January 26, 2009
Contact:
Anna Christopher, NPR


   

FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO GONZALES
EXPRESSES “CONCERN” OVER AG NOMINEE ERIC HOLDER’S
TESTIMONY THAT WATERBOARDING IS TORTURE
ON NPR NEWS’ TELL ME MORE WITH MICHEL MARTIN

GONZALES DISCUSSES CONTROVERSIES IN CAREER
IN WIDE-RANGING NPR INTERVIEW

EXCERPTS BELOW; FULL TRANSCRIPT TO BE AVAILABLE
AUDIO AVAILABLE AT NPR.org



January 26, 2009; Washington, D.C. – In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview airing today on the NPR news and talk show Tell Me More with Michel Martin, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales expresses “concern” over Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder’s congressional testimony that waterboarding is torture, and questions whether Holder “had access to all of the opinions” to reach that conclusion. “I don’t know what Mr. Holder did or didn’t know in making that statement,” Gonzales says. “And I think that one needs to be careful in making a blanket pronouncement like that, if you don’t have all the information, because of the affect it may have, again, on the morale and the dedication of intelligence officials and lawyers throughout the administration.”

Gonzales also tells NPR’s Michel Martin that any discussion of prosecuting officers who participated in controversial interrogation techniques is having a chilling effect throughout the intelligence community. “I have talked to officials, senior officials at the CIA for example, who tell me that agents at the CIA no longer have any interest at doing anything remotely controversial, for fear that they are going to be investigated, and they’re going to have to go out and hire lawyers in order to do their job. And so it has a very discouraging effect. And the net result of all of that is that people will not be doing what they need to be doing to gain intelligence that will help us connect the dots and protect our country from another attack.”

Excerpts from the interview follow; a complete transcript will be released later this morning. All excerpts must be credited to NPR News Tell Me More. Television usage must include on-screen credit with NPR logo. Complete audio of the interview is available online: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99864126

Tell Me More brings fresh voices and perspectives to public radio. The daily one-hour program hosted by Michel Martin captures the headlines, issues and pleasures relevant to multicultural life in America. It is a production of NPR News in association with the African American Public Radio Consortium, representing independent public radio stations that serve predominantly black communities. For stations and broadcast times, visit www.NPR.org

-NPR-


On Eric Holder’s testimony that waterboarding is torture:
“My reaction was very similar to General Mukasey’s reaction, which was concern about making a pronouncement like that – concern that would arise in the minds of intelligence officials and lawyers at the department, who all acted in good faith, working as hard as they can under very difficult circumstances, to give advice and make decisions to protect our country…

“I don’t know whether or not, in making that statement, Mr. Holder had access to all of the opinions, all of the underlying documentation supporting the opinions. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. The other thing I don’t know is how much of the intelligence decisions Mr. Holder had with respect to the threat that existed at the time these opinions were offered, and the opinions of the intelligence officials about their belief in a particular detainee having very important, valuable intelligence information that might save American lives. And so, I don’t know what Mr. Holder did or didn’t know in making that statement. And I think that one needs to be careful in making a blanket pronouncement like that, if you don’t have all the information, because of the affect it may have, again, on the morale and the dedication of intelligence officials and lawyers throughout the administration.”

On the possibility of prosecuting officers who participated in controversial interrogation techniques:
“I don’t think that there’s going to be a prosecution, quite frankly. Because again, these activities for the most part, based on what I know, and there obviously, there may be some actions and activities that I’m not aware of. But in terms of what people really focused on: they were authorized, they were known at the highest levels, they were supported by legal opinions at the Department of Justice. And so, based upon those facts, I think it would be difficult, again I can’t pre-judge it and Mr. Holder if he is confirmed will have to make a decision as to whether or not move forward with an investigation or a prosecution. But under those circumstances, I find it hard to believe.

“None the less, the very discussion about it is extremely discouraging. And I have talked to officials, senior officials at the CIA for example, who tell me that agents at the CIA no longer have any interest at doing anything remotely controversial, for fear that they are going to be investigated, and they’re going to have to go out and hire lawyers in order to do their job. And so it has a very discouraging effect. And the net result of all of that is that people will not be doing what they need to be doing to gain intelligence that will help us connect the dots and protect our country from another attack.”

On watching the inauguration of President Obama from Andrews Air Force Base:
“Well, most of the Texans and the senior staff flying down to Texas, we were all huddled together in the visitor’s lounge at Andrews as President Obama took the oath. We all applauded afterwards. You know, it’s a proud moment for America, quite frankly, for a number of reasons. Also another example of the wonderful transition of the peaceful transfer of power that occurs in our country ever four or eight years, so very, very proud moment, very historic moment of course.”

On the final day of the Bush presidency, and traveling with former President Bush back to Texas:
“It was bittersweet as you might imagine – I think there was a great deal of joy, joyous celebration in terms of the end of a tenure, and of an experience that we will all shared. A little sadness that we would no longer be working together on very important issues that affected the citizens of this country. For me, it was a really great experience to be with the President, to say goodbye to the President, to thank the President for his service, to thank him for the opportunities that he has given me, so I really very much enjoyed the experience.”