Where former Attorney General Gonzales is now….
Alberto Gonzales was probably one of the most controversial U.S. attorneys general in history and left in a swirl of controversy about fired federal prosecutors and his role in authorizing harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects.After keeping a relatively a low profile since resigning in the summer of 2007, he has now begun his stint as a visiting professor at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, where he will teach a course entitled “Contemporary Issues in the Executive Branch” that will encompass crafting legislation and shepherding a Supreme Court nominee through the Senate He sat down with Texas Lawyer for one of the most wide-ranging interviews he has given since leaving office in which he offers insights into many of the controversies.On the issue of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques authorized by the Bush Justice Department — which are in the spotlight now as the new Obama administration is examining whether they broke the law — Gonzales said it was natural that such guidance is revised over time.”What the lawyers tried to do (during the Bush years) was to define, to give boundaries to what the statute allowed,” Gonzales said. “When I was in the administration I encouraged lawyers to continually look at our legal position and to get comfortable if we were in fact on solid ground. And if people wanted to continue to revise, I think that was the appropriate role for lawyers.”As White House counsel, Gonzales made a controversial visit to the hospital bed of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to push for approval of a secret surveillance program. Gonzales said he would discuss the incident in greater detail in his forthcoming book but that he went at President George W. Bush’s behest.”The reason we went to General Ashcroft is because he is the one who had been approving this program and these activities for a number of years. And he had been the Senate-confirmed attorney general, and as far as the president was concerned, that’s the person he wanted us to talk to,” Gonzales said.However, at the time, the deputy attorney general, James Comey, was in charge (and he was also confirmed by the U.S. Senate) while Ashcroft recovered from surgery.Gonzales in the interview also again strenuously defended his role in the firing of several federal prosecutors and said he had been cleared of wrongdoing by the inspector general.One final interesting tidbit from the interview is a rather stark contrast between Gonzales and Vice President Dick Cheney over who is chief U.S. law enforcement officer.In a Fox News interview on Sunday, while discussing the Obama administration’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to examine whether there was any wrongdoing in the harsh interrogations, Cheney said the president is the chief law enforcement officer in the administration. But Gonzales said the attorney general holds that title and must fulfill that obligation.The Justice Department’s website offers the historical support for Gonzales’ position, here.Click here for more Reuters political coverage.- Photo credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst