Although Alberto Gonzales' role in crafting the controversial "torture memos" has understandably taken center stage in his confirmation hearings for US Attorney General, his role in suppressing whistleblower protections should not be ignored. Whistleblowers help keep America safer by pointing out dangers and security lapses, reporting fraud, and in general seeking to inform the public so to solve problems that fester in secrecy. From a POGO press release in November:
"Within hours of signing the landmark Sarbanes-Oxley legislation to fight corporate fraud, President Bush attempted to severely narrow which whistleblowers would be covered by the Act. White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales defended the narrowed interpretation when Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) protested the attempt to undermine whistleblower protections they had authored.
Ultimately, the White House backed down on its narrowed interpretation of the Act."
Perhaps during Gonzales' confirmation hearing someone should ask him about this egregious attempt to weaken our nation's security.
Congress should also ask Gonzales whether he will utilize the "Reopener" provision in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case (settled in 1991). The spill caused immense environmental and economic damage to Alaska. This provision would allow the government to get compensation for unanticipated long-term damages that only now, after years of scientific research, can be proven. But the Justice Department must act before the provision expires in 2006.
Is Gonzales willing to hold Exxon Mobil accountable for its irresponsible actions? And will he lead a Justice Department friendly to whistleblowers? Who will Gonzales protect? Congress needs to ask these questions.