Thursday, January 15, 2009

Questioning Holder

By Ben Trott

The Senate confirmation hearing of Eric J. Holder as Attorney General is scheduled for today. USA Today describe the nomination as having so far 'generated the most Republican opposition'.

The New York Times' op-ed pages are running a collection of questions which 5 legal experts say they would like to hear Holder asked before confirmation. The questions address, amongst other issues, legal approval which will (or will not) be given for covert counterterrorism operations, whether he believes the threat of legal investigations impede good-faith decissions within the 'intelligence community', whether or not he has any regrets about his role in the controversial issuing of pardons during the Clinton administration, whether the President has the right to detain terror suspects without trial (and for how long), and whether or not individual Americans have the constitutional right to keep fire-arms for self-defense?

Actor and film-maker, John Cusack, wrote an article for the Huffington Post a couple of days ago in which he suggested two questions Holder should be asked.
'1. Is waterboarding torture?'
'2. Since we know the Bush administration at the highest levels approved waterboarding which is torture which is a war crime, will you appoint a special prosecutor and fulfill your duty to see that justice and the rule of law apply to all Americans? Can you assure us neither circumstance nor convenience nor competing interests be allowed to suppress our fundamental principals - one being that rule of law applies to members of own government.'
The Nation editors have also assembled a collection of questions by 'legal eagles from our orbit' which they would pose to Holder. The editorial explains that Obama's nomination for Attorney General deserves particular scrutiny,
'Not because we expect criminality of the sort authorized by Ashcroft [a Bush era Attorney General] and company but because merely to undo eight years of official corruption will require an extraordinary attorney general - a principled, visionary, independent upholder of law and justice.'

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