Holder Affirms Rule of Law, Won’t Say How He’ll Enforce It

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Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 12:24 pm

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In a keynote speech at the opening of the West Point Military Academy’s Center for the Rule of Law last night, Attorney General Eric Holder made a point of breaking with the Bush administration by affirming the United States’ commitment to international law and acknowledging that the United States has not always lived up to those legal commitments. But even as he extolled the the military officials who’ve stood up for the rule of law, he carefully avoided mentioning the controversial legal policies initiated by the Bush administration that his own Justice Department continues to support. And he failed to explain how the Obama administration can credibly claim to uphold the rule of law when it refuses to investigate the most egregious legal violations by its predecessors.

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

“There are some today who argue that as the most powerful military force on earth, international laws will only hinder our efforts and endanger our strength,” said Holder in one of the stronger moments of his speech. “But I reject the very premise of that argument. . . . our strength as a country is amplified – not diminished – when we expand the sphere of the rule of law across the globe.”

In part, Holder’s statement was an implicit endorsement of Harold Hongju Koh, President Obama’s nominee for State Department legal advisor. Koh has been harshly criticized by conservative Republicans for writing that international law should guide all nations, including the United States.

But many of Holder’s other statements seemed more to highlight the controversies of his own Justice Department than to take any specific principled stand.

Holder acknowledged, for example, that the United States has “not always been immune to the impulse to sacrifice the timeless principles of the rule of law to the transient fears of the moment,” without specifically mentioning the Bush administration’s violations of the Geneva Conventions or the Convention Against Torture, or how he intends to respond to them.

Holder is now under great pressure to restore the law-abiding reputation that the United States lost during the Bush years. Whether he can do that will rest in part on how he responds to the Bush administration’s torture and abuse of detainees – all clear violations of domestic and international law. So far, he has skirted the issue, although he’s consistently claimed that “no one is above the law.”

One test will come Thursday, when the Department of Justice faces a court deadline to produce three controversial memos prepared by the Office of Legal Counsel under the Bush administration that reportedly provided legal justification for its harshest interrogation policies. If those legal justifications are flimsy, as is widely expected, they could serve as additional evidence of unethical and illegal conduct by the department. Previous OLC memos justifying extraordinary executive power, torture of prisoners and the suspension of the Bill of Rights during wartime have been harshly criticized, even by former Bush officials.

The Obama administration will also have to reveal soon how it intends to deal with the cases of some 240 men captured in the Bush “war on terror” and still imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay. (President Obama suspended proceedings before the military commissions created by the Bush administration until May 22.)

Holder did not say last night how he would address that problem — whether through the existing military commissions, the federal court system, the military justice system or some new “hybrid” court — but he pledged that his solution will be “grounded in the Constitution.” And he acknowledged that it’s been military lawyers who have most strongly advocated that the U.S. government adhere to legal standards.

“In our current struggle against international terrorism, when others surrendered faithful obedience to the law to the circumstances of the time, it was the brave men and women in the JAG Corps who stood up against the tides, many times risking their careers to do so,” said Holder, referring to Judge Advocates General who stood up to their superiors, like Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes, who favored bypassing the Geneva Conventions and other legal protections for wartime detainees. “We all can learn from their example.”

But has Holder himself learned that lesson?

Last night, the Attorney General referred to the internment of 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent during World War II as “one of the darkest moments in American constitutional history,” noting that the Japanese were imprisoned on suspicion of being dangerous, “without a single hearing or finding of fact.”

Holder never once mentioned that the United States is currently detaining about 600 men — some for more than six years — at the U.S.-run Bagram air base in Afghanistan. A federal court ruled recently that those men aren’t getting any meaningful hearings or findings of fact, either. Still, Holder’s Justice Department last Friday filed a document seeking to appeal the decision, which granted just three of the non-Afghan prisoners habeas corpus rights.

In an apparent attempt to justify other decisions of his department, which has broadly invoked the “state secrets privilege” to dismiss cases challenging government conduct, Holder admitted that many of the decisions he makes as attorney general “will never be known to the public or to the press, because even as we usher in a new period of openness and transparency, many national security decisions must by necessity be made in a manner that protects our ability to gather intelligence, investigate threats and execute wars.”

That need not mean that the executive will ignore the rule of law, he insisted.

“[A] need to act behind closed doors does not grant a license to pursue policies, and to take actions, that cannot withstand the disinfecting power of sunlight,” Holder said, alluding to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’s famous phrase, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

“In fact, it is in those moments – the moments when no one is watching – when we must be most vigilant in relying on the rule of law to govern our conduct,” said Holder.

“With every decision I make,” he continued, “I ask myself two questions. Will it stand up to scrutiny by the courts, and will it stand up to scrutiny by the American people.”

Yet in fighting to prevent scrutiny by the courts – both of secret government policies or of the government’s justification for the continued indefinite detention of hundreds of prisoners – the Attorney General has sought to eliminate the role of both the courts and the public as a check on executive power. Instead, he seemed to suggest last night, the American people should trust him.

The Obama administration’s supporters may want very much to be able to do that. But many of the Attorney General’s recent positions in ongoing cases suggest that that would not be wise. And fortunately, if the constitutional system that Holder praised so profusely last night means anything, it will not allow that.

Eric Holder would do well to keep in mind his own words: “Discarding the very values that have made us the greatest nation on earth will not make us stronger – it will make us weaker and tear at the very fibers of who we are. There simply is no tension between an effective fight against those who have sworn to do us harm, and a respect for the most honored civil liberties that have made us who we are.”

Comments

31 Comments

Hawaiian style
Comment posted April 16, 2009 @ 11:19 am

The Geneva Conventions that we helped to create and agreed to follow forbid torture.
We have our own laws that forbid torture.
We have a National Military stake in not torturing.
We have a National moral stake in not torturing.
We have an international reputation that is at stake.

We have failed in all of these things
We have tortured. We have broken the law.

We have in the past participated in prosecuting foreign torturers.

WE have now tortured humans. WE are torturers. This is an undeniable fact. We can now either show our Nation and the world that this was an aberration by misguided former LEADERS or we can show the Nation and the World that we are no longer a nation of law. Does the law “reset” with a new Administration? Does the law not apply to us?

Is a new Administration free to pick and choose what laws it will enforce, and what criminals it will prosecute. Is the new Administration free to ignore Huge violations of law that happened in the past? Is the new Administration free to let law violations lie fallow and wait for some Statute of Limitations to expire? Violations that we know occurred. Violations that we know our previous LEADERS authorized and urged their subordinates to do.

Are we a “Nation of Law” only when it is popular, convenient or easy? Are we a “Nation of Law” only when it is politically correct or acceptable?

Do we have leaders that understand they can be Great Leaders or charismatic politicians, but sometimes on some issues not both. Is the investigation of torture one of those questions that our leaders hope will disappear in the news cycle with the latest crises causing the Nation and the World to forget?

Does a pronouncement that we want to move forward, to look to the future absolve us from our duty to investigate and prosecute criminals, no matter who or where they are found? Are not all crimes committed in the past and investigated and prosecuted in the present?

Do we as Americans want to see the Spanish try Americans as they can under the Geneva Convention?

“We are a nation of laws” but only if its convenient?
“We are a nation of laws” but only if the world won't forget the crimes?

Attorney General Holder??? President Obama!!!?

Please….Sirs…


Holder reaffirms rule of law, but doesn’t say how he’ll enforce it « Later On
Pingback posted April 16, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

[...] Daily life, Democrats, Government, Law, Obama administration, Torture at 1:22 pm by LeisureGuy Daphne Eviatar in the Washington Independent: In a keynote speech at the opening of the West Point Military Academy’s Center for the Rule of [...]


Will Justice Ever be Seen to be done? | angrypolymath.com
Pingback posted April 17, 2009 @ 6:47 am

[...] proceedings, but the citizenry also has responsibilities here. However Attorney General  Holder Dodged Key Legal Issues During Speech at West Point. The ICRC has laid open the case for an investigation. [...]


Video Bokep
Comment posted April 19, 2009 @ 7:16 am

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Hawaiian style
Comment posted April 20, 2009 @ 10:38 am

Obviously with the Emmanual comments that the US will not punish those that wrote the torture memos, we are being fed piecemeal policy. Every few days we are told the US will not pursue or punish our torturers.

This is managing the the news so we won't get upset if we are told nothing is going to happen all at once.

It is also shameful that justice is being tempered by political considerations.

Obviously the more things change the more they stay the same.


Hawaiian style
Comment posted April 21, 2009 @ 1:23 am

Attny General Holder:

Justice is in your hands.
America's reputation in the past rested solidly on our reputation as a nation of law.

Are we still a nation of law???

Please Sir, Torture is a crime. A horrible crime. Waterboarding a person 180 times is torture beyond torture. There can be NO justification for such repeated and inhumane action, NONE.

History will record what you do, Sir. It will either say the then Attny General Holder courageously appointed an independent prosecutor who investigated the whole sorry matter. Those found to have a direct part in the torture ordering or carrying out the order were prosecuted. And thus history will record how America was truly a “Nation of Law” under a very courageous man, A.G. Holder.

Or, someday an administration will say we did this before. Back in the Second Bush administration we used these enhanced interrogation techniques to great advantage. ????!!!! Revisionist history…sure, but inevitable if we do not investigate and prosecute.

Please sir, as a once proud American I want to be proud again. Honor all the fallen soldiers in all of our wars that have fought and have died to preserve the Constitution and the Honor of America.

Please sir…


Matt
Comment posted April 22, 2009 @ 3:07 am

WIll Holden allow government prosecutors to drop charges against Israeli spies and AIPAC's Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman? Wiill Holden charge Rep Jane Harman with treason given her traitorous liaison with Mossad agent Naor Gilon? I guess its up to Holden to showthe world who rules America?


KoleksiFotoBugil
Comment posted May 6, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

Yes, I agree…
I guess its up to Holden to showthe world who rules America?


terminsurance
Comment posted May 7, 2009 @ 9:00 am

I salute what Eric Holder said. He said it loud and clear and its really from the heart. I was really touched.


Hawaiian style
Comment posted May 11, 2009 @ 11:19 am

How did we arrive at the place where the government has to hide its actions from its citizens? Either they think we will not tolerate their actions or they know their actions are illegal or immoral.

We have somehow as citizens accepted that our governing officials will lie or avoid telling us the truth of their policies or actions. Where did we turn down this road?

Our Attorney General, THE law enforcement officer, is sliding around the torture problem. He simply has to appoint a special prosecutor and step out of the way. Why is he not doing this? It is obvious that we have tortured. It is obvious that torture is against the law. It is obvious that our torturing has damaged not only our National Image, but helped Al Qaeda recruit many many men to their cause. It is obvious that the longer we don't investigate those that enabled, ordered and tortured the more the world says, “See the great US moral nation. It is good at preaching to the world, but turns out to be a, 'do as I say, not as I do Nation'.” This lack of prosecution still enables Al Qaeda to continue to recruit and point to the US as the Great Satan.

When the administration talks about looking forward, unless we prosecute those that broke the torture laws, we will for sure look forward to another episode some day where the officials will say, “this is different. This (what ever horrible action) requires we pull out all the stops and find those responsible, etc., etc.” Unfortunately when the administration says they want to look forward they really mean we want to look elsewhere.

Mr. Holder you can either be a Patriot is the mold of John Adams, or you can be a slicker Albert Gonzales.

As time goes by it will be harder for the present Administration to say we are a nation of laws. The legal duty that we agreed to was not to torture, and to investigate and prosecute those that do.

Knowing this and that we tortured, how can the present administration officials say they are law abiding? How after a year or two of ducking this legal duty will they have credibility in the international community?

Between torture, domestic spying and other Constitutional and law violations there are too many parallels between this administration and the Bush administration. That alone should be enough reason to appoint a special prosecutor.


johnhkennedy
Comment posted May 31, 2009 @ 8:33 am

The Only Way our Rule Of Law CAN Be Affirmed IS BY “ENFORCEMENT”

Holder is Just Yammering and hopes this goes away.

The voters are angry. We know that Politicians who Refuse to Enforce the Federal Law on Torture
and Refuse to Protect Our Constitutional Rights,

WILL NEVER
Get Us Single Payer Health Care.
They Haven't The Courage.

TORTURE ! IS A FEDERAL CRIME – SEE The Law http://tinyurl.com/besdd3

It is Never Debatable and Never Morally Correct.
IT is a heinous Federal Capital Crime.

WHY IS OBAMA PROTECTING BUSH AND CHENEY?
They obviously violated Federal Law.

If you do nothing else for your Country today,

SIGN THE PETITION To Prosecute Them For Torture
AT ANGRYVOTERS dot ORG

http://ANGRYVOTERS.ORG

Over 250,000 have signed
Join them and call yourself a Patriot

.


Cerita Panas
Comment posted June 10, 2009 @ 12:47 pm

Nice info… useful for me, thanks a lot sir….


Cerita Panas
Comment posted June 10, 2009 @ 7:47 pm

Nice info… useful for me, thanks a lot sir….


BokepGratis
Comment posted June 27, 2009 @ 12:30 am

Mr. Holder you can either be a Patriot is the mold of John Adams, or you can be a slicker Albert Gonzales…. I agree…


earlycsa
Comment posted June 28, 2009 @ 8:45 pm

Daphne, You failed to mention who imprisoned those Japanese Americans. Only an oversight I suppose, since it was your great socialist leader FDR. And Eric Holder that paragon of virtue who knows how to pardon the chosen ones of the Clintonista regime. Only for the good ole' days of Bubba and stained dresses. No playing around now that you've got a “Real Progressive” as der leader,All Hail Obamanation! Too bad communism never works economically,but give it a try anyway,you've drunk too much cool aid to recover.


Bokep Indo
Comment posted July 17, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

WHY IS OBAMA PROTECTING BUSH AND CHENEY?
They obviously violated Federal Law.

Lol… heheehe….


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Video Bokep
Comment posted August 10, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

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BEN1234
Comment posted August 27, 2009 @ 7:44 am

From what I could assimilate fom the article, in regard to Eric Holder views and the writers comments drawing readers attension to the salient point where eric hollder either missed to apply his mind or missed to elaborate or even intentioally avoided to expain the details. Therefore, it will be seen that though Mr. Eric Hollader is an exponent of international law to be applicable on USA as is on other countries of the world. All said and done, there are issues where in, Atrroney Generals finds difficult to meet the two end difficult. As the idea of International law to be applicable on USA is contrary to many of his own controversial statement regarding the Justice department
Ultimately everything boils down to one thing, and that is the immediate need of a thorough over haul of the Justice system with a view to bring confromity with the system of proper rule of law keeping enough scope to adopt the provisions of International law, incorporating therein the requirement of National Interest (with no advance hypothetical/Schemers planned danger expection) to the Nation's secuirity”. And to oblierate like the futre scope to incorporate any provisions like that of highly unethical (immoral)induction of changes made in the legal system by the then BUSH administration.

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL is defenitely right to support the cause of “RULE OF LAW” and to and to be within the jurisdiction of international law. A country which does support the cause and of Rule of law, then it would be assumed its run by Jungle law. Yes kit was during BUSH and CHENEY era.


Bokep 3gp
Comment posted September 8, 2009 @ 9:02 pm

“We are a nation of laws” but only if its convenient?
“We are a nation of laws” but only if the world won't forget the crimes?

Attorney General Holder??? President Obama!!!?


Cerita Dewasa
Comment posted October 15, 2009 @ 4:50 pm

Hi, thanks for the post, I agree with most of it and

some of it people might see as ‘controversial’.
I look forward to reading more of your postings soon…

Thankyou.


Koleksi Video Bugil
Comment posted December 21, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

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Cerita Dewasa Se
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Cerita Dewasa Seks
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Cerita Dewasa Seks
Comment posted February 19, 2010 @ 2:41 pm

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Cewek Bugil
Comment posted February 19, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

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Comment posted July 6, 2010 @ 9:07 am

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miu miu
Comment posted July 6, 2010 @ 9:10 am

All that I could assimilate fom the article, in regard to Eric Holder's views and the writers comments drawing readers attention to the salient points where Eric Hollder, either missed to apply his mind or missed to elaborate or even intentionally avoided to explain the details.


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Comment posted August 4, 2010 @ 5:41 am

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