Commentary Magazine


Topic: Eric Holder

Holder Found in Contempt of Congress

As expected, the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, largely along party lines, 255 to 67. Seventeen Democrats crossed over to vote for contempt with the GOP, while more than 100 Democrats sat out the vote in protest.

Now that the resolution has passed, the issue will be turned over to the Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ronald Machen to decide whether he wants to pursue charges against Holder, who is, of course, Machen’s boss. Machen, as you may recall, is also leading the investigation into the White House national security leaks, and Republicans have already been raising alarms about that conflict of interest.

According to CNN, Machen has no obligation to do anything with the Holder dispute, and considering his position, he probably won’t. But the GOP will likely point out that the White House is blocking two investigations from independent scrutiny, a major deviation from its rhetoric on transparency.

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As expected, the House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, largely along party lines, 255 to 67. Seventeen Democrats crossed over to vote for contempt with the GOP, while more than 100 Democrats sat out the vote in protest.

Now that the resolution has passed, the issue will be turned over to the Obama-appointed U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ronald Machen to decide whether he wants to pursue charges against Holder, who is, of course, Machen’s boss. Machen, as you may recall, is also leading the investigation into the White House national security leaks, and Republicans have already been raising alarms about that conflict of interest.

According to CNN, Machen has no obligation to do anything with the Holder dispute, and considering his position, he probably won’t. But the GOP will likely point out that the White House is blocking two investigations from independent scrutiny, a major deviation from its rhetoric on transparency.

The criminal charge isn’t the only avenue the House GOP is pursuing. They may be able to get some results through civil action, CNN reports:

House Republicans are well aware of this recent history, which helps explain the separate measure authorizing a civil action. That resolution, according to a GOP spokesman, would allow the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to file a lawsuit asking the courts to examine the Justice Department’s failure to produce certain subpoenaed documents, as well as the validity of the administration’s assertion of executive privilege.

Even then, it will take awhile before Republicans get any documents they may be owed — likely too long to matter in the upcoming election. But that doesn’t mean the White House is off the hook. Politically, this looks terrible. To have an attorney general held in contempt for withholding documents related to the murder of a border patrol officer is bad enough. To have a president who is seen as actively protecting this attorney general is much worse, particularly in an administration that already has a history of eschewing independent investigations.

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New Holder Emails Raise More Questions

The Associated Press (AP) has reported on three emails from 2011 that Attorney General Eric Holder showed members of Congress at a Tuesday meeting, during his last-ditch effort to avert today’s contempt vote. The emails supposedly show Holder hadn’t known about Operation Fast and Furious until February 2011 and immediately set out to get to the bottom of the issue.

Keep in mind, the AP didn’t see the actual emails — the contents were “described” by people who had seen them — and there are few specific quotes given in the article. If this is supposed to be evidence that Holder was doing the right thing, it seems pretty flimsy:

CBS News ran a story on Feb. 23, 2011. On March 3, CBS followed up, and the non-profit Center for Public Integrity weighed in with its own online account.

On Feb. 23, aides passed along to the attorney general the CBS story alleging gun-walking, and the attorney general shot back, “We need answers on this. Not defensive BS. Real answers.”

Five days later, Holder asked the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate.

On March 3…the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, emailed his staff: “We obviously need to get to the bottom of this.”

Holder was skeptical of any assurances.

“I hope the AG understands that we did not allow guns to walk,” an official at the ATF’s Washington headquarters said on March 10 in an email that Holder’s aides forwarded to the attorney general.

In a response, Holder wrote, “Do they really, really know” that there was no gun-walking?

A day earlier, at Holder’s instruction, the Justice Department had sent out a directive to the field reinforcing a longtime Justice Department policy against gun-walking. The directive said that agents must not allow guns to cross the border into Mexico.

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The Associated Press (AP) has reported on three emails from 2011 that Attorney General Eric Holder showed members of Congress at a Tuesday meeting, during his last-ditch effort to avert today’s contempt vote. The emails supposedly show Holder hadn’t known about Operation Fast and Furious until February 2011 and immediately set out to get to the bottom of the issue.

Keep in mind, the AP didn’t see the actual emails — the contents were “described” by people who had seen them — and there are few specific quotes given in the article. If this is supposed to be evidence that Holder was doing the right thing, it seems pretty flimsy:

CBS News ran a story on Feb. 23, 2011. On March 3, CBS followed up, and the non-profit Center for Public Integrity weighed in with its own online account.

On Feb. 23, aides passed along to the attorney general the CBS story alleging gun-walking, and the attorney general shot back, “We need answers on this. Not defensive BS. Real answers.”

Five days later, Holder asked the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate.

On March 3…the No. 2 official at the Justice Department, emailed his staff: “We obviously need to get to the bottom of this.”

Holder was skeptical of any assurances.

“I hope the AG understands that we did not allow guns to walk,” an official at the ATF’s Washington headquarters said on March 10 in an email that Holder’s aides forwarded to the attorney general.

In a response, Holder wrote, “Do they really, really know” that there was no gun-walking?

A day earlier, at Holder’s instruction, the Justice Department had sent out a directive to the field reinforcing a longtime Justice Department policy against gun-walking. The directive said that agents must not allow guns to cross the border into Mexico.

Not to nitpick, but AP writes that “Republicans have promoted the idea” that top DOJ officials knew about the gun-walking. That’s framed rather unfairly — this wasn’t some baseless idea pulled out of thin air by the GOP; emails we’ve already seen showed Holder’s top aides discussing F&F as early as December 2010. Holder himself claimed he’d heard about the gun-running a “few weeks” before his May 2011 hearing with Congress, but was forced to reverse himself later, after it became clear he must have known before that.

The latest letters Holder showed members of Congress seem to show he knew about the operation in February 2011, but where is the evidence that he’d just found about it at that point? Just because he allegedly sent out emails ordering an investigation and questioning others about the gunwalking, that hardly seems like proof he wasn’t aware of this earlier.

Plus — if he was so involved in the issue that he’d sent out field directives and vowed to “get to the bottom” of the case in February, then why was he so fuzzy on the timeline during questioning in May? Clearly, he had to have recalled that he knew about this for longer than “a few weeks.”

As I wrote, we already knew his office was aware of the gun-walking months before these emails were sent. If Holder wasn’t informed properly, then why haven’t heads rolled on this? And if the full electronic mail trail really shows Holder had no idea about F&F, why doesn’t the administration just let investigators take a look? Three vague emails we can’t even see tell us nothing, and they actually only make Holder’s defense seem weaker.

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Congressional Black Caucus Plans Walk Out on Holder Vote

Democrats are trying their best to turn the Eric Holder contempt vote into a racial issue, and Politico reports that the Congressional Black Caucus is planning a walk out protest during the floor vote today:

The Congressional Black Caucus plans to walk off the House floor during tomorrow’s votes to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress, according to a letter being circulated among members of Congress.

“We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people. We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice,” the CBC members wrote in a copy of the letter obtained by Politico….

“Instead of focusing on job creation and other critical issues before this Congress, we have been asked to engage in a political stunt on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Our constituents elected us to do real work, not to engage in meaningless partisan activity,” they wrote.

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Democrats are trying their best to turn the Eric Holder contempt vote into a racial issue, and Politico reports that the Congressional Black Caucus is planning a walk out protest during the floor vote today:

The Congressional Black Caucus plans to walk off the House floor during tomorrow’s votes to hold Attorney General Holder in contempt of Congress, according to a letter being circulated among members of Congress.

“We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people. We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice,” the CBC members wrote in a copy of the letter obtained by Politico….

“Instead of focusing on job creation and other critical issues before this Congress, we have been asked to engage in a political stunt on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. Our constituents elected us to do real work, not to engage in meaningless partisan activity,” they wrote.

The CBC, of course, would never engage in these sort of “political stunts” and “meaningless partisan activities.” Speaking of which, how many Republicans do you think will be at the CBC’s meaningful bipartisan press conference condemning the Eric Holder contempt vote? I’m going to go with “zero.” When even Sen. Scott “Independent Voice of Massachusetts” Brown is calling for Holder’s resignation, it seems safe to assume the GOP is sticking together on this one.

In fact, the only real bipartisanship we’re likely to see today will be on the side supporting the contempt vote. Fox News reports that at least 11 House Democrats are expected to break rank and join the GOP on this one, but others have speculated that number could be as high as 31.

It’s also interesting that House Democrats are suddenly complaining about “sideshows” after wasting months on the “war on women” nonsense. Criticizing House Republicans for focusing on political stunts isn’t likely to sway public opinion, particularly as the Fast and Furious investigation has bipartisan support, and Holder isn’t exactly a sympathetic party in this conflict.

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NRA to Score Holder Contempt Vote

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has leverage with House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts, and its decision to score the Eric Holder contempt vote (in favor of it) will complicate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s attempts to keep Democrats united in opposition (h/t HotAir):

“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” Hoyer said to reporters today. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”

The number of Democratic defections could reach 31, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee voted last Wednesday to move the contempt citation to a full House vote.

Issa cites a letter sent from 31 Democrats to the Obama administration last year asking for them to be forthcoming with details of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation as a template for possible Democratic “yes” votes.

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The National Rifle Association (NRA) has leverage with House Democrats running for reelection in conservative districts, and its decision to score the Eric Holder contempt vote (in favor of it) will complicate Minority Whip Steny Hoyer’s attempts to keep Democrats united in opposition (h/t HotAir):

“I think there are some members that will consider the recommendations of the NRA,” Hoyer said to reporters today. “Whether they think those recommendations are founded or not, I don’t know at this point.”

The number of Democratic defections could reach 31, according to House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose committee voted last Wednesday to move the contempt citation to a full House vote.

Issa cites a letter sent from 31 Democrats to the Obama administration last year asking for them to be forthcoming with details of the Fast and Furious gun-walking operation as a template for possible Democratic “yes” votes.

So far, Rep. Matheson is the first Democratic defector. Getting 31 Democrats to cross the aisle still seems like a long-shot for Issa, but the NRA scoring will certainly help. The lobbying group does appear to have had some interest or involvement in the Fast and Furious letter Issa mentions that had 31 Democratic signatories last year, since it was posted on the NRA website under “media.” If the Democrats lose 31 members on this vote, their argument that the GOP is using it as a ploy to tie Holder’s hands on voting rights becomes even more absurd.

The NRA, meanwhile, outlined its justification for scoring the vote in a recent letter to House GOP leadership, making the case that this is about gun rights, not partisanship (h/t Moe Lane):

It is no secret that the NRA does not admire Attorney General Holder. For years, we have pointed out his history of anti-Second Amendment advocacy and enforcement actions. Since taking office, Attorney General Holder has seized on the violence in Mexico to promote the lie that “90 percent” of firearms used in Mexican crime come from the U.S.; to call for bringing back the 1994 Clinton gun ban; and to justify the illegal multiple sales reporting scheme, which amounts to gun registration for honest Americans who buy long guns in southwest border states.

But our support of this contempt resolution is not about those issues — nor is it a partisan decision, for we have also expressed our strong policy disagreements with Attorney General Holder’s predecessors of both parties. The reason we support the contempt resolution is the same reason we first called for Attorney General Holder’s resignation more than a year ago: the Department’s obstruction of congressional oversight of a program that cost lives in support of an anti-gun agenda.

Hoyer will try his best to keep his party in line, but the election is a little more than four months away, and some Democrats won’t be able to afford being on the wrong side of the NRA.

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Fast & Furious Doesn’t Hurt the GOP

The Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza writes today that the attempt by House Republicans to charge Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress for stonewalling the investigation into the Fast and Furious scandal is a political loser. According to Cilizza, Congress is so unpopular that any attention given to the House GOP caucus is bad for Mitt Romney’s chances in November. He also thinks any moment taken away from a discussion of President Obama’s handling of the economy is a lost opportunity for the challenger. Though he concedes that being dragged into the mud with John Boehner and company doesn’t help the president, Cilizza is still wrong to think the Republicans’ decision to push hard on this issue is a mistake.

While the Republicans do have to concentrate on the economy, if there is anything we should have learned from the political collapse of the George W. Bush presidency is that fresh problems merely compound an administration’s troubles; they don’t provide an escape hatch. Just as Hurricane Katrina didn’t stop Americans from worrying about the Iraq War, Fast and Furious won’t stop them from being upset about the parlous state of the nation’s finances and job losses. The specter of scandal and the Nixon-like invocation of “executive privilege” merely contribute to the impression that the Obama presidency is tiptoeing along on a precipice and can start slipping down the mountain at any time.

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The Washington Post’s Chris Cilizza writes today that the attempt by House Republicans to charge Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress for stonewalling the investigation into the Fast and Furious scandal is a political loser. According to Cilizza, Congress is so unpopular that any attention given to the House GOP caucus is bad for Mitt Romney’s chances in November. He also thinks any moment taken away from a discussion of President Obama’s handling of the economy is a lost opportunity for the challenger. Though he concedes that being dragged into the mud with John Boehner and company doesn’t help the president, Cilizza is still wrong to think the Republicans’ decision to push hard on this issue is a mistake.

While the Republicans do have to concentrate on the economy, if there is anything we should have learned from the political collapse of the George W. Bush presidency is that fresh problems merely compound an administration’s troubles; they don’t provide an escape hatch. Just as Hurricane Katrina didn’t stop Americans from worrying about the Iraq War, Fast and Furious won’t stop them from being upset about the parlous state of the nation’s finances and job losses. The specter of scandal and the Nixon-like invocation of “executive privilege” merely contribute to the impression that the Obama presidency is tiptoeing along on a precipice and can start slipping down the mountain at any time.

Cillizza is right when he notes that Congress and, in particular, the House Republicans, are widely disliked. But the contempt most Americans have for our political class doesn’t mean they don’t think Congress shouldn’t investigate genuine scandals. To the extent that people understand that lives were lost because of a Justice Department blunder and that the administration has been trying to fight a desperate delaying action to avoid dealing with the consequences of their folly, they support a vigorous examination of what has happened.

Nor should the administration take any comfort from legal arguments claiming such privilege is justified. As Politico’s Josh Gerstein writes today, the administration may have a court precedent to cite justifying their decision. But even if they are right about that — and most legal observers think they are mistaken — this is still a colossal miscalculation on the part of the president and his advisers. So far, the mainstream press has refused to treat Fast and Furious as a second Watergate even though the implications of the scandal may be far greater. Some liberals may even buy into the preposterous argument that the investigation of Holder is a racist plot to punish him for opposing a fictitious Republican plot to suppress the minority vote.

But the administration’s foolish decision to invoke executive privilege to stop Congress from investigating is an unforced error that could haunt the president even if he wins re-election this fall. Even for those who haven’t followed the scandal closely — a group that includes most Americans — it contributes to the idea the president is a poor leader and things are out of control in Washington. The privilege claim handed Romney and the GOP a club to beat him for no reason other than to spare Holder some humiliation. President Obama will spend the next four months, if not the next four years, regretting it.

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Issa Confronts WH About F&F Involvement

Via the Daily Caller, House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa sent a letter to the White House this morning directly challenging its use of executive privilege to obstruct the Fast and Furious investigation. Issa asserted what others have been saying for days now: the executive order suggests that the White House was either involved in some aspect of the Fast and Furious debacle, or the order was unwarranted.

“[Y]our privilege assertion means one of two things,” Issa wrote to the president in a letter dated June 25. “Either you or your most senior advisors were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the attorney general to the committee, or, you are asserting a presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation.”

Issa said Obama’s assertion of executive privilege “raised the question” about the veracity of how the “White House has steadfastly maintained that it has not had any role in advising the department with respect to the congressional investigation.”

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Via the Daily Caller, House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa sent a letter to the White House this morning directly challenging its use of executive privilege to obstruct the Fast and Furious investigation. Issa asserted what others have been saying for days now: the executive order suggests that the White House was either involved in some aspect of the Fast and Furious debacle, or the order was unwarranted.

“[Y]our privilege assertion means one of two things,” Issa wrote to the president in a letter dated June 25. “Either you or your most senior advisors were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the attorney general to the committee, or, you are asserting a presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation.”

Issa said Obama’s assertion of executive privilege “raised the question” about the veracity of how the “White House has steadfastly maintained that it has not had any role in advising the department with respect to the congressional investigation.”

This makes it clear that the Eric Holder contempt vote scheduled for Thursday isn’t going to be the end of the story, at least not if Issa can help it. Obama’s assertion of executive privilege can be overturned — under certain circumstances — by Congress or the Supreme Court, and Issa seems to be making a preliminary case for that in this letter.

Issa also gave details on the 11th hour “deal” Holder offered him before the committee contempt vote last week:

“He indicated a willingness to produce the ‘fair compilation’ of post-February 4 documents,” Issa wrote to the president. “He told me that he would provide the ‘fair compilation’ of documents on three conditions: (1) that I permanently cancel the contempt vote; (2) that I agree the department was in full compliance with the committee’s subpoenas, and; (3) that I accept the ‘fair compilation,’ sight unseen.”

That deal is a joke — a permanent cancellation of the contempt vote and an agreement that the Department of Justice cooperated fully in exchange for a stack of documents of Holder’s choosing, “sight unseen”? Issa obviously would never accept such an agreement, and Holder had to have known that. Was Holder was trying to give himself some cover by offering a deal that would likely get rejected, so that he could claim Issa was the one who was unreasonable? Either that, or Holder was actually desperate enough to think Issa might go along with it.

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Dems Play Race Card on Holder Vote

I wrote about Rep. Nancy Pelosi putting out the feelers on this ludicrous argument last week, and now it sounds like Democrats are actually going ahead with it. True, the idea that the Eric Holder contempt vote is connected to his efforts to fight “minority voter suppression” is deranged, not just because it makes no sense from a timeline perspective but also because it would require you to willfully ignore his repeated attempts to hinder the congressional investigation of “Fast and Furious.” Unless you want to try to argue that Republicans somehow forced him to be uncooperative with an investigating committee.

This Democratic pushback campaign is being led by none other than MSNBC “News Anchor” Rev. Al Sharpton, reports The Hill:

At the front of the push is a group of seven national civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton…scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday about the effect that placing Holder in contempt of Congress would have on his ability to protect the rights of black and Hispanic voters, homeowners and immigrants.

“I’m not saying that this is because Holder is black, and I’m not calling [Republicans] racists. I’m saying what they’re doing has a racial effect, and that’s what we’re going to talk about [on Tuesday],” said Sharpton in a phone interview.

“The question one would have to raise is: If he is held in contempt, under that cloud, how does he fight for voter rights? This compromises the Justice Department from being able to do a lot of fighting.”

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I wrote about Rep. Nancy Pelosi putting out the feelers on this ludicrous argument last week, and now it sounds like Democrats are actually going ahead with it. True, the idea that the Eric Holder contempt vote is connected to his efforts to fight “minority voter suppression” is deranged, not just because it makes no sense from a timeline perspective but also because it would require you to willfully ignore his repeated attempts to hinder the congressional investigation of “Fast and Furious.” Unless you want to try to argue that Republicans somehow forced him to be uncooperative with an investigating committee.

This Democratic pushback campaign is being led by none other than MSNBC “News Anchor” Rev. Al Sharpton, reports The Hill:

At the front of the push is a group of seven national civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton…scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday about the effect that placing Holder in contempt of Congress would have on his ability to protect the rights of black and Hispanic voters, homeowners and immigrants.

“I’m not saying that this is because Holder is black, and I’m not calling [Republicans] racists. I’m saying what they’re doing has a racial effect, and that’s what we’re going to talk about [on Tuesday],” said Sharpton in a phone interview.

“The question one would have to raise is: If he is held in contempt, under that cloud, how does he fight for voter rights? This compromises the Justice Department from being able to do a lot of fighting.”

Do news anchors often hold press conferences to attack members of a political party? Congratulations MSNBC, your news channel is officially a laughing stock.

As for the argument about voter suppression, I highly doubt this will be effective. Democrats can’t defend Holder on the merits so they’re trying to change the subject — and people will see through that quickly.

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Pelosi: Contempt Vote Part of Plan to Disenfranchise Minorities

It was only a matter of time before Democrats played the race card on the Eric Holder contempt vote. What else are they going to say? They need to obscure the real issue here as quickly as possible, and what better way than to shout “racist!” again and again at bewildered Republicans?

Rep. Nancy Pelosi set the liberal narrative yesterday afternoon (h/t Joel Gehrke):

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), declared that House Republicans are charging Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress not as part of an investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, but in order to weaken his ability to prevent voter suppression.

“They’re going after Eric Holder because he is supporting measures to overturn these voter suppression initiatives in the states,” Pelosi told reporters during her press briefing today. “This is no accident, it is no coincidence. It is a plan on the part of Republicans.”

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It was only a matter of time before Democrats played the race card on the Eric Holder contempt vote. What else are they going to say? They need to obscure the real issue here as quickly as possible, and what better way than to shout “racist!” again and again at bewildered Republicans?

Rep. Nancy Pelosi set the liberal narrative yesterday afternoon (h/t Joel Gehrke):

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), declared that House Republicans are charging Attorney General Eric Holder with contempt of Congress not as part of an investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, but in order to weaken his ability to prevent voter suppression.

“They’re going after Eric Holder because he is supporting measures to overturn these voter suppression initiatives in the states,” Pelosi told reporters during her press briefing today. “This is no accident, it is no coincidence. It is a plan on the part of Republicans.”

Did you get that? Republicans are so intent on suppressing the minority vote that they began investigating the Fast and Furious scandal more than a year and a half ago because they suspected that, at some point in the future, Attorney General Eric Holder might attempt to overturn state voter ID laws that nobody had even heard of at the time — and the GOP would have the ultimate trump card ready to foil his plan. That sounds like a much more likely explanation than, say, Holder refusing to turn over thousands of pages of relevant documents to an investigating congressional committee.

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What is the Obama Administration Hiding, and Why Are They Hiding It?

Attorney General Eric Holder has a problem with the accuracy of his congressional testimonies.

For example, on May 3, 2011, Holder – when asked when he became aware of the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal, told the House Judiciary Committee, “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.” But as CBS News reported, “Internal Justice Department documents show that at least ten months before that hearing, Holder began receiving frequent memos discussing Fast and Furious.” This forced Holder to confess to Senate Republicans that the Justice Department had provided “inaccurate” information to Congress during his May 3 testimony.

Now comes Retraction Number Two.

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Attorney General Eric Holder has a problem with the accuracy of his congressional testimonies.

For example, on May 3, 2011, Holder – when asked when he became aware of the “Fast and Furious” gun-walking scandal, told the House Judiciary Committee, “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.” But as CBS News reported, “Internal Justice Department documents show that at least ten months before that hearing, Holder began receiving frequent memos discussing Fast and Furious.” This forced Holder to confess to Senate Republicans that the Justice Department had provided “inaccurate” information to Congress during his May 3 testimony.

Now comes Retraction Number Two.

In a memo today from Republican Senator Charles Grassley, we’re informed, “The Justice Department has retracted a second statement made to the Senate Judiciary Committee. During a hearing last week, Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that his predecessor, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey, had been briefed about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver. Now, the Department is retracting that statement and claiming Holder ‘inadvertently’ made that claim to the Committee. The Department’s letter failed to apologize to former Attorney General Mukasey for the false accusation.”

Grassley went on to make this statement:

This is the second time in nearly seven months that the Department has gotten its facts wrong about gunwalking. Attorney General Holder accused Attorney General Mukasey, without producing any evidence, of having been briefed on gunwalking in Wide Receiver. The case Attorney General Mukasey was briefed on, Hernandez, is fundamentally different from both Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious since it involved cooperation with the Mexican government. Attorney General Holder’s retraction should have included an apology to the former Attorney General.

In his eagerness to blame the previous administration, Attorney General Holder got his facts wrong. And his tactic didn’t bring us any closer to understanding how a bad policy evolved and continued. Bad policy is bad policy, regardless of how many administrations carried it out. Ironically, the only document produced yesterday by the Department appears to show that senior officials in the Attorney General’s own department were strategizing about how to keep gunwalking in both Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious under wraps.

So let’s consider where we are. Congress has been misled several times by the Attorney General. We don’t yet know if Holder committed perjury or was simply incompetent in making the claims he did. But we do know that President Obama, who was once a harsh critic of executive privilege when it came to his predecessor, has suddenly discovered a real fondness for it. Obama, in fact, is now invoking executive privilege in order to prevent Congress for getting the documents it needs in order to investigate a program that was, by any measure, a scandalous failure that led to the deaths of innocent Americans and Mexicans.

Which raises these questions: As Alana noted earlier, what is the Obama administration hiding? And why are they hiding it?

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Executive Power Grab on F&F Documents

Because nothing says “I have nothing to hide” like an executive power grab to block investigators from looking at government documents:

President Barack Obama has asserted executive privilege over documents sought by a House committee investigating the botched Fast and Furious gun-running sting, according to a letter to the panel Wednesday from Deputy Attorney Gen. James Cole.

The move means the Department of Justice can withhold the documents from the House Oversight Committee, which was scheduled to consider a contempt measure Wednesday against [Attorney General Eric] Holder.

The immediate question raised by this sudden assertion of executive people is whether President Obama was involved in the scandal. Why would he put himself at risk of serious political backlash if this was all about simply protecting Holder — who is about to be charged with contempt of Congress anyway? And if there is something damaging about Obama or top White House officials in those papers, maybe that explains why Holder still has a job despite the growing calls for his resignation.

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Because nothing says “I have nothing to hide” like an executive power grab to block investigators from looking at government documents:

President Barack Obama has asserted executive privilege over documents sought by a House committee investigating the botched Fast and Furious gun-running sting, according to a letter to the panel Wednesday from Deputy Attorney Gen. James Cole.

The move means the Department of Justice can withhold the documents from the House Oversight Committee, which was scheduled to consider a contempt measure Wednesday against [Attorney General Eric] Holder.

The immediate question raised by this sudden assertion of executive people is whether President Obama was involved in the scandal. Why would he put himself at risk of serious political backlash if this was all about simply protecting Holder — who is about to be charged with contempt of Congress anyway? And if there is something damaging about Obama or top White House officials in those papers, maybe that explains why Holder still has a job despite the growing calls for his resignation.

The Department of Justice and the Obama administration is going to try to defend this as a necessary response to a baldly political witch hunt by House Republicans. But will the public buy that at this point? Not only are there numerous signs of behind-the-scenes shadiness that we already know about — the timing inconsistencies, Holder’s misstatements — there’s also the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent at the top of the story. Is the Obama administration actually going to argue that the family of Agent Brian Terry doesn’t deserve to know the full circumstances surrounding his death?

Obama’s assertion of executive privilege turned this from a political back-and-forth between the DOJ and a congressional committee into a full-blown scandal ensnaring the president. What exactly is hiding in those papers that pushed Obama to take this risk?

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Why Did DOJ Appoint Two Prosecutors for Leak Investigation?

Why did the Department of Justice appoint two prosecutors to lead its leak investigations? That’s the question Sen. Jon Kyl asked Eric Holder during his testimony at yesterday’s Senate Judiciary hearing. Holder gave a hopelessly vague and evasive answer, but Kyl’s question is worth asking again, given what we know about the two U.S. Attorneys.

One of these prosecutors, Ronald Machen, is an Obama appointee who donated $4,350 to the Obama campaign, as the blog Fire Andrea Mitchell pointed out. The other is a holdover Bush appointee, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.

So one Bush appointee and one Obama donor should balance each other out, right? Actually, no — not necessarily. The DOJ has opened two separate leak investigations with different scopes, and the prosecutors could be asked to lead them separately.

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Why did the Department of Justice appoint two prosecutors to lead its leak investigations? That’s the question Sen. Jon Kyl asked Eric Holder during his testimony at yesterday’s Senate Judiciary hearing. Holder gave a hopelessly vague and evasive answer, but Kyl’s question is worth asking again, given what we know about the two U.S. Attorneys.

One of these prosecutors, Ronald Machen, is an Obama appointee who donated $4,350 to the Obama campaign, as the blog Fire Andrea Mitchell pointed out. The other is a holdover Bush appointee, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.

So one Bush appointee and one Obama donor should balance each other out, right? Actually, no — not necessarily. The DOJ has opened two separate leak investigations with different scopes, and the prosecutors could be asked to lead them separately.

Here is why this could pose a problem. So far, we have no official word on which leaks each of these probes will be looking into — remember, there have been multiple leaks recently, including the drone “Kill List,” the Flame cyberattack, and the al-Qaeda affiliate story. Will one prosecutor be investigating the Flame story, while another looks into the al-Qaeda Yemen disclosure? We don’t know, and Holder has refused to say.

But, based on a recent Wall Street Journal report, it appears that neither of the two DOJ investigations include the New York Times’s “Kill List” story — the most overtly political and pro-Obama article out of the bunch. Lawfare Blog’s Jack Goldstein draws this conclusion:

If the WSJ is right, it would appear that the investigations do not concern leaks about drone attacks and related matters that, like leaks about the Iranian cyber-operation and the AQAP infiltration, have been the subject of recent congressional complaint.  That would make the leak investigations relatively narrow, and would be relatively good news for the White House since, according to Daniel Klaidman’s book and other indications, some White House officials have participated in disclosure of some of the classified information related to drone attacks.

The Journal reports that one of the investigations is focused on the al-Qaeda Yemen affiliate story, and the other is on the Iranian cyberattack story.

It seems unlikely that the al-Qaeda informant leak was politically motivated, even if it was put out there by high-level administration officials. But the Times’s Iranian cyberattack story was a different beast altogether. From the headline to the Situation Room details, the leaks were clearly a) from top administration officials, and b) intended to make Obama look as good as possible.

In other words, the Iranian cyberattack investigation seems much, much more likely to uncover damaging revelations about the White House than the al-Qaeda informant probe. The question is, will both prosecutors be leading the Iranian cyberattack probe? And if not, which one will the DOJ put in charge of it — the Bush appointee or the Obama donor?

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Cornyn Calls on Holder to Resign

Sen. John Cornyn isn’t the first Republican senator to call for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation, but he’s the first to do it straight to Holder’s face, which makes it all the more priceless. Click over to The Hill for video of the exchange at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier today. Here’s the critical line from Cornyn, which came after he went through a protracted list of Holder’s numerous misdeeds:

“Mr. Attorney General, it is more with sorrow than anger that I would say that you leave me no alternative but to join those who call upon you to resign your office.”

“The American people deserve better; they deserve an attorney general who is accountable and independent; they deserve an attorney general who puts justice before politics,” said Cornyn. “And it’s my sincere hope that President Obama will replace you with someone who’s up to that challenge.”

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Sen. John Cornyn isn’t the first Republican senator to call for Attorney General Eric Holder’s resignation, but he’s the first to do it straight to Holder’s face, which makes it all the more priceless. Click over to The Hill for video of the exchange at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier today. Here’s the critical line from Cornyn, which came after he went through a protracted list of Holder’s numerous misdeeds:

“Mr. Attorney General, it is more with sorrow than anger that I would say that you leave me no alternative but to join those who call upon you to resign your office.”

“The American people deserve better; they deserve an attorney general who is accountable and independent; they deserve an attorney general who puts justice before politics,” said Cornyn. “And it’s my sincere hope that President Obama will replace you with someone who’s up to that challenge.”

Holder seemed more irritated than rattled by Cornyn’s surprise confrontation. He called the list “factually wrong,” and suggested that the criticism was politically motivated, but reiterated that he would not be stepping down.

This isn’t going to tip the scales or anything for Holder’s resignation, but it could definitely encourage more senators and congressmen to join the resignation calls and increase the political pressure on the DOJ and White House. Cornyn isn’t exactly a firebrand in the Jim DeMint mold, and compared to the other senators who’ve asked Holder to step down, he tends to be more measured. He’s also closer to the Fast and Furious investigation, as the Daily Caller’s Matt Boyle notes.  If he’s taking this step, it means he’s considered it seriously for awhile.

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Boehner: “Justice Dept is Out of Excuses”

House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa clearly wasn’t bluffing when he circulated a draft contempt order against Attorney General Eric Holder early last month. CBS News reports that Issa has scheduled a committee vote on the contempt charges for June 20:

On Monday morning, Issa formally announced the committee vote on contempt, set for Wednesday, June 20. House Speaker John Boehner also released a statement supporting the move, saying “the Justice Department is out of excuses.”

“Congress has given Attorney General Holder more than enough time to fully cooperate with its investigation into ‘Fast and Furious,’ and to help uncover the circumstances regarding the death of Border Agent Brian Terry,” Boehner added. “Either the Justice Department turns over the information requested, or Congress will have no choice but to move forward with holding the attorney general in contempt for obstructing an ongoing investigation.”

There would apparently be bipartisan support for the motion if it managed to get past the Oversight Committee: Issa told BuzzFeed earlier today that he believes 31 Democrats would support the motion in a floor vote, which is notably the same number of Democrats who signed a letter to President Obama last summer urging him to assist the investigation. Only one of the letter’s Democratic signatories, Rep. Jim Cooper, is actually on the Oversight Committee. Still, the motion is expected to pass.

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House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa clearly wasn’t bluffing when he circulated a draft contempt order against Attorney General Eric Holder early last month. CBS News reports that Issa has scheduled a committee vote on the contempt charges for June 20:

On Monday morning, Issa formally announced the committee vote on contempt, set for Wednesday, June 20. House Speaker John Boehner also released a statement supporting the move, saying “the Justice Department is out of excuses.”

“Congress has given Attorney General Holder more than enough time to fully cooperate with its investigation into ‘Fast and Furious,’ and to help uncover the circumstances regarding the death of Border Agent Brian Terry,” Boehner added. “Either the Justice Department turns over the information requested, or Congress will have no choice but to move forward with holding the attorney general in contempt for obstructing an ongoing investigation.”

There would apparently be bipartisan support for the motion if it managed to get past the Oversight Committee: Issa told BuzzFeed earlier today that he believes 31 Democrats would support the motion in a floor vote, which is notably the same number of Democrats who signed a letter to President Obama last summer urging him to assist the investigation. Only one of the letter’s Democratic signatories, Rep. Jim Cooper, is actually on the Oversight Committee. Still, the motion is expected to pass.

Issa also told BuzzFeed that he’s given up hope the vote will pressure Holder into turning over the requested documents, and he’s now shifting the burden to President Obama:

Issa said under normal circumstances he’d expect the vote to pressure Holder to turn over the documents, but that now he’s hoping the president intercedes on Congress’ behalf.

“After Thursday’s hearing with the attorney general, no, I don’t expect it, but I would hope that the president would second-guess the man that he says he has full faith and confidence in, and tell him that it’s time to deliver reasonable documents,” Issa said.

The vote will certainly increase the pressure on both the attorney general and the White House, if only because it will incite more media scrutiny and negative press. Contempt votes are extremely rare, and only four officials –  EPA administrator Anne Gorsuch Burford, Attorney General Janet Reno, White House counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff John Bolton — have been found in contempt of Congress since 1983.

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Draft Contempt Order Against Holder

Rep. Darrell Issa’s draft contempt order against Attorney General Eric Holder is the latest attempt to pressure the Department of Justice into complying with the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena requests related to Fast and Furious, and whether it works depends on a political calculation by the administration. What’s would be more damaging: releasing these subpoenaed documents, or risking the media circus of contempt procedures?

In the contempt order argument, which was issued to members of the House Oversight Committee today, Issa says he’s still waiting for Holder to release documents for 12 out of 22 categories in the subpoena schedule:

According to the draft contempt order, the department “has yet to provide a single document for 12 out of the 22 categories contained in the subpoena schedule.”

The draft order pointed to three categories in particular. Those categories concerned: who among the department’s top brass should have known about the “reckless tactics” in Fast and Furious; how department leaders ended up figuring out the program was a bad idea; and how a special task force “failed” to share information that could have supposedly led to key gun-trafficking arrests.

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Rep. Darrell Issa’s draft contempt order against Attorney General Eric Holder is the latest attempt to pressure the Department of Justice into complying with the House Oversight Committee’s subpoena requests related to Fast and Furious, and whether it works depends on a political calculation by the administration. What’s would be more damaging: releasing these subpoenaed documents, or risking the media circus of contempt procedures?

In the contempt order argument, which was issued to members of the House Oversight Committee today, Issa says he’s still waiting for Holder to release documents for 12 out of 22 categories in the subpoena schedule:

According to the draft contempt order, the department “has yet to provide a single document for 12 out of the 22 categories contained in the subpoena schedule.”

The draft order pointed to three categories in particular. Those categories concerned: who among the department’s top brass should have known about the “reckless tactics” in Fast and Furious; how department leaders ended up figuring out the program was a bad idea; and how a special task force “failed” to share information that could have supposedly led to key gun-trafficking arrests.

The draft, which lays out the case for contempt should a vote be called, is apparently more than just a hollow threat. Fox News reports that Issa likely wouldn’t have issued it publicly unless he knew he had enough votes to get it through the committee, and the blessing of Speaker Boehner. At that point, Holder would have to either cough up the documents or explain himself to a grand jury. After months of DOJ’s stalling and obstructions, it looks like Congress may finally be heading somewhere on this case.

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A Powerful Argument for Voter ID Laws

The latest video out by James O’Keefe is a powerful argument for voter ID laws, with a cameo from Eric Holder (actually his would-be voting impersonator). As a requisite disclaimer, O’Keefe has been accused of selectively editing videos in the past, but this one appears to include the full conversation.

New York Magazine says there’s nothing to see here:

The question is whether anyone should really care. Yes, if you wanted to, you could risk five years in prison and a $10,000 fine to vote for someone else, but we’re not sure why you would, since a single vote, or even a few votes, will never make a difference. (Okay, almost never.) Could a group of hundreds or thousands of fraudsters be mobilized to go around to different polling stations on election day and vote for one particular candidate or issue, possibly altering the outcome of an election? It would be difficult to organize surreptitiously, but sure, it’s probably doable. But it has never happened.

That’s like the government saying it’s pointless for bars to check IDs, because underage drinkers will face a hefty fine if they’re caught. The punishment becomes less of a deterrent if there’s a very high probability of getting away with the crime.

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The latest video out by James O’Keefe is a powerful argument for voter ID laws, with a cameo from Eric Holder (actually his would-be voting impersonator). As a requisite disclaimer, O’Keefe has been accused of selectively editing videos in the past, but this one appears to include the full conversation.

New York Magazine says there’s nothing to see here:

The question is whether anyone should really care. Yes, if you wanted to, you could risk five years in prison and a $10,000 fine to vote for someone else, but we’re not sure why you would, since a single vote, or even a few votes, will never make a difference. (Okay, almost never.) Could a group of hundreds or thousands of fraudsters be mobilized to go around to different polling stations on election day and vote for one particular candidate or issue, possibly altering the outcome of an election? It would be difficult to organize surreptitiously, but sure, it’s probably doable. But it has never happened.

That’s like the government saying it’s pointless for bars to check IDs, because underage drinkers will face a hefty fine if they’re caught. The punishment becomes less of a deterrent if there’s a very high probability of getting away with the crime.

Voter fraud, by the way, is notoriously difficult to prosecute. Unless the fraudster sparks the suspicion of a polling official, the incident is unlikely to be reported or investigated. Often a fake name and/or address are used, which means there’s little chance of tracking this person down once he’s left the premises. And even if the suspect is reported and somehow located, it’s difficult to prove intentional fraud – can anyone demonstrate that this was the same individual at the polling location? Was the fraud intentional, or could it have been done in error?

And yes, voting fraud is a big deal, even if, as New York Magazine stipulates, the fraud doesn’t sway the election one way or another. Every false ballot cast for Candidate A undermines the democratic process by canceling out a legitimate ballot cast for Candidate B. Is it an epidemic? Maybe not. But the whole blasé “what’s a little bit of voter fraud anyway?” attitude seems to be the exact opposite of what the media should be espousing. It’s a message that welcomes corruption. Conservatives have proposed voter ID laws; some others may argue these laws are ineffective. That’s a debate to have. But denying that there’s a problem – or at least loopholes that could easily lead to a serious problem – isn’t a constructive way to deal with the issue.

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Holder Better Hope He’s Right on MEK Probe

Because if not, the Attorney General just made some really powerful enemies:

Speaking firms representing ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton have received federal subpoenas as part of an expanding investigation into the source of payments to former top government officials who have publicly advocated removing an Iranian dissident group from the State Department list of terrorist groups, three sources familiar with the investigation told NBC News.

The investigation, being conducted by the Treasury Department, is focused on whether the former officials may have received funding, directly or indirectly, from the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, thereby violating longstanding federal law barring financial dealings with terrorist groups. The sources, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said that speaking fees given to the former officials total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In total, MSNBC reports that 40 former senior U.S. government officials participated in the lobbying campaign for the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), a cult-like organization that was listed as a terrorist group under the Clinton administration. The MEK was involved in attacks on American citizens in the 1970s, but has since attempted to ally itself with the United States in the fight against the Iranian regime. According to reports, the group may also be aiding Israel’s covert assassination campaign against Iranian nuclear scientists.

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Because if not, the Attorney General just made some really powerful enemies:

Speaking firms representing ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton have received federal subpoenas as part of an expanding investigation into the source of payments to former top government officials who have publicly advocated removing an Iranian dissident group from the State Department list of terrorist groups, three sources familiar with the investigation told NBC News.

The investigation, being conducted by the Treasury Department, is focused on whether the former officials may have received funding, directly or indirectly, from the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, thereby violating longstanding federal law barring financial dealings with terrorist groups. The sources, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said that speaking fees given to the former officials total hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In total, MSNBC reports that 40 former senior U.S. government officials participated in the lobbying campaign for the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), a cult-like organization that was listed as a terrorist group under the Clinton administration. The MEK was involved in attacks on American citizens in the 1970s, but has since attempted to ally itself with the United States in the fight against the Iranian regime. According to reports, the group may also be aiding Israel’s covert assassination campaign against Iranian nuclear scientists.

In addition to Freeh and Shelton, other ex-government officials snagged in the investigation include former DNC chairman Edward Rendell, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and former Department of Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge.

But it’s still unclear how far the Department of Justice will go on its investigation. So far, there haven’t been any reports that Jim Jones, former National Security advisor to President Obama, has been issued a subpoena, despite his reported involvement in the MEK lobbying effort. Will Jones be subpoenaed by Holder as well? And if not, why not?

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NAACP Turns Voter ID Spat Into Satire

The liberal war on voter integrity has now morphed from partisan hypocrisy to parody. It is bad enough for the Obama administration and its cheerleaders in the media to falsely brand the effort by various states to require citizens to present a picture ID when they go to vote as a revival of Jim Crow laws. But the NAACP has reduced that controversy to satire by asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to weigh in on the matter at an upcoming conference on minority rights in Geneva, Switzerland.

This is the same UN Council that is comprised of some of the worst human rights abusers in the world such as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. The idea that Americans would ask a group whose members are countries that not only restrict voting rights but lack even the façade of democratic rule to take a stand on U.S. laws is beyond absurd. It seems never to have occurred to the partisans at the NAACP that there is something humorous about regimes that deny all of their citizens any say in governance standing in judgment on an actual working democracy. The arguments arrayed against voter ID laws by the Obama administration and those seeking to create a race issue where none exists are already weak. But by involving the UN, the NAACP has exposed itself to some well-earned scorn.

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The liberal war on voter integrity has now morphed from partisan hypocrisy to parody. It is bad enough for the Obama administration and its cheerleaders in the media to falsely brand the effort by various states to require citizens to present a picture ID when they go to vote as a revival of Jim Crow laws. But the NAACP has reduced that controversy to satire by asking the United Nations Human Rights Council to weigh in on the matter at an upcoming conference on minority rights in Geneva, Switzerland.

This is the same UN Council that is comprised of some of the worst human rights abusers in the world such as China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia. The idea that Americans would ask a group whose members are countries that not only restrict voting rights but lack even the façade of democratic rule to take a stand on U.S. laws is beyond absurd. It seems never to have occurred to the partisans at the NAACP that there is something humorous about regimes that deny all of their citizens any say in governance standing in judgment on an actual working democracy. The arguments arrayed against voter ID laws by the Obama administration and those seeking to create a race issue where none exists are already weak. But by involving the UN, the NAACP has exposed itself to some well-earned scorn.

The UN Human Rights Council is itself a standing mockery of the entire cause of human rights not just because it is comprised of tyrannies who routinely practice the atrocities the council is supposed to combat, but also because it devotes the vast majority of its time and effort to attacking Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. The UN’s obsession with delegitimizing Israel has long since crossed the line into anti-Semitism. But the world body’s lack of interest in doing something about China’s abuses in Tibet, the plight of women in the Arab world or the suppression of dissent in Cuba and China is just as outrageous.

The internationalization of the voter ID issue is also particularly inane because most developed countries, including the democracies, require citizens to have ID cards as a matter of law.

It should also be remembered that the argument that voter ID laws disenfranchise minorities is a thinly veiled attempt to incite racial distrust at the expense of a good government measure. The notion that there is something discriminatory about requiring voters to properly identify themselves in a nation when such photo IDS are already required for all airline travel and many other routine measures is absurd. The best that Attorney General Holder could do when overruling Texas’ voter ID law last week was to cite the fact that approximately 94 percent of Hispanics have such documentation as opposed to about 96 percent of non-Hispanics. Interestingly, there was no mention in the complaint about any disparity between African-Americans and other citizens even though we are told voter ID laws target the poor.

In fact, as Rich Lowry noted last week in National Review, the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that voter ID laws were legal. That 6-3-majority opinion was written by liberal Justice John Paul Stevens who wrote, “there is no question about the legitimacy or importance of the State’s interest in counting only the votes of eligible voters.” Stevens also noted “we cannot conclude that the statute imposes ‘excessively burdensome requirements’ on any class of voters.” That is especially true because the states that have passed or considered voter ID laws have made provisions to give such cards free of charge to the tiny minority of citizens who don’t already have them.

Hillary Shelton, the NAACP’s senior vice president for advocacy, claims that by going to Geneva, “We can learn a lot from those who haven’t gone through as much as we have.” But the only thing that can be learned about democracy from China, Cuba or Saudi Arabia or the United Nations is how to suppress rights, not to protect them. Imagine what imprisoned dissidents in those countries will think about the NAACP granting their torturers this sort of legitimacy.

In bringing their flimsy complaint to such a tainted forum, the NAACP isn’t just illustrating the weak nature of their argument. By going before the council in this manner, the NAACP, which once actually stood for principle in the civil rights struggle, is demonstrating indifference to the real abuses of democratic rights around the globe. That isn’t comical. It’s shameful.

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Holder Makes the U.S. Less Safe

Eric Holder oversees the most politicized Department of Justice in American history. Every attorney general chooses his or her battles. Holder’s legacy—beyond the Fast and Furious gun running boondoggle—will be an obsession with race. Jonathan Tobin is right to label Holder’s latest move a war against voter integrity.

As important as what Holder does is what he chooses not to do, however: Whether the Obama administration likes it or not, the United States is engaged in a war against terrorism or, if Obama and Holder prefer, a war against man-made disasters.

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Eric Holder oversees the most politicized Department of Justice in American history. Every attorney general chooses his or her battles. Holder’s legacy—beyond the Fast and Furious gun running boondoggle—will be an obsession with race. Jonathan Tobin is right to label Holder’s latest move a war against voter integrity.

As important as what Holder does is what he chooses not to do, however: Whether the Obama administration likes it or not, the United States is engaged in a war against terrorism or, if Obama and Holder prefer, a war against man-made disasters.

In July 2000, the National Commission on Terrorism red-flagged the lack of trained American linguistics in languages important to U.S. national security. “All U.S. government agencies face a drastic shortage of linguists to translate raw data into useful information. This shortage has a direct impact on counterterrorism efforts,” the Commission reported. In 2004, despite the 9/11 shock which underlined the Commission’s findings, the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General released a report detailing how “The FBI’s electronic surveillance collection in languages primarily related to counterterrorism activities (i.e., Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and Pashto) has increased by 45 percent, when comparing total collection in Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 to total collection in FY 2001. Text collection in these languages has increased 566 percent….” Just because material was collected, however, did not mean that the Justice Department had the capacity to listen to it or translate it: “Since September 11, 2001, more than 119,000 hours of … counterterrorism languages have not been reviewed. Additionally, over 370,000 hours of audio in languages associated with counterintelligence activities have not been reviewed…,” the report found.

In 2009, the Office of the Inspector General issued a follow-up report. The news was not good: Between FY 2006 and 2008, it found “the FBI did not review 14.2 million (31 percent) of the 46 million electronic files it collected….” The report continued, “For counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations between FYs 2003 and 2008 and for criminal investigations between FYs 2005 and 2008, we found that the FBI did not review 1.2 million hours (25 percent) of the 4.8 million audio hours it collected.”

Granted, that deficit occurred during the Bush administration, and so the Bush administration bears blame for the deficit which accrued during its time. But Obama asserted throughout his campaign that Bush had mishandled U.S. security, and that he could do a better job. He appointed Holder to be his point man.

And the results? Alas, Holder’s Justice Department has yet to audit—or at least report—its linguistic and monitoring deficit. Civil libertarians and the press can debate until they are blue in the face what American officials should monitor and how extensive surveillance can be with or without a warrant. However, unless Holder’s Justice Department actually listens to what it records, the only certainty is that the United States is less safe than it should be.

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Holder Takes Latest Cheap Shot at NYPD

Attorney General Eric Holder doubled down on his threats of a federal investigation of the New York City Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Unit yesterday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. Asked to comment on the brouhaha about NYPD personnel performing surveillance on Muslims in the Greater New York region, including those in New Jersey by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Politico reports that Holder repeated his previous pledge that the Justice Department is reviewing these activities, clearly with an eye toward hamstringing the department’s work.

The NYPD’s post 9/11 attack surveillance program was both prudent and lawful. To his credit, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has slammed the attacks by Holder, the New York Times editorial page (here and here), as well as politicians like Lautenberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as an attempt to turn the issue into a “political football.” Sadly, the campaign to restrain law enforcement agencies from taking a close look at groups and mosques where Islamists gather is taking its cue from those groups that purport to represent American Muslims but whose real agenda is to promote the myth there has been a wave of discrimination against this group when there is no evidence to back up their claims. The upshot of this grandstanding will be a blow to the effort to root out homegrown terrorists.

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Attorney General Eric Holder doubled down on his threats of a federal investigation of the New York City Police Department’s Counter-Terrorism Unit yesterday at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. Asked to comment on the brouhaha about NYPD personnel performing surveillance on Muslims in the Greater New York region, including those in New Jersey by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, Politico reports that Holder repeated his previous pledge that the Justice Department is reviewing these activities, clearly with an eye toward hamstringing the department’s work.

The NYPD’s post 9/11 attack surveillance program was both prudent and lawful. To his credit, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has slammed the attacks by Holder, the New York Times editorial page (here and here), as well as politicians like Lautenberg and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as an attempt to turn the issue into a “political football.” Sadly, the campaign to restrain law enforcement agencies from taking a close look at groups and mosques where Islamists gather is taking its cue from those groups that purport to represent American Muslims but whose real agenda is to promote the myth there has been a wave of discrimination against this group when there is no evidence to back up their claims. The upshot of this grandstanding will be a blow to the effort to root out homegrown terrorists.

At the bottom of all the outrage generated by a series of articles by the Associated Press about the NYPD’s surveillance efforts is the assertion by groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that American Muslims are somehow being deterred from attending religious services or gatherings because of this. Critics of the program believe there is no correlation between any information the NYPD might obtain from legally monitoring communities whose members have expressed support for foreign terrorist groups such as Hamas (CAIR was founded as a political front group for the Holy Land Foundation, that terrorist organization’s fundraising outlet in this country.) Given that the NYPD has foiled a number of terror attacks in recent years, the idea that it should cut back on its intelligence efforts aimed at seeking to stop terrorists and their sympathizers before they strike is the sort of politically-motivated mischief that could potentially cost lives.

It is also important to note that the claim, repeated by the New York Times in its latest editorial on the subject, that Muslims “are now wary of praying in public, joining faith-based groups or patronizing some restaurants and shops” is put forward without a shred of proof. If there has been a decline in attendance at mosques, particularly those led by figures such as Christie’s friend Imam Mohammed Qatanani, who have expressed support for Hamas, we have yet to hear of it. The Times believes “the real life consequences” of the surveillance has been to impede the government’s law enforcement activities because they undermine American Muslims’ trust in their fairness. But this is an absurd distortion of the truth.

The NYPD’s counter-terrorism record is exemplary. The mere fact that its members sought to keep tabs on those communities where Islamists might be found did nothing to harm law-abiding Muslims. Rather, like everyone else, they were protected from potential killers.

Groups like CAIR who promote the myth of the post-9/11 backlash do so to advance their own political agenda. The same can be said of outlets like the Times and liberals like Holder who seem determined to return to the mentality of September 10 when concern about Islamist terror was marginalized. Should they prevail the consequences for all Americans, no matter what their faith or ethnic background, will be serious.

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The Moral Hypocrisy of Barack Obama

For those of us who remember Eric Holder and Barack Obama decrying waterboarding of three known foreign terrorists who provided information that saved American lives and played a role in the killing of Osama bin Laden, it is with some interest to hear the attorney general said the U.S. government has the right to order the killing of American citizens overseas if they are senior al-Qaeda leaders who pose an imminent terrorist threat and cannot reasonably be captured.

“Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen — even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al-Qaeda in a foreign land — is among the gravest that government leaders can face,” Holder said in a speech at Northwestern University’s law school in Chicago. “The American people can be — and deserve to be — assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws.”

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For those of us who remember Eric Holder and Barack Obama decrying waterboarding of three known foreign terrorists who provided information that saved American lives and played a role in the killing of Osama bin Laden, it is with some interest to hear the attorney general said the U.S. government has the right to order the killing of American citizens overseas if they are senior al-Qaeda leaders who pose an imminent terrorist threat and cannot reasonably be captured.

“Any decision to use lethal force against a United States citizen — even one intent on murdering Americans and who has become an operational leader of al-Qaeda in a foreign land — is among the gravest that government leaders can face,” Holder said in a speech at Northwestern University’s law school in Chicago. “The American people can be — and deserve to be — assured that actions taken in their defense are consistent with their values and their laws.”

As the Washington Post points out, Holder’s discussion of lethal force against U.S. citizens did not mention any individual by name, but his address was clearly animated by the targeting of Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior figure in al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in September.

The attorney general said the president is not required by the Constitution to delay action until some “theoretical end stage of planning — when the precise time, place and manner of an attack become clear.” Holder further argued that a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to “due process” and that the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against depriving a citizen of his or her life without due process of law does not mandate a “judicial process.”

“Where national security operations are at stake, due process takes into account the realities of combat,” Holder said. He added that the question of “whether the capture of a U.S.-citizen terrorist is feasible is a fact-specific, and potentially time-sensitive, question.”

“Given the nature of how terrorists act and where they tend to hide,” he continued, “it may not always be feasible to capture a United States-citizen terrorist who presents an imminent threat of violent attack. In that case, our government has the clear authority to defend the United States with lethal force.” Holder added that “because the United States is in an armed conflict, we are authorized to take action against enemy belligerents under international law . . . and our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields of Afghanistan.”

As for labeling such operations as “assassinations,” Holder said, “They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced,” the attorney general insisted. “Assassinations are unlawful killings. Here, for the reasons I have given, the U.S. government’s use of lethal force in self-defense against a leader of al-Qaeda or an associated force who presents an imminent threat of violent attack would not be unlawful — and therefore would not violate the executive order banning assassination or criminal statutes.”

Holder said “it is preferable to capture suspected terrorists where feasible — among other reasons, so that we can gather valuable intelligence from them — but we must also recognize that there are instances where our government has the clear authority — and, I would argue, the responsibility — to defend the United States through the appropriate and lawful use of lethal force.”

About the attorney general’s comments, I have several reactions.

The first is that Holder and the man he serves, Barack Obama, continue to discover that governing is a good deal harder than ignorantly popping off during elections, which they did plenty of in 2008. They didn’t know nearly as much as they thought they did and were not nearly as wise as they thought they were.

My second reaction is that Holder and Obama’s positions are morally indefensible, at least based on their previous standards. How on earth could they bemoan Enhanced Interrogation Techniques of three terrorists who (a) survived the ordeal and (b) elicited information that saved many innocent American lives while giving the green light to kill American citizens overseas, and to do so without the benefit of a trial?

A third reaction: Where is the outrage of the left? You remember the left – men and women who wrote and spoke out almost on a daily basis that EITs were staining America’s reputation, a violation of human rights and international law, and a moral offense of the highest order. Yet here we have Obama’s attorney general defending the targeted killing of American citizens. This shows you how deeply partisan, and ultimately insincere, the concerns were for many who feigned moral outrage during the Bush years.

When he ran for president, it was clear Obama was a man of astonishing moral arrogance. Now we can add moral hypocrite to his faults.

 

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