Is Obama's AG finally ready to keep his April 'promise' to protesters?...
By Brad Friedman on 7/11/2009, 3:25pm PT  

In a long article from NEWSWEEK's Daniel Klaidman today, it's reported that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is weighing the appointment a special prosecutor to investigate Bush/Cheney-era torture policies, and may now be "on the verge" of finally doing so...

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."

The detailed story explores the tensions between the White House and an independent AG --- a tension that is ever present in any WH/DoJ relationship --- and how Holder seems to be fighting to maintain that independence, while remaining in good stead with the White House where, it seems, Rahm Emmanuel may be the one calling the shots in Obama's ill-considered (or, at least, politically-considered) "look forward not back" policy...

"The thing I have to watch out for is the desire to be a team player," [Holder] says, well aware that he's on the verge of becoming something else entirely.

The report goes on to note that Holder began reviewing the former administration's torture policies "in April," and "became increasingly troubled" as he did.

To connect a dot or two here, that would be around the same time --- April 24th of this year --- when Holder told anti-torture protesters, off mic, after a Congressional hearing at which he testified, that they would "be proud of [their] country" in response to their demands for investigation and prosecution of those policies.

Though we noted what protester David Swanson had reported as a "promise" at the time, few others took any notice of what we'd regarded as a very positive, if quiet, sign that he had intended to do the right thing here...

Again from NEWSWEEK:

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.
...
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.
...
[I]n late June Holder asked an aide for a copy of the CIA inspector general's thick classified report on interrogation abuses. He cleared his schedule and, over two days, holed up alone in his Justice Depart ment office, immersed himself in what Dick Cheney once referred to as "the dark side." He read the report twice, the first time as a lawyer, looking for evidence and instances of transgressions that might call for prosecution. The second time, he started to absorb what he was reading at a more emotional level. He was "shocked and saddened," he told a friend, by what government servants were alleged to have done in America's name.

Let's hope here that Holder does the right thing for the country, as opposed to the "right thing" for Emmanuel's perception of what is best for the Obama administration.

It's time to do the right thing, Mr. Holder. Torture is illegal. Period. It's in violation of U.S. Law and in violation of international treaties signed by President Ronald Reagan, who called the practice "abhorrent" and agreed that our country is "required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution."

Torture is also a war crime, about which, just before the Iraq War, even George W. Bush himself said on video that such crimes "will be prosecuted, war criminals will be punished and it will be no defense to say, 'I was just following orders.'"

The Rule of Law must be respected, no matter how high ranking the officials who determine to break it...and worse, break it in our name.

History is watching, Mr. Holder.