Here is the transcript of an interview recorded Thursday between former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Ben Conery, the Times Justice Department reporter.
Question: Again, I appreciate you taking the time. If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather start broadly to get to the heart of it. Tell me whether or not you do in fact support Mr. Holder’s investigation, and why or why not.
Answer: Contrary to press reporting and based on the information that’s available to me, I don’t support the investigation by the department because this is a matter that has already been reviewed thoroughly and because I believe that another investigation is going to harm our intelligence gathering capabilities and that’s a concern that’s shared by career intelligence officials and so for those reasons I respectfully disagree with the decision. I respect the right of the attorney general to make this decision based upon his judgement of the facts, but again based upon what I know I disagree with the decision. I have consistently said that I have concerns about opening this door and that’s why especially disappointed with stories from your publication that I in fact support it, quite the contrary, I don’t support it.
Q: You obviously support Attorney General Holder’s right to do this. Dovetailing of that, what would you do if you were still attorney general and you were in his position right now?
A: What do you mean? He made the decision and so it’s being investigated. I’m not sure I understand the question.
Q: Confronted with the same evidence he says he’s been confronted with, what decision would you have made?
A: Listen, I don’t know what decision he has. That’s the thing that’s been difficult for me as a previous attorney general to second-guess a sitting attorney general. I don’t know what information he has in front of him so I’m just saying, based on what I know, based on the information available to me, I would have gone a different direction. But he’s the attorney general and he’s got to make a decision based on his judgement of the facts. I respect his right to do so. But again, I know better than most the toll on families and the cost associated with investigations, even when you’ve done nothing wrong. I just think the CIA employees risk their lives to get information, to protect our country and I’ve said repeatedly, they’re heroes and we should recognize their service. That’s my position I feel very strongly about that that’s why these stories have been extremely disappointing.
Q: OK, well turning to some of the specifics in the stories, I’d like to read to you one of the quotes from the radio interview so we can get some clarification on the meeting of it. I’m sure you remember this, but I’m going to read the entire thing because I want to make sure we have the full context of it, and I don’t want to pull anything out-of-context and have you comment on that.
The quote: “We are talking about the 1 percent of actors who went beyond the legal limits prescribed by the lawyers at the Department of Justice. We obviously worked very hard during the Bush administration to establish ground rules to establish parameters about how to deal with terrorists, because we’re a nation of laws, and if people go beyond that, I think it is legitimate to question and examine that conduct to ensure people are held accountable for their actions, even if it’s actions in prosecuting the war on terror and trying to protect America.”
My question is, given that statement, how could that be taken as anything other than an endorsement of this current investigation?
A: No, it’s an endorsement of his right to exercise his discretion. I’m just saying I would have exercised my discretion in a different manner, given the information I have. We did work hard to establish ground rules and we expected people to follow them and for the most part people did follow them. But again, this is something that has already been looked at. So when I talk about how we expect people to abide by a certain set of rules, and if they don’t they ought to be looked into, it’s been looked into. And again because it’s already been looked into, another investigation will, accoridng to career intelligence people, demoralize the CIA agents. I just think this is not an investigation that I support.
Q: Going along with that, you’ve said, obviously, that this has been something that has been looked into. But the statement when you talk about the “1 percent of actors who went beyond the legal limits,” doesn’t that concede that you’re saying that some people did break the law?
A: Listen, it’s no different than when a police officer sees someone perhaps speeding, there is discretion in the law enforcement community, given the circumstances, whether to investigate or to prosecute. And again this is a matter that has already been looked into thoroughly.
Q: So even if there had been crimes committed, it’s still within the matter of discretion whether or not to investigate.
A: When you say “even if there had been crimes committed,” you’ve already prejudged the issue. It’s the job of the prosecutor to decide: is there action here that’s (unintellligible) actionable as crimes. So again, a prosecutor has a great deal of discretion in exercising judgement as to whether or not to commence an investigation and to prosecute possible criminal wrongdoing. And again, what I worry about, and I’ve said this before, and I know better than anyone about the cost, the toll on families when you are investigated, even when you’ve done nothing wrong. And that’s what’s going to happen here to these agents, even those who did absolutely nothing wrong, who were within the letter of the guidance provided by the Department of Justice, and it’s going to take a terrible toll on them.View Entire Story
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