Former attorney general Alberto Gonzales became the second Bush-era official in a week to walk back a controversial remark on Thursday, reversing his support for current Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to launch a preliminary investigation into the torture of detainees.
Holder's investigation will be narrowly focused on interrogators who went even beyond what Bush administration lawyers, in deeply flawed memos, argued was legal. For instance, according to the CIA's inspector general, agents revved drills near detainees heads, racked
semi-automatic weapons and otherwise devised scenarios to convince detainees they were facing execution. Such interrogation techniques were not approved by the administration, though throwing detainees against the wall, slapping them and waterboarding them was.
"We worked very hard to establish ground rules and parameters about how to deal with terrorists," Gonzales told the Washington Times. "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."
The decision was legitimately Holder's, Gonzales said. "As chief prosecutor of the United States, he should make the decision on his own, based on the facts, then inform the White House," Gonzales said.
Or maybe not.
Something apparently happened between Tuesday and Thursday. "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 is now
telling ABC News's Jason Ryan.
Gonzales's reversal comes just after Bush's Homeland Security secretary, Tom Ridge, said that charges in his book shouldn't be believed.
Ridge had accused the administration of politicizing terror alerts leading up to the 2004 election.
"A vigorous, some might say dramatic, discussion ensued," Ridge wrote. "Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level and was supported by Rumsfeld. There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, 'Is this about security or politics?'"
Then something happened to Ridge.
"There was no pressure at all," he told the Erie Times-News.