Holder Just Made Me a Promise

By David Swanson

As Attorney General Eric Holder left an appropriations subcommittee hearing on Thursday I spoke loudly from the third row as he prepared to leave the room:

“We need a special prosecutor for torture, Mr. Attorney General. Americans like the rule of law. The rule of law for everybody.”

He replied as he approached and walked by, surrounded by bodyguards:

“And you will be proud of your country.”

I was joined by others in replying simultaneously:

“Yes, we want to be proud of our country. We’re ready. No need to wait.”

Holder knew exactly what it would take for me to be proud of my country, and he told me directly that I would be.

Will I? Time will tell.

Some friends from Code Pink and Veterans for Peace and I had held up signs during the hearing: “Torture Is Illegal”, “Special Prosecutor”, “Justice for ALL”, “Are Laws for Everyone?”, “Special Counsel for War Crimes”, “No Torture”, etc.

But I had come with a coalition of groups led by the ACLU in an attempt to present a petition to Holder asking for a special prosecutor.

Pre-hearing we presented the petition to an assistant attorney general who then sat in the front row with a few other DOJ staffers. He promised to hand Holder the petition, and I asked him again in the hallway afterwards, and he promised to hand it to him.

Here’s the opening of the ACLU’s press release:

“A broad coalition of advocacy groups today will deliver petitions containing a quarter million signatures to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding that he appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s use of torture on terrorism suspects. The petitions were gathered by the American Civil Liberties Union, MoveOn.org Political Action, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Firedoglake.com, Democrats.com and other advocacy groups. The petitions will be delivered during Holder’s testimony before a House Appropriations Subcommittee.”

And here’s what I said in that press release:

“David Swanson, Washington Director of Democrats.com: ‘Torturing people to compel agreement with fictional justifications for war suggests that we have not advanced greatly during the past millennium. And yet I know that we have, and that we can prove it by enforcing our laws in the face of fear and misunderstanding. A delay cannot be justified by a lack of evidence (the evidence is overwhelming) or by a political calculation. Appointing an independent special counsel to enforce our laws would give a new basis for progress in our relations with the world, a rationale for improving our criminal code moving forward, and the necessary space for congress to properly pursue accountability and prevention of future abuses of power.'”

This was my blog of the hearing. A number of congress members said and asked very good things, but the questioning was not very pointed, and the answers were either vague or put matters off until June when task forces finish their work. (Do I have to wait until then to start being proud of my country?)

2:40 p.m. Rep David Obey opens with story of political prosecution in WI.

2:45 pm Rep Frank Wolf (R., Va.) talked about 9-11.

2:50 Holder says OPR report should be done “relatively soon.”

2:55 Obey is asking about prosecution for torture team.

2:59 Holder says DOJ task forces on interrogations and detentions will report in July, but does not actually answer the question of whether there will be prosecutions.

3:01 Wolf is worried that enforcing the law might make employees in the future feel they had to be careful to obey laws. So, Wolf repeats the question: will you pursue the prosecutions? AND are there docs that show torturing saved lives?

3:02 Holder will not prosecute people who acted in good faith on justice dept memos, but claims to enforce the rule of law blah blah and MIGHT be open to prosecuting the people who wrote the memos. Holder has not seen and is unfamiliar with any memos that back up Cheney’s claims but he hopes to make all OLC memos public. Wolf wants ALL memos, OLC and otherwise.

Let him have em!!! Here’s how crazy Cheney’s claim is.

3:09 hearing’s being played live on MSNBC right now, and covered on CNN and Fox. Fattah is now asking about massive funding of prisons and pittance for re-entry programs, and about mortgage fraud.

3:10 Holder answers re mortgage fraud.

3:13 Asked again, Holder says he supports the Second Chance Act. He supports schools and parenting. (Not really his department?) He supports educating prisoners. (So why not fund it?)

Questioning drifting from topic of torture. I’m reading the news. NY Times has an op-ed from Roger Cohen, who wants immunity for torturers.

3:21 Schiff nails it. Holder said water boarding torture. Torture has occurred. Laws must be enforced.

3:25 Holder hems and haws.

3:25 Culverson wants to know if CIAers who did not act in good faith might be prosecuted. Holder says yes.

3:31 Serrano: if we do not prosecute torture we provide a recruiting tool to terrorists, and we leave people unable to travel outside the country for fear of arrest. But Serrano asks no question and moves on to immigrants issues.

3:40 Rep Ruppersberger asks about the torture again and Holder answers about his task forces through July again.

I just posted an excellent article the AG should read.

I’m going to turn this off and try to talk to Holder when he leaves.

More to come.

(See above.)