Did Holder Have a Choice?

by Jason Zengerle | August 25, 2009

Marc Ambinder makes a smart point about Eric Holder's decision to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate CIA interrogators:

There was so much information in the public domain--and so much information that would eventually be released--that the attorney general could no longer argue that no specific instances of lawbreaking had been brought to his attention. When an OLC memo says "Don't ever do X," and a Red Cross report, backed up by independent witnesses and government cables, is explicit that "X" happened, Holder really had no choice.

I'd say that Holder's decision was even more overdetermined than that. Remember, the biggest question about Holder prior to his becoming attorney general was whether he would be sufficiently independent of the president—an independence, his critics maintained, that he failed to demonstrate in his handling of the Marc Rich pardon when he was deputy attorney general under Bill Clinton. Given those question--and Obama's oft-stated desire to look forward rather than backward on the torture issue--Holder couldn't afford to look as if he was doing the president’s bidding by not investigating the CIA. So he didn’t (although there are those on the Left who maintain that he did.) The irony, of course, is that some of the very same conservatives currently attacking Holder for investigating the CIA were earlier attacking him for having insufficient political independence.

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