrams, said he believed the
new Congress would vote next year to permit drilling for oil in the Alaskan
wildlife reserve (ANWR).
- Republican Senator Pete Domenicic, chairman of the Senate
Energy Committee, said: "With oil at $50 a barrel, and likely to stay
there for months, the market mandates congressional action. We can develop
ANWR without harming the environment or the wildlife. Now is the time to
- THE CV
- Born: 4 August 1955, San Antonio, Texas. Raised in Houston
with seven brothers and sisters
- Education: Graduated from Rice University, Houston, and
from Harvard Law School
- Marital status: Married with three children
- 1973-75 Served in the US Air Force
- 1982-95 Joined the Houston law firm, Vinson & Elkins
- 1992 Assistant legal counsel, Houston Host Committee,
Republican National Convention
- 1995-97 General counsel to Governor George Bush
- 1997-99 Secretary of State, State of Texas
- 1999-2000 Justice, The Supreme Court of Texas
- 2000-04 White House counsel for George Bush
- 2004 Nominated as US Attorney General
- © 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/story.jsp?story=581582