When terrorists struck the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, Alberto Gonzales, the White House counsel, was hit with the same sadness and horror as others were across the country, and world.
But as White House counsel, Gonzales also had a job to do while juggling all the feelings on that fateful day.
He had to help advise President George Bush about how to respond, and how to do it – particularly to those deemed to have knowledge about who was responsible, and about events leading up to the attacks – within the law.
Gonzales is the author of a new book, “True Faith and Allegiance,” that recounts the day of the attacks and the aftermath, as well as his life as the son of Texas-born parents with Mexican roots.
In an interview with Fox News Latino, Gonzales said that Bush kept him and others in the administration focused on that day as chaos unfolded.
“We took our cue from the commander-in-chief,” Gonzales said. “It was fairly obvious from the beginning that President Bush understood we were under attack. It was not a simple crime. This was an act of war, and we were going to respond by pulling all levers of federal power.”
Gonzales added: “He had a job to do as commander-in-chief and he expected us to do our job,” he said. “Was I ever fearful? No, not really because I knew I had a job to do to help the president protect America.”
Gonzales was a success story, an American Dream story. He grew up poor, with no running water.
“We boiled pots of water on the kitchen stove to fill the tub for our baths,” he wrote in his memoir. “We didn’t get a home telephone until I was nearly a junior in high school.”
Gonzales says he did not feel deprived.
“The accommodations were crowded by the time our family grew to ten members, but our mother filled our home with love, discipline, and great food.”
Gonzales did not gloss over his childhood, however, noting that while his father provided for his family, always working hard to make sure they had food and shelter, he also drank heavily.
“My father was an alcoholic, and when he drank, he became a different person, often belligerent, caustic, and mean,” Gonzales wrote. “It broke my heart to see my father drunk. His alcoholic episodes left an indelible impression and produced in me an irrevocable decision to avoid alcohol.”
Gonzales was the subject of controversy during his tenure as counsel and, later, U.S. attorney general.
Critics said he sanctioned the use of torture to cull information from terror suspects and others who might have had information about terrorism.
Gonzales says that every considered tactic to get information in relation to the Sept. 11 attacks, and to prevent future ones, were run by lawyers.
“These were very, very difficult decisions,” Gonzales said of interrogation tactics, adding that lawyers “were involved in decisions related to Guantanamo…electronic surveillance, enhanced interrogation techniques, you name it and the lawyers were involved in some of the most controversial decision in the Bush administration.”
“President Bush was very consistent,” Gonzales told Fox News Latino, noting that the president said “Tell me what the law is, what are the limits of what I can do.”
“I understand that some people may disagree with where we drew those lines,” Gonzales said. “History will judge whether or not we made the right decisions. We worked very hard to do it right to protect America. I think the steps initiated by President Bush did protect America.”
Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.