- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 12, 2009

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday that any criminal investigation into whether CIA interrogations after 9/11 crossed legal lines could have a chilling effect on U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Gonzales said if the Justice Department launches an investigation it “could discourage” CIA operatives from “engaging in conduct that even comes close” to department guidelines.

“So where do you draw the line?” he said. “What is allowed, what’s not allowed?”

Attorney General Eric Holder is weighing whether to name a criminal investigator to determine whether laws were violated during interrogations of terrorism suspects after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

President Barack Obama has said no CIA official who followed legal guidance on interrogations will be prosecuted, but Holder is examining whether any CIA interrogations went so far beyond those instructions that they should face criminal charges. Holder has not yet made a decision whether to launch such an investigation.

Gonzales, who was former President George W. Bush’s attorney general until he resigned in 2007, said he’s talked to CIA lawyers who’ve heard from the agency’s operatives.

“They’re very, very concerned about the legal liability and legal exposure,” he told the AP. “And that’s the danger with launching some kind of investigation. But, again, this is a decision that’s got to be made by the current attorney general.”

The move would be certain to stir partisan bickering on Capitol Hill. Republicans in Congress have said such a criminal investigation would demonize the CIA and hamper U.S. efforts to fight terrorism in the future. Such an investigation, they contend, could make CIA officials unnecessarily timid in chasing terror suspects, or it could reveal sensitive intelligence techniques.

Gonzales, the nation’s first Hispanic attorney general, was hired last month by Texas Tech University to recruit and retain minority students. He will also teach a 15-student political science class, Contemporary Issue of the Executive Branch. He is classified as a visiting professor and has agreed to teach one year. His salary for both positions is $100,000, school officials have said.

Gonzales acknowledged wishing he could “do some things over” from his time in Washington. He said he made a mistake by using the words “quaint” and “the Geneva Convention” in the same sentence in a memo he wrote about what privileges terror suspects get while incarcerated under the document.

People used that to paint him as not supportive of the document’s principles, Gonzales said.

“Now looking at it…I would not have done that,” he said. “At this level you make mistakes. And if you think this president, this attorney general, this administration isn’t going to make mistakes, you’re living in a fairy-tale land.”

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