Suzanne Goldenberg

Judges not equipped to rule on security issues, says U.S. Attorney-General

Washington: The Bush administration's most senior legal official said on Wednesday that U.S. courts were not fit to make decisions on national security and should show deference to the White House.

In remarks made after a talk at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank, Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales said: ``I don't think that a judge is equipped at all to make decisions about what is in the national security interest of our country.'' Mr Gonzales's comments come a few days after a Pentagon official provoked a national backlash after suggesting large corporations boycott law firms that defend detenus at Guantanamo.

Mr Gonzales, a member of President George Bush's inner circle since his Texas days, was instrumental in crafting the administration's legal framework for the ``war on terror'', including the indefinite detention without trial of inmates at Guantanamo, and guidelines allowing torture during the interrogation of detenus.

Controversial policies

Over the past two years, those and other controversial policies, such as allowing eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without a warrant, have been repudiated, at least in part, by the courts. But Mr Gonzales was unapologetic, arguing that judges who oppose the administration, overstep their powers. ``There has to be a recognition of the limits to the information that he could possibly have,'' Mr Gonzales said, noting that judges did not have information gleaned from embassies and intelligence services. ``The judge should pay a certain degree of respect and ultimately of deference to the decisions made by the executive branch.''

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007