March 19, 2017 — To the Editor:
On the surface, President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, appears to be a pleasant and moderate man. But Mr. Gorsuch in fact has a track record of defending extreme views on an issue that every American should be concerned about: torture and human rights.
As a high-ranking Justice Department official in the George W. Bush White House in 2005, Mr. Gorsuch engineered procedures to allow, and then cover-up, waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation practices” that were later found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Revelations that our government defied the Geneva Convention as well as the U.S. Constitution — disregarding the Fifth and 14th Amendments (due process) and the Eighth Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment) – shocked millions of Americans.
When the full details of the torture program were uncovered in the Senate Intelligence report on CIA torture in 2014, I was one of those shocked Americans. The report detailed how the Bush administration carried out illegal and immoral torture on suspects in “black sites” in Europe and elsewhere, later bringing those men to prison in Guantanamo, where they experienced further abuses – most of them without any evidence of terrorist activities.
I have a personal connection to this issue, as my brother Greg is a victim of terrorism. Greg, my only sibling, perished along with his co-workers and thousands of others in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. I have been to the military complex at Guantanamo as a 9/11 victim family member. I have seen the trial proceedings and faced the men accused – all of whom are also victims of the CIA’s illegal torture program.
Seeing these men face to face made it clear to me that to fight terror, to achieve justice for its victims, to protect the rest of us from future violence, we must hold our government to the highest standards and reject illegal practices. Legitimizing extra-legal practices such as torture weakens our position as a strong democratic nation. Mr. Gorsuch’s actions in the Justice Department in 2005 made us more vulnerable by putting our government on shaky legal and moral ground.
We cannot afford to seat a Justice with extremist views that will undermine rule of law and the moral underpinnings of our Constitution. I urge Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan to fight Mr. Gorsuch’s nomination on those grounds.