Ashcroft’s arrogance knows no bounds. For those of you who don’t know already, Ashcroft refused to hand over documents requested by congress. These documents have already been leaked to the media. You can see them here. What is truly astounding is that Ashcroft flatly refused to justify his refusal on legal grounds.
ASHCROFT: I am refusing to disclose these memos because I believe it is essential to the operation of the executive branch that the president have the opportunity to get information from his attorney general that is confidential and that the responsibility to do that is a function of the executive branch and a necessity that is protected by the doctrine of the separation of powers in the Constitution.
And for that reason — and that is the reason for which I have not delivered to the Congress or the members of the Senate these memos, any memos.
DURBIN: Sir, Attorney General, with all due respect, your personal belief is not a law, and you are not citing a law and you are not claiming executive privilege. And, frankly, that is what contempt of Congress is all about.
You have to give us a specific legal authority which gives you the right to say no or the president has to claim privilege. And you’ve done neither.
The folks at the Daily Show with Jon Stewart were able to make me laugh about this, but somehow it didn’t seem funny when I saw the footage again on Now, with Bill Moyers.
Here is a full story from the Washington Post, and more from RedefeatBush.com.
In a related story, the Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a lawsuit against two corporations involved with the torture and interrogation of Iraqi prisoners.
UPDATE: Billmon has this to say (via SanBeiJi):
You have to admit, the solution is elegant: Once specific forms of brutality are deemed, through pure sophistry, not to meet the legal definition of torture as set down by Congress and the courts, the rest of the cover up flows naturally …
The only way to challenge that statement would be to examine both the directives and the legal guidance they were based upon, and force the administration to explain why conduct which the International Red Cross has condemned as “tantamount to torture” is not, in fact, “torture” as defined under U.S. law and the International Convention Against Torture. Which is also why Ashcroft must avoid admitting the existence of the directives and refuse to release the memos officially.
Seems as good an explanation as any for why Ashcroft would risk “contempt of Congress” over memos already leaked to the press.
UPDATE: See the Daily Show clips of the hearings.