Open Letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales from Havard Law School Class of 1982

The following is an open letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales from
his classmates who graduated with him in 1982 from Harvard Law School,
published in today's issue of the Washington Post:

Dear Attorney General Gonzales:

Twenty-five years ago we, like you, graduated from Harvard Law School. While
we arrived via many different paths and held many different views, we were
united in our deep respect for the Constitution and the rights it
guaranteed. As members of the post-Watergate generation who chose careers in
law, we understood the strong connection between our liberties as Americans
and the adherence of public officials to the law of the land. We knew that
the choice to abide by the law was even more critical when public officials
were tempted to take legal shortcuts. Nowhere were we taught that the ends
justified the means, or that freedoms for which Americans had fought and
died should be set aside when inconvenient or challenging. To the contrary:
our most precious freedoms, we learned, need defending most in times of

So it has been with dismay that we have watched your cavalier handling of
our freedoms time and again. When it has been important that legal
boundaries hold unbridled government power in check, you have instead used
pretextual rationales and strained readings to justify an ever-expanding
executive authority. Witness your White House memos sweeping aside the
Geneva Conventions to justify torture, endangering our own servicemen and
women; witness your advice to the President effectively reading Habeas
Corpus out of our constitutional protections; witness your support of
presidential statements claiming inherent power to wiretap American citizens
without warrants (and the Administration's stepped-up wiretapping campaign,
taking advantage of those statements, which continues on your watch to this
day); and witness your dismissive explanation of the troubling firings of
numerous U.S. Attorneys, and their replacement with others more "loyal" to
the President's politics, as merely "an overblown personnel matter." In
these and other actions, we see a pattern. As a recent editorial put it,
your approach has come to symbolize "disdain for the separation of powers,
civil liberties and the rule of law."

As lawyers, and as a matter of principle, we can no longer be silent about
this Administration's consistent disdain for the liberties we hold dear.
Your failure to stand for the rule of law, particularly when faced with a
President who makes the aggrandized claim of being a unitary executive,
takes this country down a dangerous path.

Your country and your President are in dire need of an attorney who will do
the tough job of providing independent counsel, especially when the advice
runs counter to political expediency. Now more than ever, our country needs
a President, and an Attorney General, who remember the apt observation
attributed to Benjamin Franklin: "Those who would give up essential Liberty
to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
We call on you and the President to relent from this reckless path, and
begin to restore respect for the rule of law we all learned to love many
years ago.