Holder May Probe Bush-era Torture Anyway?

(6 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Daniel Klaidman at Newsweek has a somewhat tantalizing article up just a little while ago today that may indicate a little hope for war crimes prosecution is not unreasonable…

Independent’s Day

By Daniel Klaidman | NEWSWEEK

Published Jul 11, 2009

Obama doesn’t want to look back, but Attorney General Eric Holder may probe Bush-era torture anyway.

Alone among cabinet officers, attorneys general are partisan appointees expected to rise above partisanship. All struggle to find a happy medium between loyalty and independence. Few succeed. At one extreme looms Alberto Gonzales, who allowed the Justice Department to be run like Tammany Hall. At the other is Janet Reno, whose righteousness and folksy eccentricities marginalized her within the Clinton administration. Lean too far one way and you corrupt the office, too far the other way and you render yourself impotent. Mindful of history, Holder is trying to get the balance right. “You have the responsibility of enforcing the nation’s laws, and you have to be seen as neutral, detached, and nonpartisan in that effort,” Holder says. “But the reality of being A.G. is that I’m also part of the president’s team. I want the president to succeed; I campaigned for him. I share his world view and values.”

These are not just the philosophical musings of a new attorney general. Holder, 58, may be on the verge of asserting his independence in a profound way. Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that he is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do. While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama’s domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. “I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president’s agenda,” he says. “But that can’t be a part of my decision.”

[snip]

Any White House tests an attorney general’s strength. But one run by Rahm Emanuel requires a particular brand of fortitude. A legendary enforcer of presidential will, Emanuel relentlessly tries to anticipate political threats that could harm his boss. He hates surprises. That makes the Justice Department, with its independent mandate, an inherently nervous-making place for Emanuel. During the first Clinton administration, he was famous for blitzing Justice officials with phone calls, obsessively trying to gather intelligence, plant policy ideas, and generally keep tabs on the department.

One of his main interlocutors back then was Holder. With Reno marginalized by the Clintonites, Holder, then serving as deputy attorney general, became the White House’s main channel to Justice. A mutual respect developed between the two men, and an affection endures to this day. (Malone, a well-regarded ob-gyn, delivered one of Emanuel’s kids.) “Rahm’s style is often misunderstood,” says Holder. “He brings a rigor and a discipline that is a net plus to this administration.” For his part, Emanuel calls Holder a “strong, independent attorney general.” But Emanuel’s agitated presence hangs over the building-“the wrath of Rahm,” one Justice lawyer calls it-and he is clearly on the minds of Holder and his aides as they weigh whether to launch a probe into the Bush administration’s interrogation policies.

Holder began to review those policies in April. As he pored over reports and listened to briefings, he became increasingly troubled. There were startling indications that some interrogators had gone far beyond what had been authorized in the legal opinions issued by the Justice Department, which were themselves controversial. He told one intimate that what he saw “turned my stomach.”

It was soon clear to Holder that he might have to launch an investigation to determine whether crimes were committed under the Bush administration and prosecutions warranted. The obstacles were obvious. For a new administration to reach back and investigate its predecessor is rare, if not unprecedented. After having been deeply involved in the decision to authorize Ken Starr to investigate Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, Holder well knew how politicized things could get. He worried about the impact on the CIA, whose operatives would be at the center of any probe. And he could clearly read the signals coming out of the White House. President Obama had already deflected the left wing of his party and human-rights organizations by saying, “We should be looking forward and not backwards” when it came to Bush-era abuses.

Still, Holder couldn’t shake what he had learned in reports about the treatment of prisoners at the CIA’s “black sites.” If the public knew the details, he and his aides figured, there would be a groundswell of support for an independent probe. He raised with his staff the possibility of appointing a prosecutor. According to three sources familiar with the process, they discussed several potential choices and the criteria for such a sensitive investigation. Holder was looking for someone with “gravitas and grit,” according to one of these sources, all of whom declined to be named. At one point, an aide joked that Holder might need to clone Patrick Fitzgerald, the hard-charging, independent-minded U.S. attorney who had prosecuted Scooter Libby in the Plamegate affair. In the end, Holder asked for a list of 10 candidates, five from within the Justice Department and five from outside.

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59 comments

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    • Edger on July 11, 2009 at 11:32 pm
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    for disappointment once more, but keep pushing anyway… never give an inch.

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  1. tease me, bro.

    Life in the twentieth century is like a parachute jump: you have to get it right the first time.

    ~Margaret Mead

    • Edger on July 11, 2009 at 11:49 pm
      Author
  2. …Hope springs eternal!

    • dkmich on July 12, 2009 at 12:11 am

    would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama’s domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform.

    Maybe then they’ll all go back into campaign mode and start passing some legislation worth a shit.  

    • Heather on July 12, 2009 at 12:31 am

    I thought I was going to throw up.

    Seems pretty cut and dry to me.

    Either it is or it isn’t.

    NOT prosecuting if there is evidence is politicizing it.

    • Edger on July 12, 2009 at 1:03 am
      Author

    the real president? The real guy in charge in Washington?

    • rb137 on July 12, 2009 at 1:13 am

    This is good news, though.

  3. As I am sure they will both have something to say on the matter.

    As should we all. These are High Crimes, and serious matters.

  4. with some spin… to calm the freak outs I guess. And this is just because HOlder is CONSIDERING it. yeesh.

    WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder is considering whether to appoint a criminal prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s interrogation practices, a controversial move that would run counter to President Barack Obama’s wishes to leave the issue in the past.

    Holder plans to make a final decision within the next few weeks, a Justice Department official told The Associated Press on Saturday night. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on a pending matter.

    Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller said Holder planned to “follow the facts and the law.”

    “We have made no decisions on investigations or prosecutions, including whether to appoint a prosecutor to conduct further inquiry,” he said. “As the attorney general has made clear, it would be unfair to prosecute any official who acted in good faith based on legal guidance from the Justice Department.”

    A move to appoint a prosecutor is certain to stir partisan bickering that could create a distraction to Obama’s efforts to push health care and energy reform. Obama has repeatedly expressed reluctance to having a probe, saying the nation should be “looking forward and not backwards” when it came to Bush-era abuses.

    And there’s our Word for the Week: “certain”. okay.

    link.

  5. http://www.commondreams.org/vi

  6. and politically opaque for obvious crimes of this magnitude. The part the DoJ seems to be consistently playing in all of the lawlessness from FISA to torture and every other damn thing is ass backwards. Digby is right

    If that was the intention of the revolutionaries who broke away from despotic monarchical rule, they could have saved themselves a lot of trouble. At this point, both political parties agree that if the president has a low level lawyer in the Justice Department write a secret memo authorizing him to break the law then all those who broke those laws are legally immunized from any punishment . . . .

    holder himself has always worried me. He is another Clintonite, pretty much a pack of gatekeepers for the darkside imho. When does the Law kick in, if this is still political I don’t hold much hope out for any meaningful investigation or prosecution. The Law is King is apparently as quaint as the constitution.      

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