Gonzales retracts support for probe of CIA abuse

The former attorney general now says he opposes the investigation, and claims he was taken out of context

Published September 3, 2009 11:01PM (EDT)

Earlier this week, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he supported current Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to open an investigation into certain CIA abuses of detainees. Now, he's taking it back.

In an interview with a Washington Times radio program Tuesday, Gonzales said, "We worked very hard to establish ground rules and parameters about how to deal with terrorists. 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."

On Thursday, in a new interview with the Times, the former attorney general was singing a different tune.

"Contrary to press reporting and based on the information that's available to me, 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," Gonzales said. "I respect the right of the attorney general to make this decision based upon his judgement of the facts, but again based upon what I know I disagree with the decision."

When a reporter for the Times read his original quote back to him, Gonzales replied, "[I]t's an endorsement of [Holder's] right to exercise his discretion. I'm just saying I would have exercised my discretion in a different manner, given the information I have .... So when I talk about how we expect people to abide by a certain set of rules, and if they don't they ought to be looked into, it's been looked into."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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