Today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation from the United States Department of Justice. According to the New York Times, this resignation will become effective September 17. Solicitor General Paul Clement will stand in as acting Attorney General until a replacement is found and sworn in.
As Attorney General, Gonzales has been criticized for diminishing civil liberties protections. The ACLU lists several incidents in which they feel Gonzales has failed to protect civil liberties, such as: failure to investigate incidents of torture of detainees; failure to investigate incidents of warrantless searching; and, championing the renewal of the United States Patriot Act.
Even with Gonzales’ resignation, the ACLU is demanding continued investigation of such violations that allegedly have taken place under Gonzales’ watch. The ACLU wants to ensure that, what they call, a “systematic abuse of power” by the Bush administration does not continue. With the imminent naming of a new acting Attorney General, ensuring that these violations do not persist becomes even a higher concern with groups such as the ACLU.
Additionally, Democrats and Republicans alike had been demanding his resignation due to his improper handling of terror investigations and firings of U.S. attorneys. In response to his resignation, a number of Democrats and Republicans have been quoted indicating that they felt Gonzales was never the proper person for the job and that his actions as Attorney General had shaken the public’s confidence in the department.
Whether, or to what extent, Gonzales has had a role in failing to protect civil liberties may remain uncertain. It seems certain that, no matter how this question is answered, faith in Gonzales, and the Attorney General's office, has been shaken in the eyes of government officials, civil liberties groups, and the public.