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Transcript: AG Alberto Gonzales on 'FOX News Sunday'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published July 24, 2005 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a transcript from "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace" on July 24, 2005.
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" GUEST HOST BRIT HUME: In Washington, officials have watched closely events in England and Egypt. Also here this week, a debate in Congress over renewal of the Patriot Act (search) and the Supreme Court nomination from the White House.
The latest on all these issues, we turn to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (search), who comes to us from Scotts Valley, California.
Mr. Attorney General, welcome. Thanks for being with us.
ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO GONZALES: Good morning, Brit.
HUME: First of all, what do you now know about these recent attacks in London, Egypt? There's a report in the morning Washington Post quoting experts as saying that it appears from these attacks and others that Al Qaeda may still be centrally controlled, that Usama Bin Laden (search) may well still be able to order attacks, coordinate them, plan them and direct them. What do you say to that?
GONZALES: Well, it's still very early to tell about what happened in Egypt. Obviously, we're looking carefully at events in London and Egypt. We are offering our assistance to both the Egyptian and the British authorities and doing everything that we can to find out the causes of these attacks and who is ultimately responsible.
As to whether or not there is still centralized coordination, I think that it's safe to say that we have been very successful in our efforts in Afghanistan and in pushing out the leadership, in capturing much of the leadership of Al Qaeda and making it as difficult as possible to coordinate the campaign of terror against America and its allies.
We now know from these attacks that the threat is still out there, that we shouldn't become complacent, that we do need authorities like the Patriot Act to help us, to help the law enforcement community gather information so that we can prevent additional attacks not only against America, but against America's friends and allies.
HUME: Why should people not look at these attacks in London — there are repeated attacks in London, although obviously the second one didn't come off as powerfully as the terrorists might have hoped — and then this hideous incident in Egypt, and think that the world, led by the United States, is now losing the war on terrorism?
GONZALES: Well, I think you have to look beyond these past two weeks and look at our efforts the past 3.5 years and before that. And I think that clearly it's difficult to protect democracies where we have open societies and people move freely across borders to some extent.
But this is a very diabolical, very patient enemy. And what we can assure the American viewers is that we've done a lot to protect America. We now have a Department of Homeland Security. We have additional resources, personnel, and technology to deal with this issue. We're in the process of reorganizing the Department of Justice and the FBI, all to make sure that we can share information better. And all this is an attempt to ensure that the government is doing everything it can do to protect America and its allies.
HUME: The Patriot Act: You indicated in the past — of course, it's making its way through Congress now, a version of it passed the House; two versions of it at least in play in the Senate. You've indicated you're open to some reforms of the Patriot Act. In light of these attacks and what they may tell us, what reforms are you open to still?
GONZALES: Well, what I've said is I would welcome clarifications and certain reforms in The Patriot Act. But I've always been very clear, very consistent in saying that I could not support provisions or changes, amendments to the act that would weaken the act, that would make it more difficult to protect America against these kinds of threats and against these kinds of attacks. And so we now have...
HUME: Well, what kind of reforms? You're open to something. What?
GONZALES: Well, for example, section 215 of The Patriot Act dealing with the business records provision: we do support changes that would make it clear that there is a relevance standard that has to be met before a FISA judge issues an order. We've made it clear that any business receiving a business order request could notify their attorney and could challenge the request before the FISA judge.
And so these are the kind of clarifications that we believe are appropriate and that we are supporting. Again, with respect to other amendments and changes, we have to look at those case by case. Some changes we can support. We cannot support, however, changes that weaken the act, particularly given the events of these past two weeks.
HUME: Let me turn if I can to the so-called Karl Rove (search) investigation. Obviously, this is a Valerie Plame (search) CIA leak investigation. You were in the White House as counsel at the time that investigation was initiated. Have you been asked to testify in this case?
GONZALES: I was asked to testify. This was over a year ago. I did testify before the grand jury, yes.
HUME: And can you tell us if you at any time were aware of Valerie Plame either by name or by identification with Joseph Wilson, were you aware that she was in the CIA. If you were, did you have an idea of what kind of work she was doing?
GONZALES: Well, let me begin by answering that question by saying, Brit, that I am recused from this investigation...
HUME: I understand that.
GONZALES: ...because of the period of time that I was in the White House. And of course I have given grand jury testimony. But I had no information regarding Ms. Plame and her role at the CIA.
HUME: So you didn't know. When did you first learn about that she was CIA? Do you recall?
GONZALES: I believe I first learned about it, Brit, at the same time that most Americans did, and that's when the stories began running about her role.
HUME: So, basically, you read about it in the paper?
GONZALES: That's correct.
HUME: Do you have any sense from the prosecutor, or does the department have any sense, of how close he is to finishing this investigation?
GONZALES: Brit, I don't know. I don't have discussions regarding the investigation, because, as I said, I am recused from the investigation.
HUME: John Roberts, named this week by the president to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. It's pretty clear that potential critics, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, and perhaps others as well are going to want to see a lot of documents to form a sense of his thinking and his record. He's only been on the court a couple of years, as an appellate judge. They argue that that record is not extensive enough for them to form an adequate picture of what sort of justice he might make, what his thinking is.
Some of those records, for example, date to his time working in the solicitor general's office. That's, of course, the office that represents the administration, the government before the Supreme Court. Want to see his work, his briefs, his recommendations, his memos.
What about that?
GONZALES: Well, I think it's too early to prejudge what the Senate's going to be asking to see, and how the administration is going to respond. In connection with many nominees by this administration, and previous administrations, there is often an accommodation that is reached with respect to requests for information, and I suspect that's going to happen in this case.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will ask for certain kinds of information, and we'll evaluate it, and our goal is to be as accommodating as we can, to ensure that the appropriate information is provided to the Senate, so that they can make an informed judgment about the superb qualifications of John Roberts to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.
HUME: Well, when Miguel Estrada was nominated to the circuit court of appeals, the court on which Judge Roberts now serves, he had worked in the government in some of the same capacity as Judge Roberts did, and there was a request for memoranda, advisory memoranda from his days in the solicitor general's office, if I recall correctly, and they were denied. You're now saying that you think some accommodation can be reached.
Are you talking specifically about advisory material that he might have written, or did write, when he was in the solicitor general's office?
GONZALES: Well, again, Brit, there's been no request, no official request from the Judiciary Committee for this kind of information, and we have to evaluate case by case.
If you look back at the history of Supreme Court nominations, the Senate Judiciary Committee asks for different kinds of information, there are different kinds of responses made by every White House and every administration, and so it's always case by case, and so we simply have to wait to see how this plays out.
We understand that this is a very important decision by members of the Senate, and they do need information to make an informed decision, and we're going to work as hard as we can to reach the appropriate accommodation.
HUME: Well, let me put it to you another way, then, Judge Gonzales. If a lawyer is working in the solicitor general's office, his client is the administration, the government, and advisory materials that he creates, memos he writes, recommendations and so on that he makes, drafts perhaps of briefs, and all that constitute advice of counsel to client. You're now — as the attorney general, you're now similarly counsel to the same client.
Can you imagine circumstances under which that kind of material would be made available? It wasn't in the case of Estrada. The attorney-client privilege wasn't waived. Can you imagine that that could be possible here?
GONZALES: Well, what I can say, Brit, is that this is of course very sensitive, very deliberative information that you're talking about, generally that's not something that the administration or any White House would be inclined to share, because it is so sensitive, and does, in my judgment, does chill communications between line attorneys and their superiors within the Department of Justice.
That would be something that we'd have to look at very, very carefully. It's not something that is traditionally shared outside the executive branch, because we have very strong equities in that.
But, again, rather than prejudge the issue, let's wait for the Judiciary Committee to make its requests, and then we can evaluate the requests and hopefully reach an appropriate accommodation.
HUME: Let me ask you about Judge Roberts himself. Because his record is so spare, after only two years on the court, some people are wondering what sort of justice he would be, what kind of judge, what kind of a legal thinker he is.
The president, of course, has expressed great admiration for justices Scalia and Thomas, and promised to nominate judges in that mold. Can you assure us, or can you give us any reason that we might believe that he is in that mold?
GONZALES: What I can assure the American people is, I think that Judge Roberts is someone who does respect the rule of law, and has a very strong appreciation and respect for the separation of powers. And this may sound elementary, but it's a very, very important concept, that a judge come to the bench with an understanding that his job, his or her job, is not to make the laws. That's for the Congress.
It's not to execute the laws. That's for the executive branch and the president. It is to interpret the law. And based on everything that we know about Judge Roberts, we believe that he has that very important respect for the role of the judge in our system of government.
HUME: Judge Gonzales, it was very good of you to get up at a very early hour in California to be with us. Thank you very much.
GONZALES: Thanks, Brit.
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This week: We'll have an exclusive interview with Sen James Lankford (R-OK), member of the Appropriations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Committees.