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Alberto Gonzales on Homeland Security

Attorney General


2002: Geneva Convention rendered quaint by war on terror

"The war against terrorism is a new kind of war. In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."
--Alberto Gonzales, memo to Pres. Bush, Jan. 2002

"To be considered torture, techniques must produce lasting psychological damage or suffering 'equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.' "
-- Justice Dept. memo, 1/9/02

"Geneva does not apply to our conflict with al-Qaeda; al-Qaeda detainees also do not qualify as prisoners of war."
--George W. Bush, memo, 2/7/02

"I stand 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"
--Donal Rumsfeld, on an interrogation technique memo, 2002

"Congress doesn't have the power to tie the president's hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique. They can't prevent the president from ordering torture."
--Justice Dept. memo, 2005

Source: The War in Quotes, by G.B. Trudeau, p. 84-86 , Oct 1, 2008

Backdrop for terrorist surveillance program is 9/11

The open wounds so many of us carry from Sept. 11 are the backdrop to the current debate about the NSA’s terrorist surveillance program. This program is focused on international communications where experienced intelligence experts have reason to believe that at least one party to the communication is an agent of al Qaeda or an affiliate. This program is reviewed and reauthorized by the President approximately every 45 days. The leadership of Congress have been briefed about this program more than a dozen times.

A word of caution here. This remains a highly classified program. It remains an important tool in protecting America. So my remarks today speak only to those activities confirmed publicly by the President, and not to other purported activities described in press reports. These press accounts are in almost every case misinformed, confusing, or wrong. And unfortunately, they have caused concern over the potential breadth of what the President has actually authorized.

Source: Speech at the Georgetown University Law Center , Jan 24, 2006

Surveil al Qaeda because this is a war of information

We are a nation at war. And in this war, our military employs a wide variety of tools and weapons to defeat the enemy. A terrorist surveillance program that allows us to quickly collect important information about our enemy is vital and necessary to the War on Terror. The conflict against al Qaeda is, in fundamental respects, a war of information. We cannot build walls thick enough, fences high enough, or systems strong enough to keep our enemies out of our open and welcoming country. Instead, as the bipartisan 9/11 and WMD Commissions have urged, we must understand better who they are and what they’re doing--we have to collect more dots, if you will, before we can “connect the dots.” This program to surveil al Qaeda is a necessary weapon as we fight to detect and prevent another attack before it happens. I feel confident that is what the American people expect . and it’s what the terrorist surveillance program provides.
Source: Speech at the Georgetown University Law Center , Jan 24, 2006

Justice Department’s mission focuses on anti-terrorism

Alberto R. Gonzales was sworn in as the nation’s 80th Attorney General on February 3, 2005. In his initial remarks to Department of Justice employees, Attorney General Gonzales reminded them of their mission and noted they have “a special obligation to protect America against future acts of terrorism. We will continue to make that our top priority while remaining consistent with our values and legal obligations. That will be the lodestar that guides us in our efforts at the Department.”
Source: White House biography, whitehouse.gov , Feb 3, 2005

Claimed president’s actions at Guantanamo were unreviewable

In a January 2002 memorandum to George W. Bush, Gonzales emphasized that this new war on terror “renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.”

Gonzales told George W. Bush that in denying “detainees”--many of them now held at Guantanamo for nearly three years without charges--prisoner of war status under the Geneva Conventions, the president didn’t have to worry about being held accountable by the courts. As commander in chief, his actions were unreviewable.

Said the Supreme Court, in June, concerning the accuracy of the advice from the next attorney general of the United States about deep-sixing US citizens, “We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of [American] citizens.” And the Court also ruled he was wrong about the noncitizen prisoners at Guant namo.

Source: The Village Voice, Nat Hentoff, “Worse Than Ashcroft” , Nov 29, 2004

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Page last updated: Dec 14, 2011