January 15, 2009

Holder & the War on Terror

As the confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Eric Holder begin today, we’re willing to overlook Holder’s role, during the Clinton Administration, in both the pardon of international fugitive Marc Rich and the failure to appoint an independent counsel to investigate evidence of fund-raising abuses by VP Al Gore, despite recommendations to the contrary by the Director Louis Freeh and successive heads of DOJ’s campaign task force. We’re even prepared to overlook Holder’s apparently inaccurate 2001 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning his role in the Rich pardon. After all, Mr. Holder served as Deputy Attorney General for more than three years, which is long enough to be entitled to a few mistakes of judgment and memory.

What does trouble us and should trouble the American people, because it reflects a pattern likely to be repeated, is Mr. Holders’ central role and the influence of racial politics in the 1999 pardon of sixteen FALN (Armed Forces of Puerto Rican Nationalists) terrorists. Following the Los Angeles Times’s January 9 disclosure of new evidence concerning Holders’ role, it is clear – in the words of the National Review’s Andrew McCarthy – that
“Holder … engineer[ed] the shocking, politically driven pardons of 16 Puerto Rican separatists … responsible for over 130 bombings and the murders of innocent Americans; terrorists who hadn’t even applied for clemency or expressed a modicum of remorse (elementary prerequisites for pardon consideration under Justice Department standards).”
At the urging of Puerto Rican activists and Puerto Rican members of Congress, Holder chose to ignore opposition to the pardons from the FBI, two United States Attorneys, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Fraternal Order of Police, and victims of the FALN bombings. In the face of political pressure and racial political correctness, even this chilling warning from an interagency counterterrorism task force was ignored:
“Factors which increase the present threat from these groups [the FALN and Los Macheteros] include … the impending release from prison of members of these groups jailed for prior violence.”
Kowtowing to racial politics is nothing new for politicians. Bt the Attorney General is expected to be the nation’s chief law enforcement official and a key player in the War on Terror, rather than a typical politician. In sum, Mr. Holder’s engineering of the FALN pardons is worrisome precisely because it reflects the ongoing concern that, in a Democratic Administration, political correctness and the politics of appealing to the Democratic base may get in the way of effective prosecution of the War on Terror.

Holder’s direct criticism of the War on Terror only deepens our concern. Thanks to Andy McCarthy for pointing out that Mr. Holder denounced President Bush’s anti-terrorist initiatives as “needlessly abusive and unlawful,” complained that the President “denied the writ of habeas corpus to hundreds of accused enemy combatants,” and concluded that Bush’s initiatives “made us less, rather than more, safe.” Holder, who has called Guantanamo Bay “an international embarrassment,” will be in charge of determining which enemy combatants should be released if he is confirmed as Attorney General. There’s plenty of room for debate about the conduct of the War on Terror, but Mr. Holder seems to have already made up his mind, while ignoring the fact that Bush’s initiatives are largely responsible for preventing another attack on our nation.