Alberto Gonzales

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Alberto Gonzales in 2007

Alberto R. Gonzales (born August 4, 1955) was the 80th Attorney General of the United States, becoming the first Hispanic to serve in the position. He formerly served under U.S. President George W. Bush as White House Counsel. He announced his resignation as Attorney General on 27 August 2007.


  • From the day the President announced my nomination as the Attorney General of the United States three months ago, I have thought often about how to best prepare to meet the awesome responsibilities of this office. Outside these walls, the cries of those powerless souls who are injured, disenfranchised or otherwise aggrieved may indeed be faint. But those same pleas for help echo powerfully within the Department of Justice. Every day, like a steady drumbeat we are asked to provide an answer to a problem, to secure a remedy, to be a champion — and every day this Department responds as it has done so time and time again throughout the history of our beloved America.
    • Remarks at his installation as Attorney General [1] (February 14, 2005).
  • America is my home — I believe in her promise and I will do what I can to secure that promise for future generations of our children. America is great — not because of our military might or our economic strength — but because of the greatness of Americans, and I welcome the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder, side by side with all of you to preserve our heritage rich in "liberty and justice for all."
    • Remarks at his installation as Attorney General.
  • (Asked by John King about the political climate that existed in Washington at the time, and criticism of the Department of Justice under his management) Listen I don't expect an apology from men like Chuck Schumer, and I would put him and other individuals who were attacking me at the top of the list contributing to the low, low public perception of Congress, the integrity of Congress quite frankly.
    • [2] July 23, 2010.

Speech regarding Civil Liberties and the War on Terrorism (November 20, 2006)


Online text of speech, given at the U.S. Air Force Academy

  • To achieve victory at the cost of eroding civil liberties would not really be a victory. We cannot change the core identity of our Nation and claim success. And our identity has never been in doubt — we are a free people, dedicated to liberty for the popular and the unpopular, committed to the ideal that the People govern themselves, and determined to have a government that cannot extinguish or suppress the rights that make us Americans.
  • Free speech. Freedom of association. These values are repulsive to the radical Islamic terrorist. They fear them and suppress them whenever and wherever they can. Yet through those very means, we as a society are protective of that terrorist’s rights. This is ironic, but good. Because, as you well know, America has a unique responsibility to set the global standard for liberty and fair conduct. The world looks to us to set high standards for freedom, and we take that leadership role very seriously. Our commitment to leading by example – on issues from human rights to free speech – is strong. Indeed, other countries strike a different balance between security and freedom, both in the activities they punish as crimes, and in the procedures with which they do so. In some instances, our allies have adopted or utilized some counterterrorism tools that we have not adopted in the United States because doing so would abridge the civil liberties protected by our constitution.
  • It is a myth that the Patriot Act empowers the government to be overly intrusive, giving it power that could someday be used to pry into innocent Americans’ personal lives. The fact is that the Patriot Act was born of a well-established criminal justice and national security structure as well as vibrant bi-partisan debate in Congress, both upon its establishment and its renewal. The Act was written to help the law enforcement and intelligence communities to protect Americans and fight the war on terror. It, in fact, answered the call of career, rank and file law enforcement to update our laws to match law-enforcement tools with modern technology. The Patriot Act simply ensures that law enforcement and national security personnel have the tools they need to keep us safe from terrorism — and in many cases those tools were already available to law enforcement in other contexts — while also ensuring that those tools are consistent with the Constitution and include appropriate safeguards against government over-reaching.
  • The Patriot Act does not authorize the government to go into your house or read your mail without probable cause and a warrant. It does allow law enforcement and intelligence personnel to better share information and better coordinate with each other. It does give national security investigators tools like those criminal investigators have used for years. And it does update the law to keep up with evolving technology and increasingly sophisticated terrorists. Many of the tools in the Patriot Act are identical to those that have been used for years to investigate drug dealers and white-collar crime. They've been used effectively, and they've been used without an adverse impact on civil liberties. So criticism of the Patriot Act has always begged the question: if we can use these tools successfully and prudently in the area of dealing with, say, drug traffickers, why shouldn’t they be used in the war against terrorists who want to import chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons to inflict mass civilian casualties?
  • Torture is not tolerated by this country on the battlefield or off. Anyone who tortures or abuses a detainee tarnishes the service of every honorable student and soldier in this room today. The President has said this, and I will say it again: those who commit torture in the name of the United States government will be prosecuted. In any discussion of Guantanamo, detainees and military commissions, I think that one final fact helps put things in perspective — and that is the fact that members of al Qaeda are not merely common criminals. Some critics around the world have argued that they are “just” criminals, that their crimes somehow do not amount to war crimes. But here are the facts: al Qaeda seeks to employ weapons of mass slaughter as a means of achieving political goals against both the civilian and military capacity of the United States, Europe, and our allies throughout the world. Its members continue to fight our Armed Forces on battlefields around the world, and they will continue to do so until we stop them. Al Qaeda has committed acts on a scale that transcends mere crime, as recognized by NATO immediately after the attacks of September 11th. Their crimes are therefore nothing less than war crimes. Given the magnitude of the atrocities al Qaeda has committed, there can be no comparison between the crimes of its members and that of common civilian criminals.

Speech to U.S. Attorneys’ National Security Conference (January 11, 2007)


Online text of speech

  • Today’s gathering is particularly important because I must speak bluntly and urgently, about the single most important part of our jobs: preventing terrorist attacks on American soil. Our success or failure in this endeavor will define in the eyes of some President Bush and his legacy. Right or wrong, this is a task that will also define my government career and, indeed, to some degree my professional life. It will be the legacy of every one of us who is serving in this Administration. Terrorists chose to attack us. But it is we who must now choose — today, tomorrow, the day after that and the day after that, until the end of our government service — to do everything in our powers to stop them from striking again.
  • Because I worked at the White House on 9/11, I carry the memories and the pain of that day in a wound that is particularly deep — one that is very personal. Some of you were not in government on 9/11, and some are from parts of the country where people do not think much today about terrorism. I appreciate that some may not share the same sense of sadness and anger. But I must ask you to take on the perspective that President Bush and I had on September 11th and the days following — the brutal unprovoked murders of mothers and fathers — sons and daughters…the phone calls of desperate good byes…symbols of American wealth and power in flames and ruins. Five years have passed. I concede it may be difficult for some to stay committed to this mission — maintaining the necessary intensity and commitment — without that perspective.
  • Dig deeply for the energy and the creativity that we need to continue this successful record of prevention — which is the goal of all goals when it comes to terrorism because we simply cannot and will not wait for the next terrorist act to occur before taking action. Continue to arm yourselves with the American ideals of hope and freedom — because they are so much stronger than terrorist ideals of fear and intolerance. Remind yourselves and your colleagues back in your offices — that for the sake of our children, we will prevail because we must.

Speech to American Enterprise Institute (January 17, 2007)


Online text of speech

  • A strong and independent Judiciary is necessary for our republic to remain strong, for our democracy to survive, and for the rule of law to flourish. To understand what I mean by independence, let me first clarify what independence is not. Judicial independence does not mean complete freedom from scrutiny or criticism. Judges' decisions may be criticized, and the nature of the job virtually guarantees it. After all, in every court case there will be a loser. Judges must resist the temptation to craft their opinions to avoid criticism or to seek approval, whether from the press, the public, the academy, or Congress.
  • Of course, the power and authority of courts — whether to improperly take policymaking power for themselves or to engage in legitimate decision making — is dependent upon the weight of their judgment. That is, it depends on their credibility with the public and the other branches of government. Judicial decisions are obeyed, in large part, because the judgment of the federal Judiciary is respected. But it is perhaps underappreciated that when courts apply an activist philosophy that stretches the law to suit policy preferences, they actually reduce the credibility and authority of the Judiciary. In so doing, they undermine the rule of law that strengthens our democracy. In contrast, a judge who humbly understands the role of the courts in our tripartite system of government decides cases based on neutral principles. He generally defers to the judgment of the political branches, and respects precedent – the collective wisdom of those who have gone before. In so doing, that judge strengthens respect for the Judiciary, upholds the rule of law, and permits the people — through their elected representatives — to make choices about the issues of the day.
  • I also am concerned about judges who imagine they see everything in society addressed in the Constitution. It is worth remembering that the Constitution is a very brief document. It defines the structure and authority of the federal government and protects a limited list of sacred rights. It does not, and was never intended to, address every legal issue that might arise in our nation’s history. Democracy is well-served when the Court says, in effect, "the Constitution simply does not comment on this issue." In contrast, constitutionalizing an issue takes it out of the democratic process. If the people disagree with a court decision based on the law, they have a remedy in the political process. Through their elected representatives, they can change the law. But once a court declares a law to be unconstitutional or prohibits some agency action on constitutional grounds, it is limiting the options of the people. Such a step should be taken only where it is clear that the Constitution has truly spoken on the issue and forbidden what the political branches have determined to do.
  • We want to determine whether he understands the inherent limits that make an unelected Judiciary inferior to Congress or the President in making policy judgments. That, for example, a judge will never be in the best position to know what is in the national security interests of our country.
    • About selecting federal judicial candidates.
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