- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy delayed the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval yesterday for Attorney General-designate Alberto Gonzales.

Mr. Kennedy, voicing the concerns of several Democrats, complained that Mr. Gonzales’ answers to dozens of written questions posed by the senators were evasive and incomplete. Mr. Gonzales delivered to the senators a 220-page document that included the questions and his answers to them.

“Those are very arrogant answers,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “If he wants this job, I would think this committee would want to get some answers to these questions.”

While Mr. Gonzales’ ultimate approval by the Judiciary Committee and the full Senate remains likely — according to staffers on both sides of the aisle — yesterday’s meeting suggests Mr. Gonzales may be opposed by more Democrats than previously expected.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who is often the first to cross party lines in the committee, also expressed her disapproval over Mr. Gonzales’ answers.

“It is very hard to get specific responses,” she said, referring to written answers to her questions as well as a telephone conversation she had with Mr. Gonzales earlier this week. “I am undecided.”

Mr. Kennedy’s committee move yesterday postpones by one week the panel’s expected approval of Mr. Gonzales. His nomination will then be sent to the Senate floor and is expected to be confirmed by the full body.

The majority of written questions posed to Mr. Gonzales — as well as those asked during his seven-hour hearing earlier this month — dealt with memos written by him and other administration officials regarding the handling of enemy combatants detained by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One memo dated Aug. 1, 2002, was written by Mr. Gonzales opining on the legal definition of torture and, Democrats say, gave U.S. soldiers tacit approval to commit abuses like those carried out at Abu Ghraib prison west of Baghdad by narrowing the definition of “torture.”

As Mr. Kennedy leafed through the pages of Mr. Gonzales’ written responses, he aired his objections. He ticked off a half-dozen examples of what he deemed “evasive.”

One written answer that particularly bothered Mr. Kennedy was Mr. Gonzales’ response to his question about any documentation that led to the so-called “torture memo.”

“I have no such notes and I have no present knowledge of any such notes, memoranda, e-mails, or other documents and I have not conducted a search,” Mr. Gonzales wrote. “Any records reflecting the information you specify would involve predecisional deliberations that I am not at liberty to disclose.”

Among those concerned about the 2001 memo is Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and member of the Judiciary Committee.

The memo, which has since been rescinded by the White House, “undermines our moral high ground and sends a confusing message to our troops,” Mr. Graham said yesterday.

But by the completion of the Gonzales hearing, Mr. Graham said he was satisfied.

“I think he is qualified and I’ll vote for him,” he said.

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