Former Attorney General Eric Holder remains a controversial figure for civil libertarians and other groups after his tenure in the Clinton and Obama Administrations. He is one of the principle authors of the “Kill List” policy under which President Barack Obama claimed the right to kill any American without a charge or trial if he unilaterally determined that they are a national security risk. Despite the view of some of us that Holder deserved to be fired over his abusive investigation of journalists, he will now be given the prestigious Thurgood Marshall Award from the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice on Aug. 4 during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.
The Thurgood Marshall Award honors contributions by members of the legal profession to the advancement of civil rights, civil liberties and human rights in the United States. It is the inclusion of civil liberties and human rights that are troubling in this award. Holder clearly did accomplish much on civil rights. However, the award brushes over his more controversial actions in these other areas.
Holder’s role in the Kill List policy, the targeting of journalists, and withholding information from Congress are among a variety of actions that remains deeply troubling for many. Then there is Holder’s involvement in Clinton’s abuse of his pardon power in the infamous pardoning of Democratic donor Marc Rich as well as his own half brother.
Holder’s record is not a subject for celebration for many, but the ABA deemed him to be worthy of a distinction for his contribution to, among other things, civil liberties. Holder’s “contributions” cost civil liberties dearly in this country. If the ABA is to give him this award, it could at least spare civil libertarians and journalists the reference to civil liberties.