Alberto “Obsolete & Quaint” Gonzales Tries to Defend Himself
Alberto “Obsolete & Quaint” Gonzales released a few more written answers
to questions from memebers of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Marty Lederman is on the case:
I’ve wondered how Secretary Rumsfeld, General Counsel Haynes, and other
officials could have determined — as they did — that techniques such as
waterboarding, forced nudity, threatening the death of family members, use
of dogs to induce stress,
possibly be lawful in light of (ⅰ) the Uniform Code of Military Justice; (ⅱ)
the prohibition in Article 16 of the Convention on Torture against cruel,
inhuman and degrading treatment; and (ⅲ) the President’s
directive that the Armed Forces
treat all detainees “humanely.”
Well, we still don’t know why the UCMJ
doesn’t apply. But we learned from Judge Gonzales’s earlier responses that
the Administration does not think Article 16 applies in
overseas (such as Guantanamo). And now we learn why the President’s
“humaneness” directive is no obstacle to the use of such grotesque
techniques. Judge Gonzales writes that “the term ‘humanely’ has no precise
legal definition,” but that, “[a]s a policy matter, I would define humane
treatment as a basic level of decent treatment that includes such things as
food, shelter, clothing and medical care. I understand that the United States
is providing this level of treatment for all detainees.” If I’m understanding
his answer correctly, Judge Gonzales is suggesting that by requiring the
Armed Forces (but not, recall, the
to provide “humane” treatment at a minimum, the President merely meant that
detainees must be afforded “decent treatment that includes such things as
food, shelter, clothing and medical care.” Beyond that, apparently they can
be waterboarded, they can be threatened with the death of their loved ones,
dogs can be used to prey on their fears — and even the clothing that is
otherwise part of the basic “decent treatment” can be stripped from them for
certain periods — all without implicating the presidential directive.
Defining humaneness down.
, I described the upcoming
vote on Gonzales’s nomination as being
“a good roll-call of those senators
willing to join the conspiracy” to authorize torture. Apparently the
Democrats, at least those on the Judiciary Committee, have had second thoughts
about signing up on this list. The vote to send Gonzales’s nomination to the
full Senate was a party-line 10 to 8.
Every year, the Government Accountability Office puts out
a “High Risk” list of
those government activities that have “greater vulnerabilities to fraud,
waste, abuse, and mismanagement.” This year, the
makes the list twice — once for its doomed efforts to modernize its databases
(I’ve blogged about this before, see
for instance), and once for its lagging ability to go after tax evaders
In recent years, the resources
been able to dedicate to enforcing the tax laws have declined, while
enforcement workload measured by the number of taxpayer returns filed has
continually increased. Accordingly, nearly every indicator of
coverage of its enforcement workload has declined in recent years. Although
in some cases workload coverage has increased, overall
coverage of known workload is considerably lower than it was just a few
years ago. Although many suspect that these trends have eroded taxpayers’
willingness to voluntarily comply and survey evidence suggests this may be
true the cumulative effect of these trends is unknown because new research
into the level of taxpayer compliance is only now being completed by
after a long hiatus. Further,
workload has grown ever more complex as the tax code has grown more complex.
Complexity creates a fertile ground for those intentionally seeking to evade
taxes and often trips others into inadvertent noncompliance.
challenged to administer and explain each new provision, thus absorbing
resources that otherwise might be used to enforce the tax laws.
Concurrently, other areas of particularly serious noncompliance have gained
the attention of
the Congress such as abusive tax shelters and schemes employed by businesses
and wealthy individuals that often involve complex transactions that may span
national boundaries. Given the broad declines in
decreased ability to follow up on suspected noncompliance, the emergence of
sophisticated evasion concerns, and the unknown effect of these trends on
challenged on virtually all fronts in attempting to ensure that taxpayers
fulfill their obligations.
success in overcoming these challenges becomes ever more important in light
of the nation’s large and growing fiscal pressures. Accordingly, we believe
the focus of concern on the enforcement of tax laws is not confined to any
one segment of the taxpaying population or any single tax provision. Our
designation of the enforcement of tax laws as a high-risk area embodies this
The Commissioner of Internal Revenue has made strengthening enforcement a
high priority, but
not yet materially reversed enforcement declines, in large part because
unbudgeted expenses and demands for improved taxpayer service have confounded
intentions. Enforcement staffing decreased over 21 percent
, and individual audit
rates are below the levels of ,
even after recent increases.
lacks current data on the effects of these declines on compliance. For
estimate of the gross tax gap the
difference between taxes owed and taxes paid (over $300 billion) was largely
based on extrapolations from data. Without
current information on noncompliance,
cannot effectively target its enforcement resources, risks wasting resources
by auditing compliant taxpayers, and is impeded in identifying changes to
laws or regulations that could reduce noncompliance.
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