Proceed At Your Own Peril: Holder May Face Congressional Investigation Into His Own Role on Renditions If He Investigates Torture

holderericPete Williams is reporting that Republicans are threatening to expose Attorney General Eric Holder’s role in renditions during the Clinton Administration if he pursues an investigation into torture. Imagine that: raw political retaliation could finally give civil libertarians a full investigation of this country’s long-concealed abuses.

It is now clear that our mistake for the last eight years has been to call upon members to follow their conscience and principles. We should have expressed human rights in terms of a good way to embarrass your opponents.

Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Richard Shelby of Alabama pressed Holder on the CIA’s “rendition” program under the Clinton Administration and demanded figures, which Holder promised to supply.

When is Holder going to stop this farce and allow a disinterested special prosecutor to investigate this matter? Until then, we will continue to see political ploys in both parties continue to diminish our standing in the world. At the moment, this entire controversy is being treated as a political contest by both Democrats and Republicans.

Ironically, the muscle play may backfire. Holder and Obama have already been accused for promising Bush officials before the inauguration that they would privately block any investigation or prosecution into torture. Their actions since then have only reaffirmed those statements by Senators and CIA officials. Now, if Holder does not investigate, it will be viewed as knuckling under to avoid personal embarrassment into his own actions during the Clinton administration.

For the full story, click here.

45 thoughts on “Proceed At Your Own Peril: Holder May Face Congressional Investigation Into His Own Role on Renditions If He Investigates Torture”

  1. CCD:

    Your are very kind and I apologize for not acknowledging your kindness sooner. You should know that everyone here, even our trollish friends, play a role in our education. Here are some words from my favorite author, R. W. Emerson, illustrating more eloquently than I could ever imagine, this very point:

    “Is it a reply to these suggestions to say, Society is a Pestalozzian school: all are teachers and pupils in turn? We are equally served by receiving and by imparting. Men who know the same things are not long the best company for each other. But bring to each an intelligent person of another experience, and it is as if you let off water from a lake by cutting a lower basin. It seems a mechanical advantage, and great benefit it is to each speaker, as he can now paint out his thought to himself. We pass very fast, in our personal moods, from dignity to dependence. And if any appear never to assume the chair, but always to stand and serve, it is because we do not see the company in a sufficiently long period for the whole rotation of parts to come about. As to what we call the masses, and common men,- there are no common men. All men are at last of a size; and true art is only possible on the conviction that every talent has its apotheosis somewhere. Fair play and an open field and freshest laurels to all who have won them! But heaven reserves an equal scope for every creature. Each is uneasy until he has produced his private ray unto the concave sphere and beheld his talent also in its last nobility and exaltation.”

    –Ralph Waldo Emerson, from the essay, “Uses of Great Men,” found in the book “Representative Men.” (1850)

    There are no common men (and women), indeed. Read more here:

  2. mespo727272, I think you succeeded in finding a truffle! Fascinating article- forensic anthropology at its best, I also wish the govt would throw some money in that direction.

  3. mESPO:

    Very interesting thought, and I agree with the conclusions. But probably for different reasons.

  4. Thanks Mike S, I am glad you and Buddha and CCD enjoyed it. I thought I owed you all some serious content since I ‘ve just been posting short comments lately. Damn trial schedule. I’ll keep plugging away and hopefully, like the blind pig, find an acorn or two.

  5. CCD:

    The downfall of Man is that he forgets. It is a preventable oblivion. Those ancients couldn’t tell a handheld from a UNIVAC but they understood how a society is programmed — and perhaps Machiavelli was the best of them all.

  6. Gratzi mespo:
    I am deeply appreciative of the education you so liberally, generously and genuinely supply. Machiavelli was one smart Italiano, no doubt he too would appreciate the contextual usage of the passage you cite.

  7. Buddha,
    Great catch and exciting news. Could you imagine though the reaction of the Regressive’s if our Government put a billion or so into the effort? Documenting humanity’s past is as important as any project can be, if only to expose to successive generations, that history provides context for everything else.

  8. Buddha:


    “I thought you might find this article interesting.”


    I did indeed.

  9. Mespo,
    You Machiavelli quote was beyond appropriate and sums up what some of us have been saying on this topic. That it referenced Imperial Rome only underlined the aptness for what we face today. Part of the mistake that some well intentioned partisans make in their justifiable passion for justice, is that these overwhelming good v. evil issues of today, are merely a continuation of humanity’s age old battle to rise above our baser, lizard brain nature, into a world where justice and equity are predominant. A apt analogy to me are both the French and Russian Revolutions.
    Nowhere was there a more deserving of punishment nobility than in these venues and yet the speed of the victory brought with it excesses that equaled those being overthrown.
    It takes time and wisdom to do this right and the torture angle was only a part of the evils and excess of Bush/Cheney.
    There is so much in our system to fix and that is a process not aided by impatience. That Buddha and now myself are the only ones to comment on your gem, illustrates the difficulty of putting the present into historical context.

    Re-posted from another thread.

  10. Buddha:

    Right you are, and this one is wonderful. He knew a thing or two about decaying societies. He is also the authentic “Nostradamus.”

  11. mespo,

    Nice pick. Most people tend forget Niccolo wrote more than one book.

  12. “Pete Williams is reporting that Republicans are threatening to expose Attorney General Eric Holder’s role in renditions during the Clinton Administration if he pursues an investigation into torture.”


    “That its original institutions are no longer adapted to a city that has become corrupted, is plainly seen in two matters of great moment, I mean in the appointment of magistrates and in the passing of laws. For the Roman people conferred the consulship and other great offices of their State on none save those who sought them; which was a good institution at first, because then none sought these offices save those who thought themselves worthy of them, and to be rejected was held disgraceful; so that, to be deemed worthy, all were on their best behaviour. But in a corrupted city this institution grew to be most mischievous. For it was no longer those of greatest worth, but those who had most influence, who sought the magistracies; while all who were without influence, however deserving, refrained through fear.”

    “This was a good system so long as the citizens were good, since it is always well that every man should be able to propose what he thinks may be of use to his country, and that all should be allowed to express their views with regard to his proposal; so that the people, having heard all, may resolve on what is best. But when the people grew depraved, this became a very mischievous institution; for then it was only the powerful who proposed laws, and these not in the interest of public freedom but of their own authority; and because, through fear, none durst speak against the laws they proposed, the people were either deceived or forced into voting their own destruction.”

    “For to effect a gradual reform requires a sagacious man who can discern mischief while it is still remote and in the germ. But it may well happen that no such person is found in a city; or that, if found, he is unable to persuade others of what he is himself persuaded. For men used to live in one way are loath to leave it for another, especially when they are not brought face to face with the evil against which they should guard, and only have it indicated to them by conjecture. And as for a sudden reform of institutions which are seen by all to be no longer good, I say that defects which are easily discerned are not easily corrected,…”

    –Niccolo Machiavelli, “Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius,” trans. Allan Gilbert, book 1, chapter 18 (1965).

    Call me chicken little, but I notice parallels in the words of that old Italian consiliarius.

  13. 1) As has been pointed out dozens of times; the United States military has trained over 40,000 troops using severe & harsh interrogation methods since the late 1970’s

    2) This training has been investigated by Congress any number of times and approval was granted and funding was provided the Congress all those years.

    3) Nothing that we did to three terrorists exceeded what the United States Government did to our own 40,000 troops in 1) above.

    That means either

    1) Congress has permitted the US Military to “torture” 40,000 US troops since the late 1970’s voicing no objections. Nor did any in Congress demand accountability and the application of law against “torture – therefor all of Congress is guilty of torture.


    2) The training 40,000 US troops have undergone WAS NOT TORTURE, therefor the harsh interrogation used on 3 terrorists WAS NOT TORTURE.

    You pick the answer……….

  14. As Chimpy Bush used to say – “Bring it on”….Since the republicans CAN’T investigate anything given their status as, at best, a pimple on the butt of history.

  15. MASkeptic
    1, May 8, 2009 at 11:10 am
    “disinterested special prosecutor”
    “anyone who would be appointed would be wielding a political loaded gun that NOONE except those interested in Justice wants to go off. …”

    Two words: Judge Judy. I’m only half kidding. The problem with talking about a special prosecutor is we keep going back to the same poisoned well of political insiders. Is the US so bankrupt of fine legal minds and patriots that not one person of high reputation and clean credentials can’t be found? Souter IMO would be a good investigator but suffers the taint of close association and probably the expectation of having an agenda. Possibly a special prosecutor’s board having several people could be set up. We are limited in our choice by our imagination only.

    BTW, I’m happy the Republicans have started a campaign of public blackmail- it may back Holder and Obama into a corner wherein he or the President is forced to appoint some 3rd party in a prosecutor role. Keep up the good work wingnut Repubs, keep that pressure on!

  16. One would think that the blank check handed to Kennth Starr to investigate every detail of Clinton’s life, both private and professional, would have resulted in at least a mention of such monumental wrongdoing as extraordinary rendition or complicity in torture. Mr. Starr certainly was given both the time and the unlimited amounts of money necessary to turn over every rock in Clinton’s past.

  17. The hamhanded threats of Sen. Alexander and Sen. Shelby reflect the corrupt cynicism of people who have occupied their positions for too long. These gentlemen obviously believe that when there is evidence of crimes committed by members of both political parties, it is appropriate to cover up some of them by implicitly conspiring to cover up all of them. And if these gentlemen had information concerning criminal violations by members of the Clinton administration, why didn’t they fulfill their constitutional duties at that time, particularly when they controlled both houses of Congress and the chairmanships of all of the relevant committees? One hand may wash the other, but it is wearisome to continually see that excuse dragged out of the ethical basement to justify congressional failures.

  18. eniobob, thanks for the Newsweek cite. Maybe Mukasey unwittingly did the country a favor by appointing John Durham to investigate the destruction of the interrogation tapes. I remain convinced that it will all come together, but over many months and with overlapping investigations.

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