So Eric Holder is finally resigning as Attorney General. Good riddance!
He failed miserably in five crucial areas.
First, he refused to prosecute George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld for breaking the treaty against torture and the statutes that also prohibit it.
Second, he let Wall Street CEOs off the hook for messing around with mortgage derivatives, misleading investors and clients, and crashing our economy.
Third, he prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other Attorney General, and he used the hideous 1917 Sedition Act to go after them. He even pursued James Risen, the terrific New York Times reporter, threatening him with jail.
Fourth, he defended the NSA's vaccuuming up of all of our phone calls, and the mass surveillance of us on the Internet. And he invoked the doctrine of "State Secrets" to get away with it.
And fifth, he justified Pres. Obama’s assassination doctrine, and said it applied even to U.S. citizens.
It was in this fifth area that he displayed the full range of his moral shortcomings and legal sophistry.
At a speech at Northwestern University law school in March 2012, he said: “Some have called such operations ‘assassinations.’ They are not, and the use of that loaded term is misplaced.” His argument? “Assassinations are unlawful killings.” But the ones the Obama Administration have carried out and might carry out in the future are lawful, he said. Therefore, they can’t be called assassinations. This isn’t logic; this is tautology.
He added: “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.”
His rationale hinged on the “imminent threat.” But then he went to some lengths to imply that the threat didn’t have to be imminent.
“The evaluation of whether an individual presents an ‘imminent threat’ incorporates considerations of the relevant window of opportunity to act, the possible harm that missing the window would cause to civilians, and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks against the United States,” he said.
Of course, the “window of opportunity to act” has nothing to do with how imminent the threat actually is—just whether the U.S. military or the CIA has a good shot at the person. The other two criteria here don’t really deal with imminence, either, but with the potential severity of future attacks.
Holder concluded his slippery reasoning this way: “The Constitution does not require the President to delay action until some theoretical end-stage of planning—when the precise time, place, and manner of an attack become clear.”
So, actually, forget about imminence.
Holder made two other super-sleazy arguments.
First, he said that the U.S. citizen whom the President orders killed actually receives “due process.” He claimed that the President himself gives the victim due process ahead of time by determining that he is a legitimate target. “ ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same,” Holder asserted. “The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” And then he explained how “the conduct and management of national security operations are core functions of the Executive Branch” and how “only the Executive Branch” has the necessary information to make these determinations.
Call it what you want, but that ain’t due process.
Second, Holder tried to make us feel at ease with this extraordinary assertion of power by saying there is “robust oversight” of the President. What is that “robust oversight,” pray tell?
It was shameful to have the nation’s leading law enforcement officer making such spurious arguments in defense of a regal writ to bump off American citizens.
The next time a U.S. President kills a U.S. citizen, the bomb will have Eric Holder’s signature on it.