The U.S. Senate has confirmed White House lawyer Alberto Gonzales to be the nation's first Hispanic attorney general. The vote came despite Democrats' criticism that Mr. Gonzales, a former judge, played a key role in shaping a policy that they say led to the abuse of foreign detainees.
Confirmation of Judge Gonzales was never in doubt because Republicans are in the majority in the Senate.
But the 60 to 36 vote reflected Democrats' concerns about Judge Gonzales and his role in helping craft interrogation policies that they say contributed to the abuse of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
All those who voted against the nominee were Democrats, including Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.
"Mr. Gonzales was at the heart of the Bush administration's notorious decision to authorize our forces to commit flagrant acts of torture, in the interrogations of detainees in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib," said Mr. Kennedy. "The war room in the White House became the torture room."
Senator Carl Levin of Michigan says Judge Gonzales' efforts have had a far-reaching negative impact. "Of immense significance, this legal framework endangered American troops by making them more vulnerable to like treatment," he said. "Prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere has deepened the anger and resentment that some feel toward our country, and has given a propaganda club to our enemies."
But Republicans argue Judge Gonzales never endorsed torture, and that cases of prisoner abuse were the work of a few U.S. soldiers who will be held accountable for their actions.
"Let me be clear: Judge Gonzales, President Bush, the administration, have never supported torture, or inhumane treatment of terrorist prisoners, never," said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "To suggest that is absurd on its face. Anyone who tries to tie Judge Gonzales to the depraved acts of a few twisted renegades ought to be ashamed."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee says Judge Gonzales is highly qualified to be attorney general.
"Judge Gonzales is a man of keen intellect, high achievement, and unwavering respect for the law," said Mr. Frist.
Some Republicans accused the Democrats of trying to tarnish Judge Gonzales' record in an effort to undermine his chances of being nominated to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court in the future.