01/16/2006, Volume 011, Issue 17
THE FORMER IRAQI REGIME OF Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials.
The secret training took place primarily at three camps--in Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak--and was directed by elite Iraqi military units. Interviews by U.S. government interrogators with Iraqi regime officials and military leaders corroborate the documentary evidence. Many of the fighters were drawn from terrorist groups in northern Africa with close ties to al Qaeda, chief among them Algeria's GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Some 2,000 terrorists were trained at these Iraqi camps each year from 1999 to 2002, putting the total number at or above 8,000. Intelligence officials believe that some of these terrorists returned to Iraq and are responsible for attacks against Americans and Iraqis. According to three officials with knowledge of the intelligence on Iraqi training camps, White House and National Security Council officials were briefed on these findings in May 2005; senior Defense Department officials subsequently received the same briefing.
The photographs and documents on Iraqi training camps come from a collection of some 2 million "exploitable items" captured in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan. They include handwritten notes, typed documents, audiotapes, videotapes, compact discs, floppy discs, and computer hard drives. Taken together, this collection could give U.S. intelligence officials and policymakers an inside look at the activities of the former Iraqi regime in the months and years before the Iraq war.
The discovery of the information on jihadist training camps in Iraq would seem to have two major consequences: It exposes the flawed assumptions of the experts and U.S. intelligence officials who told us for years that a secularist like Saddam Hussein would never work with Islamic radicals, any more than such jihadists would work with an infidel like the Iraqi dictator. It also reminds us that valuable information remains buried in the mountain of documents recovered in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past four years.
Nearly three years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, only 50,000 of these 2 million "exploitable items" have been thoroughly examined. That's 2.5 percent. Despite the hard work of the individuals assigned to the "DOCEX" project, the process is not moving quickly enough, says Michael Tanji, a former Defense Intelligence Agency official who helped lead the document exploitation effort for 18 months. "At this rate," he says, "if we continue to approach DOCEX in a linear fashion, our great-grandchildren will still be sorting through this stuff."
Most of the 50,000 translated documents relate directly to weapons of mass destruction programs and scientists, since David Kay and his Iraq Survey Group--who were among the first to analyze the finds--considered those items top priority. "At first, if it wasn't WMD, it wasn't translated. It wasn't exploited," says a former military intelligence officer who worked on the documents in Iraq.
"We had boxloads of Iraqi Intelligence records--their names, their jobs, all sorts of detailed information," says the former military intelligence officer. "In an insurgency, wouldn't that have been helpful?"
How many of those unexploited documents might help us better understand the role of Iraq in supporting transregional terrorists? How many of those documents might provide important intelligence on the very people--Baathists, former regime officials, Saddam Fedayeen, foreign fighters trained in Iraq--that U.S. soldiers are fighting in Iraq today? Is what we don't know literally killing us?
ON NOVEMBER 17, 2005, Michigan representative Pete Hoekstra wrote to John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence. Hoekstra is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He provided Negroponte a list of 40 documents recovered in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan and asked to see them. The documents were translated or summarized, given titles by intelligence analysts in the field, and entered into a government database known as HARMONY. Most of them are unclassified.
For several weeks, Hoekstra was promised a response. He finally got one on December 28, 2005, in a meeting with General Michael Hayden, principal deputy director of national intelligence. Hayden handed Hoekstra a letter from Negroponte that promised a response after January 1, 2006. Hoekstra took the letter, read it, and scribbled his terse response. "John--Unacceptable." Hoekstra told Hayden that he would expect to hear something before the end of the year. He didn't.
"I can tell you that I'm reaching the point of extreme frustration," said Hoekstra, in a phone interview last Thursday. His exasperated tone made the claim unnecessary. "It's just an indication that rather than having a nimble, quick intelligence community that can respond quickly, it's still a lumbering bureaucracy that can't give the chairman of the intelligence committee answers relatively quickly. Forget quickly, they can't even give me answers slowly."
On January 6, however, Hoekstra finally heard from Negroponte. The director of national intelligence told Hoekstra that he is committed to expediting the exploitation and release of the Iraqi documents. According to Hoekstra, Negroponte said: "I'm giving this as much attention as anything else on my plate to make this work."
Other members of Congress--including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Senators Rick Santorum and Pat Roberts--also demanded more information from the Bush administration on the status of the vast document collection. Santorum and Hoekstra have raised the issue personally with President Bush. This external pressure triggered an internal debate at the highest levels of the administration. Following several weeks of debate, a consensus has emerged: The vast majority of the 2 million captured documents should be released publicly as soon as possible.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has convened several meetings in recent weeks to discuss the Pentagon's role in expediting the release of this information. According to several sources familiar with his thinking, Rumsfeld is pushing aggressively for a massive dump of the captured documents. "He has a sense that public vetting of this information is likely to be as good an astringent as any other process we could develop," says Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita.
The main worry, says DiRita, is that the mainstream press might cherry-pick documents and mischaracterize their meaning. "There is always the concern that people would be chasing a lot of information good or bad, and when the Times or the Post splashes a headline about some sensational-sounding document that would seem to 'prove' that sanctions were working, or that Saddam was just a misunderstood patriot, or some other nonsense, we'd spend a lot of time chasing around after it."
This is a view many officials attributed to Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Steve Cambone. (Cambone, through a spokesman, declined to be interviewed.) For months, Cambone has argued internally against expediting the release of the documents. "Cambone is the problem," says one former Bush administration official who wants the documents released. "He has blocked this every step of the way." In what is perhaps a sign of a changing dynamic within the administration, Cambone is now saying that he, like his boss, favors a broad document release.
Although Hoekstra, too, has been pushing hard for the quick release of all of the documents, he is currently focusing his efforts simply on obtaining the 40 documents he asked for in November. "There comes a time when the talking has to stop and I get the documents. I requested these documents six weeks ago and I have not seen a single piece of paper yet."
Is Hoekstra being unreasonable? I asked Michael Tanji, the former DOCEX official with the Defense Intelligence Agency, how long such a search might take. His answer: Not long. "The retrieval of a HARMONY document is a trivial thing assuming one has a serial number or enough keyword terms to narrow down a search [Hoekstra did]. If given the task when they walked in the door, one person should be able to retrieve 40 documents before lunch."
Tanji should know. He left DIA last year as the chief of the media exploitation division in the office of document exploitation. Before that, he started and managed a digital forensics and intelligence fusion program that used the data obtained from DOCEX operations. He began his career as an Army signals intelligence [SIGINT] analyst. In all, Tanji has worked for 18 years in intelligence and dealt with various aspects of the media exploitation problem for about four years.
We discussed the successes and failures of the DOCEX program, the relative lack of public attention to the project, and what steps might be taken to expedite the exploitation of the documents in the event the push to release all of the documents loses momentum.
TWS: In what areas is the project succeeding? In what areas is the project failing?
Tanji: The level of effort applied to the DOCEX problems in Iraq and Afghanistan to date is a testament to the will and work ethic of people in the intelligence community. They've managed to find a number of golden nuggets amongst a vast field of rock in what I would consider a respectable amount of time through sheer brute force. The flip side is that it is a brute-force effort. For a number of reasons--primarily time and resources--there has not been much opportunity to step back, think about a smarter way to solve the problem, and then apply various solutions. Inasmuch as we've won in Iraq and Saddam and his cronies are in the dock, now would be a good time to put some fresh minds on the problem of how you turn DOCEX into a meaningful and effective information-age intelligence tool.
TWS: Why haven't we heard more about this project? Aren't most of the Iraqi documents unclassified?
Tanji: Until a flood of captured material came rushing in after the start of Operation Enduring Freedom [in October 2001], DOCEX was a backwater: unglamorous, not terribly career enhancing, and from what I had heard always one step away from being mothballed.
The classification of documents obtained for exploitation varies based on the nature of the way they were obtained and by whom. There are some agencies that tend to classify everything regardless of how it was acquired. I could not give you a ratio of unclassified to classified documents.
In my opinion the silence associated with exploitation work is rooted in the nature of the work. In addition to being tedious and time-consuming, it is usually done after the shooting is over. We place a higher value on intelligence information that comes to us before a conflict begins. Confirmation that we were right (or proof that we were wrong) after the fact is usually considered history. That some of this information may be dated doesn't mean it isn't still valuable.
TWS: The project seems overwhelmed at the moment, with a mere 50,000 documents translated completely out of a total of 2 million. What steps, in your view, should be taken to expedite the process?
Tanji: I couldn't say what the total take of documents or other forms of media is, though numbers in the millions are probably not far off.
In a sense the exploitation process is what it is; you have to put eyes on paper (or a computer screen) to see what might be worth further translation or deeper analysis. It is a time-consuming process that has no adequate mechanical solution. Machine translation software is getting better, but it cannot best a qualified human linguist, of which we have very few.
Tackling the computer media problem is a lot simpler in that computer language (binary) is universal, so searching for key words, phrases, and the names of significant personalities is fairly simple. Built to deal with large-scale data sets, a forensic computer system can rapidly separate wheat from chaff. The current drawback is that the computer forensics field is dominated by a law-enforcement mindset, which means the approach to the digital media problem is still very linear. As most of this material has come to us without any context ("hard drives found in Iraq" was a common label attached to captured media) that approach means our great-grandchildren will still be dealing with this problem.
Dealing with the material as the large and nebulous data set that it is and applying a contextual appliqué after exploitation--in essence, recreating the Iraqi networks as they were before Operation Iraqi Freedom began--would allow us to get at the most significant data rapidly for technical analysis, and allow for a political analysis to follow in short order. If I were looking for both a quick and powerful fix I'd get various Department of Energy labs involved; they're used to dealing with large data sets and have done great work in the data mining and rendering fields.
TWS: To read some of the reporting on Iraq, one might come away with the impression that Saddam Hussein was something of a benign (if not exactly benevolent) dictator who had no weapons of mass destruction and no connections to terrorism. Does the material you've seen support this conventional wisdom?
Tanji: I am subject to a nondisclosure agreement, so I would rather not get into details. I will say that the intelligence community has scraped the surface of much of what has been captured in Iraq and in my view a great deal more deep digging is required. Critics of the war often complain about the lack of "proof"--a term that I had never heard used in the intelligence lexicon until we ousted Saddam--for going to war. There is really only one way to obtain "proof" and that is to carry out a thorough and detailed examination of what we've captured.
TWS: I've spoken with several officials who have seen unclassified materials indicating the former Iraqi regime provided significant support--including funding and training--to transregional terrorists, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ansar al Islam, Algeria's GSPC, and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Did you see any of this?
Tanji: My obligations under a nondisclosure agreement prevent me from getting into this kind of detail.
Other officials familiar with the captured documents were less cautious. "As much as we overestimated WMD, it appears we underestimated [Saddam Hussein's] support for transregional terrorists," says one intelligence official.
Speaking of Ansar al Islam, the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group that operated in northern Iraq, the former high-ranking military intelligence officer says: "There is no question about the fact that AI had reach into Baghdad. There was an intelligence connection between that group and the regime, a financial connection between that group and the regime, and there was an equipment connection. It may have been the case that the IIS [Iraqi Intelligence Service] support for AI was meant to operate against the [anti-Saddam] Kurds. But there is no question IIS was supporting AI."
The official continued: "[Saddam] used these groups because he was interested in extending his influence and extending the influence of Iraq. There are definite and absolute ties to terrorism. The evidence is there, especially at the network level. How high up in the government was it sanctioned? I can't tell you. I don't know whether it was run by Qusay [Hussein] or [Izzat Ibrahim] al-Duri or someone else. I'm just not sure. But to say Iraq wasn't involved in terrorism is flat wrong."
STILL, some insist on saying it. Since early November, Senator Carl Levin has been spotted around Washington waving a brief excerpt from a February 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency assessment of Iraq. The relevant passage reads: "Saddam's regime is intensely secular and is wary of Islamic revolutionary movements. Moreover, Baghdad is unlikely to provide assistance to a group it cannot control."
Levin treats these two sentences as definitive proof that Bush administration officials knew that Saddam's regime was unlikely to work with Islamic fundamentalists and ignored the intelligence community's assessment to that effect. Levin apparently finds the passage so damning that he specifically requested that it be declassified.
I thought of Levin's two sentences last Wednesday and Thursday as I sat in a Dallas courtroom listening to testimony in the deportation hearing of Ahmed Mohamed Barodi, a 42-year-old Syrian-born man who's been living in Texas for the last 15 years. I thought of Levin's sentences, for example, when Barodi proudly proclaimed his membership in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, and again when Barodi, dressed in loose-fitting blue prison garb, told Judge J. Anthony Rogers about the 21 days he spent in February 1982 training with other members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood at a camp in Iraq.
The account he gave in the courtroom was slightly less alarming than the description of the camp he had provided in 1989, on his written application for political asylum in the United States. In that document, Barodi described the instruction he received in Iraq as "guerrilla warfare training." And in an interview in February 2005 with Detective Scott Carr and special agent Sam Montana, both from the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force, Barodi said that the Iraqi regime provided training in the use of firearms, rocket-propelled grenades, and document forgery.
Barodi comes from Hama, the town that was leveled in 1982 by the armed forces of secular Syrian dictator Hafez Assad because it was home to radical Islamic terrorists who had agitated against his regime. The massacre took tens of thousands of lives, but some of the extremists got away.
Many of the most radical Muslim Brotherhood refugees from Hama were welcomed next door--and trained--in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Spanish investigators believe that Ghasoub Ghalyoun, the man they have accused of conducting surveillance for the 9/11 attacks, who also has roots in the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, was trained in an Iraqi terrorist camp in the early 1980s. Ghalyoun mentions this Iraqi training in a 2001 letter to the head of Syrian intelligence, in which he seeks reentry to Syria despite his long affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Reaching out to Islamic radicals was, in fact, one of the first moves Saddam Hussein made upon taking power in 1979. That he did not do it for ideological reasons is unimportant. As Barodi noted at last week's hearing, "He used us and we used him."
Throughout the 1980s, including the eight years of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam cast himself as a holy warrior in his public rhetoric to counter the claims from Iran that he was an infidel. This posturing continued during and after the first Gulf war in 1990-91. Saddam famously ordered "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great) added to the Iraqi flag. Internally, he launched "The Faith Campaign," which according to leading Saddam Hussein scholar Amatzia Baram included the imposition of sharia (Islamic law). According to Baram, "The Iraqi president initiated laws forbidding the public consumption of alcohol and introduced enhanced compulsory study of the Koran at all educational levels, including Baath Party branches."
Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law who defected to Jordan in 1995, explained these changes in an interview with Rolf Ekeus, then head of the U.N. weapons inspection program. "The government of Iraq is instigating fundamentalism in the country," he said, adding, "Every party member has to pass a religious exam. They even stopped party meetings for prayers."
And throughout the decade, the Iraqi regime sponsored "Popular Islamic Conferences" at the al Rashid Hotel that drew the most radical Islamists from throughout the region to Baghdad. Newsweek's Christopher Dickey, who covered one of those meetings in 1993, would later write: "Islamic radicals from all over the Middle East, Africa and Asia converged on Baghdad to show their solidarity with Iraq in the face of American aggression." One speaker praised "the mujahed Saddam Hussein, who is leading this nation against the nonbelievers." Another speaker said, "Everyone has a task to do, which is to go against the American state." Dickey continued:
Every time I hear diplomats and politicians, whether in Washington or the capitals of Europe, declare that Saddam Hussein is a "secular Baathist ideologue" who has nothing do with Islamists or with terrorist calls to jihad, I think of that afternoon and I wonder what they're talking about. If that was not a fledgling Qaeda itself at the Rashid convention, it sure was Saddam's version of it.
In the face of such evidence, Carl Levin and other critics of the Iraq war trumpet deeply flawed four-year-old DIA analyses. Shouldn't the senator instead use his influence to push for the release of Iraqi documents that will help establish what, exactly, the Iraqi regime was doing in the years before the U.S. invasion?
Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Saddam's Terror Training Camps:What the documents captured from the former Iraqi regime reveal-and why they should all be made public by Stephen Hayes
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 1/10/2006 04:11:00 PM
Senator Not-Everywoman: Whatever she tells you during the Alito hearings, Dianne Feinstein is not the embodiment of American women’s by Kate O'Beirne
PPssst. . . just between us. I have arranged to have the following speech slipped into the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing room and placed in a Republican senator's leather portfolio in the hope that he will mistakenly read it aloud during his next turn before the cameras.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I would like to join my colleagues in thanking you, too, for your admirable leadership of this committee as we confront one of our most consequential responsibilities as United States senators. I listened very closely, as I always do, during the important remarks of my esteemed colleague from California [insert empty, obsequious comments about what a terrific senator and all around wonderful person Dianne Feinstein is]. Senator Feinstein reminded us that she is the only woman serving on this august committee and explains that she feels the heavy responsibility of representing women during these confirmation hearings. I hope to relieve her of the extraordinary responsibility that so troubles her. I am happy to tell her that she actually doesn't have the burden of representing fully half of our population, in addition to her formidable responsibilities in representing our most populous state.
I trust that this is welcome news to her. If she did represent American women, she would be in quite a pickle — having to vote on both sides of every issue that comes before us. In fact, there is no monolithic women's position on public policies and no monolithic "women's issues." The senator is doing no more or less than the rest of us — representing our own constituents — male and female.
Every election season we see the diversity of opinions among women. In 2004, while my esteemed colleague John Kerry carried the overall women's vote by 3 points, he lost white women by 11 points and married women without college by 16 points. The majority of these latter women voted for the pro-life candidate in the race. President Bush carried married voters with children by 16 points. In fact, the marriage gap has been bigger than the much-hyped political gender gap since pollsters started measuring it.
When Senator Feinstein pledges not to support the nomination of any candidate for the Supreme Court who doesn't pledge to uphold Roe v. Wade, she is at odds with the opinion of the majority of American women. Roe v. Wade permits abortion throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy with no meaningful restrictions. When polls purport to show majority support for this decision, respondents are under the mistaken impression that it only permits abortion during the first trimester. Polls routinely pose the question with this false description of what Roe v. Wade allows. A large majority of the public supports restrictions, like a ban on partial-birth abortion, that Roe v. Wade has been held not to allow.
Even the suffragettes, our earliest women's-rights activists whose legacy the modern women's movement claims, were opposed to abortion. Alice Paul, the author of the ERA, saw it as "the ultimate exploitation of women." Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton agreed that abortion was "child murder." Like millions of women today, these activists did not believe that women's equality rested on abortion rights.
A 2003 poll by the Center for the Advancement of Women, headed by Faye Wattleton, an ally of Senator Feinstein's from her days as the celebrated president of Planned Parenthood, found that 51 percent of women would only allow abortion in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Another 17 percent of women wanted to see abortions more widely available than that, but with more restrictions. So, that survey found 68 percent of women disagreeing with Senator Feinstein's position on abortion.
You will find similarly disparate views on issues like affirmative action. Millions of women don't see why their husbands and sons should be discriminated against because their grandmothers weren't permitted to vote. Mothers object when a law intended to eliminate discrimination against their daughters in education programs is transformed into a law demanding discrimination against their sons in college sports.
Respecting the choices of women as she continuously professes she does, I trust that Senator Feinstein will respect the opinions of the millions of women who disagree with her by recognizing that she is not the embodiment of American women's attitudes. Such modesty would suit the colleague I so enjoy serving with. The light tells me that my time is up and, hopefully, so too is the time when women were viewed as simple-minded creatures who could be expected to hold monolithic views.
— Kate O'Beirne is the author of Women Who Make the World Worse: and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 1/10/2006 09:46:00 AM
Monday, January 09, 2006
Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC)
SPECTER: Senator Graham, you may begin.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And welcome back, Judge. I'd hate for you to miss my opening statement.
It would be a loss for the ages.
Welcome to the committee. Welcome to one of the most important events in your life.
You've got the people that mean the most here with you today, your family. And I know they're proud of you. And I'm certainly proud of what you have been able to accomplish.
And to say the least, you come to the Senate in interesting political times.
There is going to be a lot of talk by the senators of this committee about concepts that are important to Americans.
But what I worry the most about -- your time, believe it or not, will come and go. You will not be here forever; it may seem that way. But I think you're going to be just fine. I don't know what kind of vote you're going to get, but you'll make it through.
It's possible you could talk me out of voting for you, but I doubt it. So I won't even try to challenge you along those lines. I feel very comfortable with you being on the Supreme Court based on what I know.
And the hearings will be helpful to all of us to find out some issues that are important to us.
We had a talk recently about executive power. That's very important to me. In a time of war, I want the executive branch to have the tools to protect me, my family and my country.
But also I believe even during a time of war, the rule of law applies. And I've got some problems with using a force resolution to the point that future presidents may not be able to get a force resolution from Congress if you interpret it too broadly.
And we've talked about those things and we'll talk more about it.
But I'm going to talk a little bit about some of the points my colleagues have been making.
Everybody knows you're a conservative.
GRAHAM: The question is: Are you a mainstream conservative?
Well, the question I have for my colleagues is: Who would you ask to find out? Would you ask Senator Kennedy? Probably not.
If you asked me who a mainstream liberal is, I would be the worst person to pick, because I do not hang out over there.
I expect that most all of us, if not all of us, will vote for you. And I would argue that we represent from the center line to the right ditch in our party and, if all of us vote for you, you've got to be pretty mainstream.
So the answer to the question, "Are you a mainstream conservative?" will soon be known. If every Republican member of the Judiciary Committee votes for you, and you're not mainstream, that means we are not mainstream. It is a word that means what you want it to mean.
Advise and consent means what? Whatever you want it to be. Advise and consent means the process has got to work to the advantage of people I like and with people I don't want on the court, it is a different process. That is politics.
Every senator will have to live within themselves as to what they would like to see happen for the judiciary.
My main concern here is not about you; it's about us. What are we going to be doing as a body to the judiciary when it is all said and done?
Roe v. Wade and abortion: If I wanted to work for Ronald Reagan, one of the things I would tell the Reagan administration is I think Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. They are likely to hire me because they were trying to prove to the court that the court took away from elected officials a very important right, protecting the unborn.
I was on the news program with Senator Feinstein this weekend, who is a terrific person. She made very emotional, compelling argument that she can remember back alley abortions and women committing suicide when abortion was illegal.
I understand that is very seared in her memory banks and that is important to her.
Let me tell you, there's another side to that story. There are millions of Americans -- a bunch of them in South Carolina -- who are heartsick that millions of the unborn children have been sent to a certain death because of what judges have done.
GRAHAM: It's a two-sided argument. It's an emotional event in our society.
They're talking about filibustering maybe if you don't give the right answer. Well, what could possibly be the right answer about Roe v. Wade? If you acknowledge it's a precedent the court, well, then you would be right. If you refused to listen to someone who's trying to change the way it's applied or to overturn it and you will say, "Here, I will never listen to them," you might talk me out of voting for you.
I don't think any American should lose the right to challenge any precedent that the Supreme Court has issued because the judge wanted to get on the court.
And you may be a great fan of Roe v. Wade and you think it should be there forever. There may be a case where someone disagrees with that line of reasoning.
What I want from the judge is an understanding that precedent matters but the facts, the brief and the law is what you're going to base your decision on as to whether or not that precedent stands, not some bargain to get on the court.
Because I can tell you, if that ever becomes a reason to filibuster, there are plenty of people that I personally know, if it became fashionable to stand on the floor of the Senate to stop a nominee on the issue of abortion, feel so deeply, so honestly held belief that an abortion is certain death for an unborn child that they would stand on their feet forever.
And is that what we want? Is that where we're going as a nation? Are we going to take one case and one issue, and if we don't get the answer we like that represents our political view on that issue, are we going to bring the judiciary to their knees? Are we going to say as a body, "It doesn't how matter how smart you are, how many cases you decided, how many things you've done in your life as a lawyer, forget about it; it all comes down to this one issue"?
If we do, if we go down that road, there will be no going back. And good men and women will be deterred from coming before this body to serve their nation as a judge at the highest levels.
What we're saying and what we're doing here is far more important than just whether or not Judge Alito gets through the process.
GRAHAM: What is the proper role of a senator when it come to advise and consent?
I would argue that, if we start taking the one or two cases we cherish the most and make that a litmus test, that we've let our country down and we've changed a historical standard.
Elections matter. Values debates occur all owe this country. They occur in presidential elections. It is no mystery as to what President Bush would do if he won. He would pick people like John Roberts and Sam Alito.
That's what he said he would do. That's exactly what he's done. He's picked solid, strict constructionist conservatives who have long, distinguished legal careers.
What did President Clinton do? He picked people left of the center who worked for Democrats. It cannot surprise anybody on the other side that two people we picked worked for Ronald Reagan. We like Ronald Reagan.
President Clinton picked Ginsburg and Breyer. Justice Ginsburg was the general counsel for the ACLU. If I'm going to base my decision based on who you represented as a lawyer, how in the world could I ever vote for somebody that represented the ACLU?
If I'm going to make my decision based on whether or not I agree with the Princeton faculty and administration policies on ROTC students and quotas and I am bound by that, I'll get killed at home.
What the president does with their admission policies and whether or not an ROTC unit should be on a campus is an OK thing to debate. At least I hope it is OK.
And I think most American are going to be with the group that you're associated with, not the policies of Princeton.
The bottom line is you come here as an individual with a life well-lived. Everybody who seems to work with you as a private lawyer, public lawyer, as a judge, admires you, even though they may disagree with you.
GRAHAM: My biggest concern, members of this committee, is if we don't watch the way we treat people like Judge Alito, we're going to drive good men and women away from wanting to be served.
There'll be a Democratic president one day. I do not know when, but that's likely to happen. There'll be another Justice Ginsburg come over. If she came over in this atmosphere, she wouldn't get 96 votes. Judge Scalia wouldn't get 98 votes. And that's sad to me.
I hope we'll use this opportunity to not only treat you fairly but not use a double standard. I hope we'll understand that this is bigger than you, this is bigger than us. And the way we conduct ourselves and what we expect of you, we better be willing to expect when we're not in power.
SPECTER: Thank you, Senator Graham.
Senator John Cornyn (R-TX)
SPECTER: Senator Cornyn?
CORNYN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Judge Alito, welcome to the committee, and to your family as well.
I'm a little surprised to learn that you have a triply high burden for confirmation here. I guess we'll get a chance to explore that, and the fairness of that, or whether all nominees ought to have the same burden before the committee.
What I want to also make sure of is that we don't hold you to a double standard, that we don't expect of you answers to questions that Justice Ginsburg and others declined to answer in the interest of the independence of the judiciary and in the interests of observing the canons of judicial ethics.
Nevertheless, we have already heard a great deal about you and your credentials for the Supreme Court. As has been noted, you serve with distinction on the court of appeals. You served as United States attorney. And, indeed, you served your entire adult life in public service.
We've also heard a bit today, and you'll hear more as these proceedings unfold, about the testimonials from people who have worked with you, people who know you best. Whether liberal, moderate or conservative the judges on your court have praised you as a thoughtful and open-minded jurist, and we'll hear more from them later in the week.
CORNYN: The same can be said of the law clerks who've worked with you over the last 15 years. As you know, law clerks are those who advise appellate judges on the cases they hear. And you've had law clerks from all political persuasions, from members of the Green Party to Democrat clerks, even a clerk that went on to serve as counsel of record for John Kerry's campaign for president.
And every single one of them says that you will make a terrific Supreme Court justice, that you apply the law in a fair and even- handed manner, and that you bring no agenda to your job as a judge.
If fairness, integrity, qualifications and an open mind were all that mattered in this process, you would be confirmed unanimously, but we know that's not how the process works or at least how it works today.
We know that 22 senators, including five on this committee, voted against Chief Justice Roberts' confirmation just a few short months ago. And my suspicion is that you do not come here with a total level playing field.
I'm reluctantly inclined to the view that you and other nominees of this president to the Supreme Court start with no more than 13 votes on this committee and only 78 votes in the full Senate, with a solid, immovable, unpersuadable block of at least 22 votes against you no matter what you say and no matter what you do.
CORNYN: Now, that's unfortunate for you, but it is even worse for the Senate and its reputation as the world's greatest deliberative body.
The question is: Why, with so many people from both sides of the aisle and across the ideological spectrum supporting your nomination are liberal special interest groups and their allies devoting so much time and so much money to defeat your nomination?
The answer, I'm afraid, is that there are a number of groups who really don't want a fair-minded judge who has an openness to both sides of the argument. Rather, they want judges who will impose their liberal agenda on the American people; views so liberal that they cannot prevail at the ballot box.
So they want judges who will find traditional marriage limited to one man and one woman unconstitutional. They want judges who will ban any religious expression from the public square. They even want judges who will prohibit school children from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
As I say, none of these are mainstream positions embraced by the American people, so the strategy is to try to impose their agenda through unelected judges.
Judge Alito, the reason why these groups are trying to defeat your nomination because you won't support their liberal agenda is precisely why I support it.
I want judges on the Supreme Court who will not use that position to impose their personal policy preferences or political agenda on the American people.
CORNYN: I want judges on the Supreme Court who will respect the words and the meaning of the Constitution, the laws enacted by Congress and the laws enacted by state legislatures.
Now, this doesn't mean, as you know, that a judge will always reach what might be called a conservative result. It means that judges will reach whatever result is directed by the Constitution, by the law, and by the facts of the case.
Sometimes, it might be called conservative; sometimes it might be called liberal. But the point is that the meaning of the Constitution and other laws should not change unless we the people change them.
A Supreme Court nomination and appointment is not a roving commission to rewrite our laws however you and your colleagues see fit. I'll give you one example where I believe our Supreme Court has been rewriting the law for a long time. It's a narrative near and dear to me and others in this country. And I'm speaking of the ability of people of faith to freely express their beliefs in the public square.
There is no doubt where the founding fathers stood on this issue. They believed that people of faith should be permitted to express themselves in public. They believed that this country was big enough and free enough to allow expression of on enormous variety of views and beliefs.
They believed that freedom of expression included religious views and beliefs, so long as the government did not force people to worship in a particular matter and remain neutral on what those views and beliefs were.
CORNYN: But this country has gotten seriously off track under the Supreme Court when it went so far as to limit the right of even private citizens to freely express their religious views in public.
As I mentioned to you when we met early on in these proceedings, I had an opportunity, as some have had on this committee, to argue a case before the United States Supreme Court.
When I was attorney general, I argued a case -- helped argue a case called -- Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe. The school district in that case had the temerity to permit student-led, student-initiated prayer before football games. And, of course, someone sued. I repeat, this was student-led, student-initiated, voluntary prayer. The Supreme Court held by a vote of 6-3 that this was unconstitutional.
The decision led the late Chief Justice Rehnquist to remark that the court now, quote, "exhibits hostility to all things religious in public life." And it's hard to disagree with him.
Depictions or expressions of sex, violence, crime are all permitted virtually without limit; but religion, it seems, never.
Now, this is where you come in, Judge.
I appreciate your record on the 3rd Circuit respecting the importance of neutrality of government when it comes to religious expression on a voluntary basis by individual citizens.
It's my sincere hope that when confirmed that you will persuade your colleagues to reconsider their attitude toward religious expression and grant it the same freedom currently reserved for almost all other non-religious speech.
No wonder many in America seem to believe that the court has become one more inclined to protect pornography than to protect religious expression.
Most people in America don't believe that "God" is a dirty word, but the sad fact is that some Americans are left to wonder whether the Supreme Court might have greater regard for it if it was.
CORNYN: Again, welcome to the committee, and thank you for your continued willingness to serve our great nation.
SPECTER: Thank you, Senator Cornyn.
Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS)
BROWNBACK: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Welcome, Judge Alito, your wife, family.
BROWNBACK: Delighted to have you here. You only have two more pitcher and then you get a bat. So I'm sure people will be happy to hear from you.
Mr. Chairman, before I go forward with my statement, would like to entire into the record a summary of four cases that Judge Alito has ruled on where he backed employees claiming racial discrimination. It's been entered a couple of times here that he hasn't ruled in favor of people claiming racial discrimination. I have a summary of four cases where he has, and I want to enter that into the record.
SPECTER: Without objection, they will be made a part of the record.
BROWNBACK: Judge Alito, welcome you to the hearing. This is an extraordinary process. It's a fabulous process and a chance for a discussion with you, with the American public about the role of the judiciary in our society today.
It's become an ever-expanding and important discussion because of the expanding role of the courts in recent years in the American society.
When the courts improperly, I believe, assume the power to decide more political than legal issues in nature, the people naturally focus less on the law and more on the lawyers that are chosen really to administer the law. Most Americans want judges who will stick to interpreting the law rather than making it.
It's beyond dispute that the Constitution and its framers intended this to be the role of judges. For instance, although he was perhaps the leading advocate for expansive political power, you can look at founding father Alexander Hamilton nevertheless assuring -- assuring -- the countrymen in Federalist 78 that the role of the federal courts under the proposed Constitution would be limited.
He says the courts must declare the sense of the law, and if they should be disposed to exercise will instead of judgment, the consequences would equally be the substitution of their pleasure to that of the legislative body.
BROWNBACK: Seems like we're back at an old debate: the role the courts.
And I believe you and others would look and say that the role of the courts is limited and it's not to decide political matters.
Chief Justice Marshall later explained in Marbury v. Madison, the Constitution permitted federal courts neither to write nor execute the laws but rather to say what the law is. That narrow scope of judicial power was the reason that people accepted the idea that the federal courts could have the power of judicial review; that is, the ability to decide whether a challenged law comports with the Constitution.
The people believed that while the courts would be independent, they would defer to the political branches on policy issues.
This is the most foundational and fundamental of issues. And yet we are back and discussing it because of the role of the judiciary expanding in this society today.
It may seem ironic that the judicial branch preserves its legitimacy through refraining from action on political questions. That concept was put forward best by Justice Frankfurter, appointed by President Roosevelt.
He said courts are not representative bodies. They're not designed to be a good reflex of a democratic society. Their judgment is best informed and, therefore, most dependable within narrow limits.
I want to take on this point of the reservation of certain seats on the bench for certain philosophies, which it seems as if we've heard a great deal about today, that you need to be like Sandra Day O'Connor in judicial philosophy to be able to go on her seat on the bench.
Some interest groups have put forward that philosophy and argued that you deserve closer scrutiny because you do not appear to have the same philosophy or are even in opposition if it is not determined that you do not have that same judicial philosophy.
If this testimony suggests that that would change the ideological balance, if you would change the ideological balance, therefore you should not be approved, I would say that that notion is not anywhere in the understanding of the role of the judges.
BROWNBACK: It creates a double standard for your approval and looks conveniently -- it looks suspiciously convenient for the opposition to put forward.
Seats on the bench are not reserved for causes or interests. They're given to those who will uphold the rule of law so long as the nominee is well-qualified to interpret and apply the law.
This has long been the case of the Supreme Court. And I want to note here that, historically, the make-up of the court has changed just as elected branches have change.
In fact, nearly half of the justices, 46 of 109, who have served on the Supreme Court replaced justices appointed by a different political party.
In recent years, even as the court has become an increasingly political body, the Senate is not focused on preserving any perceived ideological balance when Democrat presidents have appointed people to the court.
The best example of that is the Senate rejecting that notion when Ruth Bader Ginsburg came in front of the Senate and was approved 96-3 to be on the Supreme Court to replace conservative justice Byron White. This is in 1993.
Now, Justice Ginsburg, it was noted earlier, was a general counsel for the ACLU, certainly a liberal group. It was abundantly clear during the confirmation hearing that Ginsburg would swing the balance of the court to the left.
But because President Clinton won the election and because Justice Ginsburg clearly had the intellectual ability and integrity to serve on the court, she was confirmed.
BROWNBACK: During her hearing, hardly any mention was made about balance with Justice White. The only discussion occurred about Justice White was when Senator Kohl, our colleague, asked her what she thought of Justice White's career, and she started off by saying that she was not an athlete.
History has shown that she did, in fact, dramatically change the balance of the court in many critical areas, such as abortion, the privacy debate expansion and child pornography. And I have behind me three of the key cases where Justice White ruled one way, even wrote the majority opinion, and Justice Ginsburg ruled the other way, with the majority.
You talk about a swing of balance, and yet the issue wasn't even raised at Justice Ginsburg's confirmation hearing. And yet now it seems as if that's the paramount issue -- not only the paramount issue, it actually makes you have to go to a higher standard to be approved.
And that's just simply not the way we've operated in the past, nor is it the way we should operate now.
As I stated at Justice Roberts' hearing, the court's injected itself into many of the political debates of our day. And as my colleague Senator Cornyn has mentioned, the court's injected itself in the definition of marriage, deciding whether or not human life is worth protecting, permitting government to transfer private property from one person to another, even interpreting the Constitution on the basis of foreign and international laws.
The Supreme Court has also issued and never reversed a number of decisions that are repugnant to the Constitution's vision of human dignity and equality.
Although cases like Brown v. Board of Education in my state are famous for correcting constitutional and court errors, there remain several other instances in which the court strayed and stayed beyond the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
BROWNBACK: Among the most famous of these Supreme Court cases of exercise of political power I believe are the cases of Roe V. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, two 1973 cases based on false statements which created a constitutional right to abortion.
And you can claim whatever you want to of being pro-life or pro- choice, but the right to a abortion is not in the Constitution. The court created it. It created a constitutional right. And these decisions removed a fully appropriate political judgment from the people of the several states and has led to many adverse consequences.
For instance, it's led to the almost complete killing of a whole class of people in America. As I noted to my colleagues in the Roberts' hearings, this year -- this year -- between 80 percent to 90 percent of the children in America diagnosed with Down's Syndrome will be killed in the womb simply because they have a positive genetic test which can be wrong, and is often wrong, but they would have a positive genetic test for Down's Syndrome and they will be killed.
America is poorer because of such a policy. We are at our best when we help the weakest. The weak make us strong. To kill them makes us all the poorer, insensitive, calloused and jaded.
Roe has made it not only possible, but has found it constitutional to kill a whole class of people, simply because of their genetic make-up.
BROWNBACK: This is the effect of Roe.
I think this is a proper issue for us to consider and the judge you're replacing noted one time, quote, "that the court's unworkable scheme for constitutionalizing abortion has had the institutional, debilitating effect should not be surprising -- has had this institutionally debilitating effect and should be surprising since the court is not suited to the expansive role it has claimed for itself in the series of cases that began with Roe."
You will have many issues in front of you, many that we won't discuss here in front of this committee.
I think it unfortunate that we only narrow in on so few of the cases that you're likely to hear in front of you, and yet that's the nature of the day because they're the hot, political, heat-seeking cases.
You're undoubtedly qualified. You were cited by the ABA to be unanimously well-qualified.
I look forward to a thorough discussion and a hopeful approval of you to be able to join the Supreme Court of the United States.
SPECTER: Thank you very much, Senator Brownback.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)
COBURN: Thank you.
Judge Alito, welcome.
I know you're tired of this and I'll try to be as brief as possible.
One of the advantages of going last is to be able to hear what everybody else has said.
COBURN: And as I've listened today, we've talked about the unfortunate, the frail. The quotes have been "fair shake for those that are underprivileged." We've heard "values, strong, free and fair, progressive judiciary." We've heard "the vulnerable, the more unvulnerable (sic), the weak, those who suffer." We've heard of an Alito mold that has to be in the mold of somebody else.
And as a practicing physician, the one disheartening thing that I hear is this very common word, this "right to choose" and how we sterilize that to not talk about what it really is.
I've had the unfortunate privilege of carrying over 300 women who've had complications from this wonderful right to choose to kill their unborn babies. And that's what it is: It's the right of convenience to take the life.
And the question that arises as we use all these adjectives and adverbs to describe our physicians as we approach a Supreme Court nominee is where are we in America when we decide that it's legal to kill our unborn children?
I mean, it's a real question for us. I debate honestly with those who disagree with me on this. It is a real issue, a measurement of our society, when we say it's fine to destroy unborn life who has a heartbeat at 16 days post-conception. Thirty-nine days post- conception you can measure the brain waves and there's pain felt.
The ripping and tearing of an unborn child from his mother's womb through the hands of another, and we say, "That's fine; you have a constitutional right to do that."
How is it that we have a right of privacy and due process to do that but you don't have the right, as rejected unanimously by the Supreme Court in 1997, to take your own life in assisted suicide?
COBURN: You know, how is it that we have sodomy protected under that due process but prostitution unprotected? It's schizophrenic. And the reason it's schizophrenic is there's no foundation for it whatsoever other than a falsely created foundation that is in error.
I don't know if we'll ever change that. It's a measure of our society.
But the fact is that you can't claim, in this Senate hearing, to care for those that are underprivileged, to those that are at risk, to those that are vulnerable, to those that are weak, to those that suffer and, at the same time, say I don't care about those who have been ripped from the wombs of women and the complications that have come about throughout that.
So, the debate, for the American public -- and the real debate here is about Roe.
We're going to go off in all sorts of directions, but the decisions that are going to be made on votes on the committee and the votes on the floor is going to be about Roe, whether or not we as a society have decided that this is an ethical process, that we have this convenient process that if we want to rationalize one moral choice with another, we just do it through abortion, this taking of the life, of life of an unborn child.
I asked Chief Justice Roberts about this definition of life -- you know, what is life? The Supreme Court can't figure it out or doesn't want us to figure it out; the fact that we know that there is no life if there's no heartbeat and brainwaves. We know that in every state and every territory. But when we have heartbeat and brain waves, we refuse to accept it as the presence of life -- this lack of logic of which we approach this issue because we like and we favor convenience over ethics. We favor convenience over the hard parts of life that actually make us grow.
Senator Brownback talked about those with disabilities that are destroyed in the womb because of a genetic test that is sometimes wrong. I would put forward that we all have disabilities.
Some of us, you just can't see it. And yet, who makes the decisions as to whether we're qualified or not?
COBURN: We've gone down a road to which we don't have the answers for. That's why we have the schizophrenic decisions coming out of the Supreme Court that don't balance logically with one versus another decision.
So my hope, is as we go through this process, let's not confuse it with the easy words and really be honest and straightforward about what this is about.
I firmly believe that the court should take another direction on many of these moral issues that face us. If we're to honor the heritage of our country, whether it be in terms of religious freedom, whether it be in terms of truly protecting life, protecting not just the unborn but who comes next, the infirm, the elderly, the maimed, the disabled -- that's who comes next as we get into the budget crunch of taking care of those people in the years -- I believe we ought to have that debate honest and openly.
But the fact is, is we're going to cover it with everything except the real fact is we've made a mistake going down that road in terms of saying we can destroy our unborn children and there's no consequences to it.
So I welcome you.
This is a difficult process for you and your family. I am hopeful that you will be treated fairly.
I'm very disturbed at the picture that was painted by Senator Kennedy that you're not a man of your word, that you're dishonest. The implication that you're not reliable I don't think is a fair characterization of what I've read.
And I look forward to you being able to giving answers, as you can, to your philosophy.
The real debate is we've had an activist court, and the American people don't want an activist court. And the real fear from those who might oppose you is that you'll bring the court back within a realm where the American people might want us to be with a Supreme Court; one that interprets the law, equal justice under the law, but not advancing without us advancing, the legislative body advancing, ahead of you.
I welcome you.
I return the balance of my time and I look forward for your introduction and your opening statement.
SPECTER: Thank you very much, Senator Coburn.
Judge Samuel Alito
SPECTER: They have sat patiently -- impatiently all day.
We may move the swearing in to the beginning of the ceremony in the future so they can all go out and do something productive.
But if you would raise your right hand.
Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you will give before the Committee of the Judiciary of the United States Senate will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.
ALITO: I do.
SPECTER: Thank you, Judge Alito. You may be seated.
And we welcome whatever opening comments if you care to make them.
ALITO: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am deeply honored to appear before you.
I am deeply honored to have been nominated for a position on the Supreme Court. And I an humbled to have been nominated for the seat that is now held by Justice O'Connor.
Justice O'Connor has been a pioneer, and her dedicated service on the Supreme Court will never be forgotten. And the people of the country certainly owe her a great debt for the service that she has provided.
I'm very thankful to the president for nominating me, and I'm also thankful to the members of this committee and many other senators who took time from their busy schedules to meet with me. That was a great honor for me, and I appreciate all of the courtesies that were extended to me during those visits.
And I want to thank the Senator Lautenberg and Governor Whitman for coming here today and for their kind introductions.
During the previous weeks, an old story about a lawyer who argued a case before the Supreme Court has come to my mind, and I thought I might begin this afternoon by sharing that story.
ALITO: The story goes as follows.
This was a lawyer who had never argued a case before the court before. And when the argument began, one of the justices said, "How did you get here?," meaning how had his case worked its way up through the court system. But the lawyer was rather nervous and he took the question literally and he said -- and this was some years ago -- he said, "I came here on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad."
This story has come to my mind in recent weeks because I have often asked myself, "How in the world did I get here?" And I want to try to answer that today and not by saying that I came here on I-95 or on Amtrak.
I am who I am, in the first place, because of my parents and because of the things that they taught me.
And I know from my own experience as a parent that parents probably teach most powerfully not through their words but through their deeds. And my parents taught me through the stories of their lives. And I don't take any credit for the things that they did or the things that they experienced, but they made a great impression on me.
My father was brought to this country as an infant. He lost his mother as a teenager. He grew up in poverty.
Although he graduated at the top of his high school class, he had no money for college. And he was set to work in a factory but, at the last minute, a kind person in the Trenton area arranged for him to receive a $50 scholarship and that was enough in those days for him to pay the tuition at a local college and buy one used suit. And that made the difference between his working in a factory and going to college.
After he graduated from college in 1935, in the midst of the Depression, he found that teaching jobs for Italian-Americans were not easy to come by and he had to find other work for a while.
But eventually he became a teacher and he served in the Pacific during World War II. And he worked, as has been mentioned, for many years in a nonpartisan position for the New Jersey legislature, which was an institution that he revered.
ALITO: His story is a story that is typical of a lot of Americans both back in his day and today. And it is a story, as far as I can see it, about the opportunities that our country offers, and also about the need for fairness and about hard work and perseverance and the power of a small good deed.
My mother is a first generation American. Her father worked in the Roebling Steel Mill in Trenton, New Jersey. Her mother came from a culture in which women generally didn't even leave the house alone, and yet my mother became the first person in her family to get a college degree.
She worked for more than a decade before marrying. She went to New York City to get a master's degree. And she continued to work as a teacher and a principal until she was forced to retire.
Both she and my father instilled in my sister and me a deep love of learning.
I got here in part because of the community in which I grew up. It was a warm, but definitely an unpretentious, down-to-earth community. Most of the adults in the neighborhood were not college graduates. I attended the public schools. In my spare time, I played baseball and other sports with my friends.
And I have happy memories and strong memories of those days and good memories of the good sense and the decency of my friends and my neighbors.
And after I graduated from high school, I went a full 12 miles down the road, but really to a different world when I entered Princeton University. A generation earlier, I think that somebody from my background probably would not have felt fully comfortable at a college like Princeton. But, by the time I graduated from high school, things had changed.
And this was a time of great intellectual excitement for me. Both college and law school opened up new worlds of ideas. But this was back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
ALITO: It was a time of turmoil at colleges and universities. And I saw some very smart people and very privileged people behaving irresponsibly. And I couldn't help making a contrast between some of the worst of what I saw on the campus and the good sense and the decency of the people back in my own community.
I'm here in part because of my experiences as a lawyer.
I had the good fortune to begin my legal career as a law clerk for a judge who really epitomized open-mindedness and fairness. He read the record in detail in every single case that came before me; he insisted on scrupulously following precedents, both the precedents of the Supreme Court and the decisions of his own court, the 3rd Circuit.
He taught all of his law clerks that every case has to be decided on an individual basis. And he really didn't have much use for any grand theories.
After my clerkship finished, I worked for more than a decade as an attorney in the Department of Justice.
And I can still remember the day, as an assistant U.S. attorney, when I stood up in court for the first time and I proudly said, "My name is Samuel Alito and I represent the United States in this court." It was a great honor for me to have the United States as my client during all of those years.
I have been shaped by the experiences of the people who are closest to me, by the things I've learned from Martha, by my hopes and my concerns for my children, Philip and Laura, by the experiences of members of my family, who are getting older, by my sister's experiences as a trial lawyer in a profession that has traditionally been dominated by men.
And, of course, I have been shaped for the last 15 years by my experiences as a judge of the court of appeals.
During that time, I have sat on thousands of cases -- somebody mentioned the exact figure this morning; I don't know what the exact figure is, but it is way up into the thousands -- and I have written hundreds of opinions.
And the members of this committee and the members of their staff, who have had the job of reviewing all of those opinions, really have my sympathy.
I think that may have constituted cruel and unusual punishment.
I've learned a lot during my years on the 3rd Circuit, particularly, I think, about the way in which a judge should go about the work of judging. I've learned by doing, by sitting on all of these cases. And I think I've also learned from the examples of some really remarkable colleagues.
When I became a judge, I stopped being a practicing attorney. And that was a big change in role.
The role of a practicing attorney is to achieve a desirable result for the client in the particular case at hand. But a judge can't think that way. A judge can't have any agenda, a judge can't have any preferred outcome in any particular case and a judge certainly doesn't have a client.
The judge's only obligation -- and it's a solemn obligation -- is to the rule of law. And what that means is that in every single case, the judge has to do what the law requires.
Good judges develop certain habits of mind. One of those habits of mind is the habit of delaying reaching conclusions until everything has been considered.
Good judges are always open to the possibility of changing their minds based on the next brief that they read, or the next argument that's made by an attorney who's appearing before them, or a comment that is made by a colleague during the conference on the case when the judges privately discuss the case.
It's been a great honor for me to spend my career in public service. It has been a particular honor for me to serve on the court of appeals for these past 15 years, because it has given me the opportunity to use whatever talent I have to serve my country by upholding the rule of law.
And there is nothing that is more important for our republic than the rule of law. No person in this country, no matter how high or powerful, is above the law, and no person in this country is beneath the law.
Fifteen years ago, when I was sworn in as a judge of the court of appeals, I took an oath. I put my hand on the Bible and I swore that I would administer justice without respect to persons, that I would do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I would carry out my duties under the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
And that is what I have tried to do to the very best of my ability for the past 15 years. And if I am confirmed, I pledge to you that that is what I would do on the Supreme Court.
SPECTER: Thank you very much, Judge Alito, for those opening comments.
Posted by Joyce Kavitsky at 1/09/2006 04:50:00 PM
Sunday, January 08, 2006
For those who loves the Oldies, or enjoy music from the fifites through the seventies, I recommend the following link. Just copy and paste.
(Of course, you will need speakers to hear it.)
Hy Lit has been heard on the Philadelphia airwaves for almost fifty years, most recently on WOGL-FM (98.1). This is like satellite radio without the fee. Listen and enjoy, I am sure that you will add it as a favorite.
Posted by William N. Phillips, Jr. at 1/08/2006 06:08:00 PM