Update On “Preview to a Hearing”

by Shannen W. Coffin

On the eve of Alberto Gonzales confirmation hearing, I wrote a piece about one of the witnesses who would testify against the new Attorney General. The point of the piece was that Douglas Johnson, the Executive Director of the Center for Victims of Torture, was a signatory to the Syros Declaration, an international statement condemning the U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan as equivalent to the attacks of September 11. Since then, I’ve received a letter from Mr. Johnson, stating that he was an unwitting signatory to the Declaration. Mr. Johnson, whose work in “treating and healing victims of torture” I described then as “admirable,” writes that while he was at the meeting at which the Declaration was adopted, he “argued against it, was not allowed to vote for or against it, and protested when I saw that it had been issued to the press with my name on it.” Mr. Johnson writes that the Declaration had been posted on a website with his name on it without his knowledge or consent and that he is “most happy to be disassociated from the Declaration.” Because my piece was based upon the Declaration itself, which included Mr. Johnson as a signatory, this is not an official “correction” of the story. The error, if any, was on the part of the organization that issued the Syros Declaration. However, it is heartening to know that Mr. Johnson has formally disclaimed the Syros Declaration, which is an abomination. It is also heartening to know that his testimony for the minority in opposition to Attorney General Gonzales did not succeed in derailing the nomination.