Tuesday, November 18, 2008

UPDATED: AG Pick: Holder is strong against torture, renditions, warrantless spying


Holder is Obama's choice for attorney general (see bottom of post for a somewhat different view)

* Story Highlights
* Eric Holder is a former deputy attorney general under Clinton administration
* Sources say Holder was selected by Obama to become attorney general
* Holder has said he will accept the job if it is offered
* Holder could be the first African-American to lead Justice Department
* Next Article in Politics »

From Ed Henry and John King
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder is President-elect Barack Obama's choice for the position of attorney general, according to two prominent Democrats involved in transition matters.
Sources say Eric Holder has been asked by President-elect Barack Obama to become his attorney general.

Sources say Eric Holder has been asked by President-elect Barack Obama to become his attorney general.

Holder, who is still being vetted, has indicated he will accept the job if it is offered, the sources said.

If confirmed, Holder will be the first African-American to lead the Justice Department.

Holder, 57, co-chaired Obama's vice presidential selection process.

A graduate of Columbia University and former federal prosecutor, Holder is a partner at the Washington law firm of Covington & Burling.

ike Obama, Holder has said the United States must reverse "the disastrous course" set by the Bush administration in the struggle against terrorism by closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba that now holds about 250 prisoners.

Holder also has said the United States must stop sending individuals to nations that engage in torture, must cease warrantless domestic surveillance and must declare without qualification the United States does not torture people.

The Bush administration, which denies torturing suspects, has been criticized by human rights groups for using waterboarding, a widely condemned technique that simulates drowning, and other tough interrogation methods on al Qaeda suspects captured after the September 11 attacks. (end excerpt)

Obama offers Holder attorney general post

By Thomas Ferraro and James Vicini Thomas Ferraro And James Vicini November 18, 2008 PM EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has conditionally offered Eric Holder the job as attorney general, and the former top Clinton administration official has accepted, a senior Democrat said on Tuesday.

Before the offer becomes official, Obama's team wants to determine if Holder could win Senate confirmation with broad bipartisan support and clean up a Justice Department wracked by scandals during George W. Bush's presidency, the Democrat said.

"We know we have the votes for Senate confirmation, but we want to make sure he would have broad support so he can make needed reforms," said the Democrat, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

Since Obama's election two weeks ago, the 57-year-old Holder, the deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton, has emerged as the top candidate for the job as the nation's top law enforcement and legal officer who deals with issues like terrorism and crime.

Obama is the first black elected president, and Holder would be the first black to head the Justice Department.

As attorney general, Holder would play a key role in setting policy on prosecuting terrorism cases while protecting civil liberties.

Like Obama, Holder has said the United States must reverse "the disastrous course" set by the Bush administration in the struggle against terrorism by closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba that now holds about 250 prisoners.

Holder also has said the United States must stop sending individuals to nations that engage in torture, must cease warrantless domestic surveillance and must declare without qualification the United States does not torture people.

The Bush administration, which denies torturing suspects, has been criticized by human rights groups for using waterboarding, a widely condemned technique that simulates drowning, and other tough interrogation methods on al Qaeda suspects captured after the September 11 attacks.

CONTROVERSIAL PARDON

The source said Democrats in the Senate were trying to gauge how much opposition there would be to Holder from Republicans over his role in Clinton's controversial 2001 pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.

Holder at the time said he was "neutral, leaning toward favorable" on the pardon. Justice Department prosecutors were upset he did not oppose the pardon, issued on Clinton's last day in office. Rich's ex-wife was a major donor to Clinton and the Democratic Party.

The senior Democrat said at this point the Rich pardon does not appear to be "a fatal flaw concern."

The Justice Department's inspector general last week listed "restoring confidence" at number five among the department's top 10 challenges for 2008.

"The immediate challenge for the attorney general and the department's leadership is to ensure that the serious problems and misconduct we found regarding politicized hiring for career positions and the dismissal of U.S. attorneys do not recur," his report said.

The scandals which hurt the Justice Department's reputation included findings that department officials used political factors in the hiring and firing of federal prosecutors and other Justice Department employees.

Two Justice Department officials said Holder, a former prosecutor who handled corruption cases, a local judge and then the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., was generally respected, admired and well regarded by career employees.

"We're very happy with the choice," said one official who knew Holder when he had previously been at the department.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who would hold a confirmation hearing on the attorney general nominee, has been complimentary of Holder in the past. But he had no comment on the possible nomination on Tuesday.

Holder helped vet candidates to become Obama's vice presidential running mate and has been a senior legal adviser for Obama's presidential campaign.

A partner at the law firm Covington & Burling in the District of Columbia, Holder was not immediately available for comment.

(additional reporting by Randall Mikkelsen, Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Copyright © 2008 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
*****
See some concerns from The Nation's recent article 1st posted November 18, 2008 by John Nichols (who's astute on The Constitution) entitled "The Trouble with Holder" (I'm putting this here, not to disparage the above article at all, simply for those of us who are represented by Congress folk to see that the right questions are asked during the confirmation process)

The Trouble with Holder

Quick! Name the veteran Department of Justice insider who, shortly after the USA Patriot Act was signed into law and at a point when the Bush administration was proposing to further erode barriers to governmental abuses, argued that dissenters should not be tolerated?

Who invoked September 11, explicitly referencing "the World Trade Center aflame," in calling for the firing of any "petty bureaucrat" who might suggest that proper procedures be followed and that the separation of powers be respected?

John Ashcroft? No.

Alberto Gonzales? No.

It was Eric Holder, the man who has reportedly been selected by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as the next Attorney General of the United States.

Appearing on CNN in June, 2002, the former Clinton administration Justice Department aide sounded as if he had just stepped out of the Bush camp: "We're dealing with a different world now. Everybody should remember those pictures that we saw on September the 11th. The World Trade Centers aflame, the pictures of the Pentagon, and any time some petty bureaucrat decides that his or her little piece of turf is being invaded, get rid of that person. Those are the kinds of things we have to do."

If that's unsettling, consider the fact that Holder was part of the legal team that in 2005 developed strategies for securing re-authorization of the Patriot Act.

Much will be made of Holder's role as a deputy attorney general in helping former President Clinton arrange for the last-minute pardon of fugitive/Democratic campaign contributor Marc Rich. (Holder said he gave Clinton a "neutral, leaning towards favorable" opinion of the proposed pardon.) And it will also be noted that Holder, as a corporate lawyer in private practice after leaving the Clinton team, played a key role in negotiating an agreement with the Justice Department that got Chiquita Brands International executives off the hook for paying protection money to right-wing death squads in Colombia.

But the first questions for Holder should go to the issue of his attitude toward the role of the attorney general in defending the Constitution. Holder's defenders will point to some eloquent speeches he has given, including one he delivered in June to the American Constitutional Society. In that speech, the former deputy attorney general condemned the Bush administration's "disastrous course" set by the Bush administration on issues such as torture and the practice of rendition.

"Our needlessly abusive and unlawful practices in the ‘War on Terror' have diminished our standing in the world community and made us less, rather than more, safe," Holder said, correctly. "For the sake of our safety and security, and because it is the right thing to do, the next president must move immediately to reclaim America's standing in the world as a nation that cherishes and protects individual freedom and basic human rights."

That's a good message, to be sure.

But it must be juxtaposed against past statements made by Holder, such as this one: "The Attorney General is the one Cabinet member who's different from all the rest. The Attorney General serves first the people, but also serves the president. There has to be a closeness at the same time there needs to be distance."

What we need to know is this: How close would Holder, as attorney general, get to obeying his oath to defend the Constitution?

The place for that to happen is in a very serious, very aggressive confirmation process that should not simply presume that Holder will "get it" when questions about the Constitution arise.
*****
Go to The Nation website for many comments

1 comment:

Connie L. Nash said...

Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Current News (just an example of some of the actions urgently called for by so many urging the rule of law and human rights)

11/18, Andy Worthington, AndyWorthington.co.uk, 20 Reasons To Shut Down The Guantánamo Trials

11/18, James Risen & Eric Lichtblau, New York Times, Early Test for Obama on Domestic Spying Views

11/18, Juan Castillo, Austin (TX) American-Statesman, Many states - but not Texas - resist federal ID law

11/18, Lara Jakes Jordan, Associated Press, Obama Advisers: Torture Prosecutions Not Likely

11/18, Common Dreams, Coalition Releases Liberty and Security Policy Roadmap for Next Administration and Congress

11/17, Joanne Mariner, Jurist, Obama should create independent commission to investigate detainee abuse

11/17, Associated Press, ACLU denounces Gitmo judge's replacement

Find all these (by scrolling down) & get the free daily updates by email here:

www.bordc.org