Wednesday, January 28, 2009

BREAKING: "Holder assures GOP on interrogation prosecution" (Updated)

UPDATE: Aide--"Holder Has Made No Decisions On Prosecuting Bush Officials."

Washington Times:
President Obama's choice to run the Justice Department has assured senior Republican senators that he won't prosecute intelligence officers or political appointees who were involved in the Bush administration's policy of "enhanced interrogations."
Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, a Republican from Missouri and the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in an interview with The Washington Times that he will support Eric H. Holder Jr.'s nomination for Attorney General because Mr. Holder assured him privately that Mr. Obama's Justice Department will not prosecute former Bush officials involved in the interrogations program.

Mr. Holder's promise apparently was key to moving his nomination forward. Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 17-2 to favorably recommend Holder for the post. He is likely to be confirmed by the Senate soon.

Sen. Bond also said that Mr. Holder told him in a private meeting Tuesday that he will not strip the telecommunications companies that cooperated with the National Security Agency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks of retroactive legal immunity from civil lawsuits--removing another potential sticking point among GOP senators.

In the interview Wednesday, Mr. Bond said, "I made it clear that trying to prosecute political leaders would generate a political firestorm the Obama administration doesn't need."

He added, "I was concerned about previous statements he made and others had made. He gave me assurances that he would not take those steps that would cause major disruptions in our intelligence system or cause political warfare. We don't need that kind of political warfare. He gave me assurances he is looking forward."

Mr. Bond also said, "I believe he will look forward to keep the nation safe and not look backwards to prosecute intelligence operators who were fighting terror and kept our country safe since 9-11."

Mr. Holder made a similar point to senators last week in a little-noticed written response to questions from Republican senators Jon Kyl of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas. Mr. Holder indicated that he would not prosecute any intelligence officers who participated in the interrogation program and who had followed Justice Department guidance.

Prosecutorial and investigative judgments must depend on the facts and no one is above the law, Mr. Holder wrote. But where it is clear that a government agent has acted in 'reasonable and good faith reliance on Justice Department legal opinions' authoritatively permitting his conduct, I would find it difficult to justify commencing a full blown criminal investigation, let alone a prosecution.

The legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union, Caroline Fredrickson, said Wednesday that she was alarmed by Mr. Bond's statements and was hoping, Kit Bond is not stating this in the way that Mr. Holder stated it to him. She added, We are hoping there will be a clarification. It would be extraordinary if our top prosecutor, before taking office, would have predetermined whether or not to pursue certain cases because of political pressure.

Mr. Holder testified for nearly eight hours during a confirmation hearing last week, but Republicans said they were still unsure about whether Mr. Holder would seek to prosecute soldiers and intelligence officials who were involved in so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" that some consider torture.

Mr. Holder received an important boost Tuesday when Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and ranking member of the judiciary committee, announced he would support the nomination.

Mr. Specter called "satisfactory" Mr. Holder's statements that interrogation techniques authorized by legal opinions would provide a strong cover from prosecutions. According to Mr. Specter, Mr. Holder could not make any more explicit statements without knowing the facts of specific cases.

Mr. Holder's quest to become the first African-American attorney general took a significant step Wednesday with the Judiciary Committee voting to send his nomination to the full senate.

The committee recommended President Obama's nomination for the nation's top law enforcement officer by a 17-2 vote. Only Republican senators John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma opposed the nomination; the committee's six other Republicans supported Mr. Holder.
Mr. Holder, 58, is all but certain to be confirmed by the Democrat-controlled senate and would become the first black person to lead the Justice Department. A vote on his nomination has not been scheduled, though a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said they are working to line up a vote for Thursday.
Howie P.S.: I remain hopeful that this is not the "final answer" on this issue. I see no reference to other instances of possible illegality, not involving "interrogation," by officials of the Bush administration.

1 comment:

Daniel Kirkdorffer said...

And of course, others could take these people to court - Holder doesn't have to be the only one.