Gonzales ‘Grilled’ Kerik?


Al should have taken his own advice on interrogation techniques

What a remarkable series of conversations it must have been: Alberto Gonzales grilling Bernie Kerik.

If you believe this morning’s New York Times, Bush’s nominee as attorney general conducted “hours of confrontational interviews” with Kerik, to make sure none of the little Napoleon’s cream filling had spilled into places it shouldn’t have. (See photo of tough guy Gonzales below.)

The TimesElisabeth Bumiller pins her tale to an unnamed “government official.” I hesitate to believe it only because Bumiller also describes the White House as “normally careful.” I think she means “normally careful” only in vetting potential nominees, which means that the White House is careful about whom it trusts and picks? Uh-huh. In her same story, she points out that the White House was careless in dispensing top-security information after 9/11: Kerik, while still the NYPD commissioner, was put on the list even though he neglected to fill out the basic form to start the security-check process. I wouldn’t call that “normally careful.”
If Bumiller means “normally careful” in general—no, she can’t mean that.

Anyway, this is how Bumiller sketched Gonzales’s personal vetting of Kerik:

Mr. Gonzales, who is himself in the middle of a background review as Mr. Bush’s nominee for attorney general, spent hours grilling Mr. Kerik, the official said. As with other nominees, the sessions were aggressive and designed to make Mr. Kerik uncomfortable enough to reveal possible embarrassing events in his record. Even so, he apparently withheld some pertinent facts. Mr. Gonzales declined to comment.

Well, let’s see. Gonzales was a key figure in OK’ing the torture that we’ve used on prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. As my colleague Nat Hentoff writes today:

If there ever is an honest investigation of who is ultimately responsible for what happened [at Guantánamo] and at Abu Ghraib, Mr. Gonzales might well be in the dock, along with Donald Rumsfeld and a number of the defense secretary’s closest aides.

When Gonzales was faced with vetting Kerik, we could reasonably assume that Al took his own advice on interrogation techniques, like the ones listed in today’s Washington Post story by Thomas E. Ricks, “Detainee Abuse by Marines Is Detailed.”

Which means that Gonzales probably burned Kerik’s hands by dipping them in an alcohol-based cleaner and then igniting them, tied him up and held a pistol to his head, made him kneel next to an open grave and then fired a shot as a “mock execution,” and hooked him up to an electric transformer to make him “dance.”

Apparently, none of that worked on Kerik. Some people just won’t talk about some things.

But then there’s Paul Wolfowitz, who before the U.S. invasion of Iraq just wouldn’t shut up about how easy the occupation was likely to be. As I wrote a while back, to get Wolfowitz to spill his guts back then, you didn’t even have to drag the deputy secretary of defense by his hair from a Humvee to a prison cell or strip him and wedge him into a pyramid of naked people or punish him while he prays or have him simulate masturbation or threaten him with rape or throw him into a wall or smear shit on his back or scare him with a growling dog or put a dog collar on him or ride him around like a donkey or hook up wires to his nuts while making him stand on a box or make fun of his schmeckel while you grinned for the camera.

Maybe Wolfowitz and Kerik like wearing dog collars.