Former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said Thursday that his previous assertion that it was “legitimate to question and examine” charges of CIA abuses of suspected terrorists did not mean he endorsed such an investigation.
“Contrary to press reporting and based on the information that’s available to me,” Mr. Gonzales said during an interview Thursday with The Washington Times, “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.”
On Monday, Mr. Gonzales told The Washington Times radio program that he understood Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr.’s inquiry would look at “the 1 percent of actors who went beyond the legal limits prescribed by the lawyers at the Department of Justice.”
• Click here for full story on his Monday comment.
“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 action in prosecuting the war on terror and trying to protect America.”
On Thursday, Mr. Gonzales said that statement was not an endorsement of Mr. Holder’s investigation, just of his right to do so. The cases were examined by Mr. Gonzales’ Justice Department and no charges were brought.
• Click here for the transcript of Mr. Gonzales interview with TWT Justice Department reporter Ben Conery.
“It’s an endorsement of his right to exercise his discretion,” he said. “I’m just saying I would have exercised my discretion in a different manner, given the information I have.”
Mr. Gonzales said that a new investigation is not warranted by the “1 percent of actors” going beyond the Justice Department’s “legal limit.”
“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,” he said. “And again this is a matter that has already been looked into thoroughly.”
Mr. Gonzales wouldn’t discuss what evidence was uncovered during the Bush administration that led him to conclude Mr. Holder’s investigation is unnecessary and that no criminal charges should be brought against CIA interrogators.
“This has been looked at, and I agree with President Obama that we ought to be looking forward,” he said.