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Homeland Security

Analysis: 'War on Terror' Architect Departs

Council on Foreign Relations

August 27, 2007
Prepared by: Lee Hudson Teslik, Robert McMahon

The resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales (AP) marks the departure of another Bush administration figure critical to mounting its post-9/11 “war on terror.” With the Democratic-majority Congress due to return next week, the move is likely to raise new questions over President Bush’s invocation of legal authority in prosecuting that war. Gonzales was at the forefront in planning this new kind of conflict, which he said emphasizes “constant pressure within a comprehensive strategy” against terrorist elements. The strategy has involved expanded warrantless surveillance of telephone and Internet lines, as well as probing other communications channels as authorized by the Patriot Act. Although the administration can point to an absence of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11, Gonzales became enmeshed in complaints about overzealousness.

First as White House counsel and then as attorney general, Gonzales pressed to increase presidential authority, including over the domestic- spying program. He crafted policy for military war tribunals as well as limited the legal rights of hundreds of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He asserted at a CFR briefing: “[W]e can be proud of the procedural protections the Department of Defense has afforded our nation’s enemies.” But the moves alarmed civil libertarians, who sued to challenge the measures, and some of the domestic surveillance efforts apparently triggered dissent (Jurist) within the intelligence and law enforcement communities.

The attorney general’s office has been at the heart of the tensions playing out among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches on the extent of a president’s powers at a time of war, especially one of unknown duration.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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