Holder Calls Waterboarding Torture — But Falls Short of Committing to Enforce the Law

ericholderAttorney General Eric Holder Jr. began on a high note this afternoon by acknowledging that waterboarding is torture — an admission that Mukasey refused to make. However, he did not commit to the obvious implication of that statement: he will enforce federal law and international law that makes torture both a crime and a war crime. I discussed the testimony on this segment of Rachel Maddow’s show.

Holder’s statement was refreshingly simple: “Waterboarding is torture.” What followed was not:

“The decisions that were made by a prior administration were difficult ones. It is an easy thing for somebody to look back in hindsight and be critical of the decisions that were made. Having said that, the president-elect and I are both disturbed by what we have seen and what we have heard.”

What precisely does that mean? The decision on war crimes is not a difficult one. The answer is that you cannot order them. Moreover, it is not really important how “disturbed” Barack Obama and Eric Holder may be about a war crime. The question is whether as Attorney General Holder would enforce the law. The Democrats failed to press that point.

The reason that Mukasey stated (rather implausibly) that he did not know what waterboarding was is that he knew an affirmative answer would commit him to enforce. Holder’s statement sets up a simple question. We now know that the Administration accepts decades of cases defining waterboarding as torture. There is no question that torture is a war crime. So, there is the simple question, will Obama and Holder walk away from a known war crime because it is politically inconvenient to prosecute. If so, they have attain little high ground by acknowledging a war crime and then doing nothing to prosecute the war criminals.

For the full story, click here.


‘Waterboarding is torture’
Jan. 15: Eric Holder answers questions from Sen. Patrick Leahy about torture and the right to bear arms.

Obama has described Guantanamo Bay as a “sad chapter in American history.” He plans to issue an executive order calling for the prison to be closed.

Holder echoed that stance Thursday but said shuttering the prison would be difficult and would take time. Many detainees could be transferred to other countries, he said, and some could be charged in U.S. courts. That is a contentious proposal because many oppose the idea of bringing terrorism suspects onto U.S. soil.

“There are possibly many other people who are not going to be able to be tried but who nevertheless are dangerous to this country,” Holder said. “We’re going to have to try to figure out what we do with them.”

Holder promised to be an independent attorney general, telling lawmakers that he did not believe the attorney general’s job was to serve as the president’s lawyer — a frequent criticism of Gonzales’ tenure under President George W. Bush. He also pledged to restore the independence of a Justice Department where Bush administration appointees used political benchmarks when making hiring decisions.

“One of the things I’m going to have to do as attorney general in short order is basically do a damage assessment,” Holder said.

While the GOP was expected to use the confirmation hearing to demonstrate that the party is still relevant despite a Democratic sweep in November, Holder was largely spared any confrontational questions during the morning hours of the daylong hearing.

40 thoughts on “Holder Calls Waterboarding Torture — But Falls Short of Committing to Enforce the Law”

  1. rofl seamus

    Yeah, that’s the thing with trolls. Just like hookers. You don’t know where they’ve been.

  2. See, unlike you, we’ve read and understand the Constitution. Your bleating and mooing will get you nothing but derision and jokes at your expense. So feel free to stay. I need the entertainment.

  3. Buddha, Ben is right. I’ve seen pictures of his thumb. It looks like there’s some huge cancerous growth. But it turns out it’s just full of brains. Actually, he might have just been scratching his nuts.

  4. ben and ken, you same old guy you, you just need to come to terms with the fact you back criminals and traitors to the Constitution. And you’re evil. Just like them. Enjoy being a shit! Because not a single person here cares what you think.

  5. AP Slammed Bush’s ‘Extravagant’ Inaugural in ’05, But Now It’s Spend, Baby, Spend
    January 14, 2009 – 13:51

    Four years ago, the Associated Press and others in the press suggested it was in poor taste for Republicans to spend $40 million on President Bush’s inauguration. They calculated the impact that kind of money would have on armoring Humvees in Iraq, helping victims of the tsunami, or paying down the deficit. Lester thought the party should be cancelled.

    Fast forward to 2009. The nation is at war and now also faces the prospect of a severe recession and federal budget deficits topping $1 trillion as far as the eye can see.

    With Barack Obama’s inauguration estimated to cost – $125 – million is the Associated Press once again tsk-tsking the high dollar cost?

    Nope. “For inaugural balls, go for glitz, forget economy,” a Tuesday AP headline advised. The article by reporter Laurie Kellman argued for extravagance.

  6. Sorry lads! Aint’ nobody closing down GITMO, not with over 60 previous detainees out there trying to KILL our US Soldiers again.

    Why do you people hate our Military and want to see murder happy inmates at GITMO released so they can kill our sons & daughters in the Military?

  7. Obama: On second thought, it’s not that important to capture Bin Laden

    posted at 6:18 pm on January 14, 2009

    Remember at the debate when he vowed, “We will kill Bin Laden, we will crush al-Qaeda”? He’s stressed the importance of taking out Osama on other occasions, but never quite as forcefully as that. Why, enter the quote in Google and you’ll find it immortalized in the very first hit .

    Anyway, change of plans:

    COURIC: How important do you think it is, Mr. President-elect, to apprehend Osama bin Laden?

    OBAMA: I think that we have to so weaken his infrastructure that, whether he is technically alive or not, he is so pinned down that he cannot function. My preference obviously would be to capture or kill him. But if we have so tightened the noose that he’s in a cave somewhere and can’t even communicate with his operatives then we will meet our goal of protecting America.

    This is the counterterror equivalent of The One promising that he’ll save three million jobs: He “succeeds” merely by maintaining the status quo. If pinning down Osama so that he can’t function is the goal, the goal was met literally years ago.

  8. Geitner for Treasury Sec – new facts up – he needs to withdraw:

    UPDATE: Additional facts have come to light that make this situation much more serious. Byron York reports that IMF employees received additional compensation that was earmarked for their portion of FICA taxes. Their incomes were, as the IMF put it, “grossed up.” Thus, Geithner accepted “reimbursement” from the IMF for taxes that he didn’t pay. Not only that, he certified that he would pay the taxes:

    The IMF did not withhold state and federal income taxes or self-employment taxes — Social Security and Medicare — from its employees’ paychecks. But the IMF took great care to explain to those employees, in detail and frequently, what their tax responsibilities were. …

    The tax allowance has turned out to be a key part of the Geithner situation. This is how it worked. IMF employees were expected to pay their taxes out of their own money. But the IMF then gave them an extra allowance, known as a “gross-up,” to cover those tax payments. This was done in the Annual Tax Allowance Request, in which the employee filled out some basic information — marital status, dependent children, etc. — and the IMF then estimated the amount of taxes the employee would owe and gave the employee a corresponding allowance.

    At the end of the tax allowance form were the words, “I hereby certify that all the information contained herein is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and that I will pay the taxes for which I have received tax allowance payments from the Fund.” Geithner signed the form. He accepted the allowance payment. He didn’t pay the tax. For several years in a row.

    If Byron’s description is correct (and I’m confident it is), it represents a level of carelessness that is not going to be tolerated in a Treasury Secretary at this moment in history. I expect Obama to withdraw Geithner’s nomination.

  9. Asked about President-elect Barack Obama, who has promised to engage more with Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a news conference:

    Any administration in America that takes office must make two changes in its behavior, the first change is in the field of America’s interference … The circle of interference should be limited to within American borders.” “The second change is the approach of the American government toward Iran,” he said.

    !!!!LOL! Mahmoud’ first precondition would mean we would need to become 100% isolationists and withdraw from the world’s problems!!! UNBELIEVABLE, but you know what, Obama just MIGHT GO FOR IT!


  10. If, as the new attorney general, Holder believes torture has been commited by person over which he has jurisdiction to prosecute, and a decision is made not to prosecute, “so we can deal with the future and not the past” or some such nonsense, then I think I’ll end up having about as much respect for this administration as I do for the one on its way out.

    For some reason Americans seem to think that we get a clean slate or a “do over” every time we put a new administration in the White House. That’s not how the rest of the world sees it. The economy doesn’t just fix itself with the new president. The air and the water doesn’t miraculously clean itself up the day Obamam takes office. Just saying,” Yeah, that was some messed up shit those other guys were doing, but we ain’t them and we won’t do it”, doesn’t fucking fix this, it only encourages the next bunch of fascist to come down the pike to do it again.

  11. If you have doubts regarding Mr. Holder’s basic fitness for AG, then I suggest that you view the 2h 44 m C-Span video. I will never understand Mr. Holder’s decision regarding his involvement with Marc Rich’s pardon but I can now overlook that problem and his related participation in Mr. Clinton’s pardons.

    I now think Mr. Holder can serve as an effective and independent attorney for the citizens of the U.S. through upholding the rule of law and adhering to the U.S. Constitution.


  12. I heard the waffling on Gitmo and I’m sorry to hear of this additional one. “The decisions that were made by a prior administration were difficult ones.”–that’s not true. Some of these decisions were made prior to combat operations. In addition, legal advice telling cheneybush clearly that torture was illegal was given and rejected by them. Experienced interrogators spoke out against torture, saying it was ineffective, illegal and would put our own people in harm’s way. cheneybush wanted to torture as part of expanding executive power and went about finding a way to do it. It was not the result of a gut wrenching decision made “to keep us safe”. It is disturbing that Holder is bringing up a version of the administration’s propaganda as to why he probably won’t prosecute.

    Secondly, once he said waterboarding is a torture, it’s worse to not forthrightly say one will investigate this crime. He needs to state he will investigate. He should not be willing to use information that was gained via torture in cases against detainees.

  13. Simple truth is we would not have Bush if Nixon had been locked in a concrete 6×8 cell. If you don’t punish them, expect a look of non-cooperation from We the People. I, for one, will not pay taxes to a government that will protect Bush and Cheney. Period. Come torture me if you don’t like it. You’ll get nary a dime.

  14. MASk,

    The fact that you think that anything the President did COULD be illegal means that the terrorists have won.

  15. Of course no one wants a loose cannon in the office of Attorney General. Who knows what dangerous ideas he might get in his head if he decided to actually prosecute the establishment? It would set a bad precedent.

    If America enforces its own laws against the president then the terrorists have won.

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