Issues of Concern

US homeland security nominee says he never sanctioned abuse of terror detainees

AFP: 2/2/2005


US Homeland Security Secretary-designate Michael Chertoff on Wednesday distanced himself from a controversial White House memo that critics allege laid the foundation for later torture of terror suspects in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba.
"I was not involved in the process of how the memo was generated," Chertoff told lawmakers at his nomination hearing before the Senate's Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Chertoff, a former US attorney for the state of New Jersey and a judge on the US federal courts, made his remarks under intense questioning by Democratic Senator Carl Levin.
Chertoff was directly consulted by the CIA and other US officials about the boundaries of interrogation policies to be used by US officials at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, at the Guantanamo Bay Naval base in Cuba and in Afghanistan.
Though he admitted reviewing a draft of the August 2002 memorandum that interpreted the definition of torture, Chertoff testified that he never advocated resorting to torture to extract information from terror suspects, and said he had advised US officials that interrogations be conducted "well within the law."
Chertoff was the head of the US Department of Justice's Criminal Division from May 2001 until March 2003, during which time, Levin said, the office "took actions that were troubling ... most notably its promulgation of legal theories circumventing legal prohibitions against torture and inhuman treatment of detainees."
"Judge Chertoff's role in the development of those legal theories needs to be clarified," Levin said in written remarks submitted at the hearing.
"Those theories helped create an environment in which the abusive behavior at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere was either permitted or was perceived to be permitted."
The so-called "terror memos" have also dogged the nomination of White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, who is nevertheless expected to be confirmed later this week to be the next US Attorney General.

02/02/2005 17:12 GMT - AFP



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