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home : opinions : columns January 25, 2015


3/21/2013 5:00:00 PM
COLUMN: Attorney General Eric Holder: If the president does it, it's legal
By John W. Whitehead
Rutherford Institute

Since the early days of our republic, the Attorney General (AG) of the United States has served as the chief lawyer for the government, entrusted with ensuring that the nation's laws are faithfully carried out and holding government officials accountable to abiding by their oaths of office to "uphold and defend the Constitution."

Unfortunately, far from holding government officials accountable to abiding by the rule of law, the attorneys general of each successive administration have increasingly aided and abetted the Executive Branch in skirting and, more often than not, flouting the law altogether, justifying all manner of civil liberties and human rights violations and trampling the Constitution in the process, particularly the Fourth Amendment.

No better example is there of the perversion of the office of the AG than its current occupant Eric Holder, who was appointed by President Obama in 2009. Hailed by civil liberties and watchdog groups alike for his pledge to "reverse the disastrous course that we have been on over the past few years" and usher in a new era of civil liberties under Obama, Holder has instead carried on the sorry tradition of his predecessors, going to great lengths to "justify" egregious government actions that can only be described as immoral, unjust and illegal.

Indeed, Holder has managed to eclipse both John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez, whose tenures under George W. Bush earned them constant reproach by Democrats and other left-leaning groups for justifying acts of torture, surveillance of American citizens and clandestine behavior by the government. Holder, however, has largely been given a free pass by these very same groups in much the same way that Obama has. The reason, according to former Senate investigator Paul D. Thacker, is that "Obama is a Democrat. And because he is a Democrat, he's gotten a pass from many of the civil liberty and good-government groups who spent years watching President Bush's every move like a hawk."Despite getting a "pass" from those who would normally have been crying foul, during his time as attorney general, Holder has "made the Constitution scream" - that according to one of his detractors. The colorful description is apt. Some of the Justice Department's (DOJ) "greatest hits" under Holder begin and end with his stalwart defense of the Obama administration's growing powers, coming as they do at the expense of the Constitution.

Moreover, as head of the DOJ, Holder's domain is vast, spanning several law enforcement agencies, including the United States Marshals Service; FBI; Federal Bureau of Prisons; National Institute of Corrections; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Drug Enforcement Administration; and Office of the Inspector General (OIG), as well as the U.S. National Central Bureau for INTERPOL. To say that the agencies under Holder have struggled to abide by the rule of law is an understatement.

The following are just some of the highlights of the dangerous philosophies embraced and advanced by Holder and his Justice Department.

The military can detain anyone, including American citizens, it deems a threat to the country. Not only has the DOJ persisted in defending a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act that sanctions indefinite detentions of Americans, but it has also blasted the federal judge who ruled the NDAA to be vague and chilling as overstepping the court's authority and infringing on Obama's power to act as Commander in Chief.

Holder has gone to great lengths to defend Obama's use of drones to target and kill American citizens, even on U.S. soil, as legally justifiable. In fact, a leaked DOJ memo suggests that the President has the power to murder any American citizen the world over, so long as he has a feeling that they might, at some point in the future, pose a threat to the United States.

The federal government has the right to seize the private property - cash, real estate, cars and other assets - of those suspected of being "connected" to criminal activity, whether or not the suspect is actually guilty. The government actually collects billions of dollars every year through this asset-forfeiture system, which it frequently divvies up with local law enforcement officials, a practice fully supported by the DOJ and a clear incentive for the government to carry out more of these "takings."

Warrantless electronic surveillance of Americans' telephone, email and Facebook accounts is not only permissible but legal. According to court documents, more Americans have had their electronic communications spied on as a result of DOJ orders for phone, email and Internet information - 40,000 people alone in 2011 - and that doesn't even begin to take into account agencies outside Holder's purview, terrorism investigations or requests by state and local law enforcement officials.

Judicial review is far from necessary. Moreover, while it is legal for the government to use National Security Letters (NSL) to get detailed information on Americans' finances and communications without oversight from a judge, it is illegal to challenge the authority of the Justice Department. Administrative subpoenas or NSLs - convenient substitutes for court-sanctioned warrants that require only a government official's signature in order to force virtually all businesses to hand over sensitive customer information - have become a popular method of bypassing the Fourth Amendment and a vital tool for the DOJ's various agencies. Incredibly, the DOJ actually sued a telecommunications company for daring to challenge the FBI's secret order, lacking in judicial oversight, that it relinquish information about its customers. The FBI alone has issued more than 300,000 NSLs since 2000.

In one of his earliest attempts to justify targeted assassinations of American citizens by the president, Holder declared in a March 5, 2012 speech at the Northwestern University School of Law that "The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process."

What Holder was attempting to suggest is that the Fifth Amendment's assurance that "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law" does not necessarily involve having one's day in court and all that that entails - it simply means that someone, the president for example, should review and be satisfied by the facts before ordering someone's death. As one history professor warned, "Insert even a sliver of difference between due process and judicial process, and you convert liberty into tyranny. Holder, sworn to uphold the laws of the United States, is the mouthpiece of that tyranny, and Obama is its self-appointed judge, jury and executioner."

Government whistleblowers will be bankrupted, blacklisted, blackballed and in some cases banished. As AG, Holder has reportedly prosecuted more government officials for alleged leaks than all his predecessors combined.

Relying on the World War I-era Espionage Act, the DOJ has launched an all-out campaign to roust out, prosecute, and imprison government whistleblowers for exposing government corruption, incompetence, and greed. Intelligence analyst Bradley Manning is merely one in a long line of so-called "enemies of the state" to feel the Obama administration's wrath for daring to publicly criticize its policies by leaking information to the media.

Government transparency is important unless government officials are busy, can stonewall, redact, obfuscate or lie about the details, are able to make the case that they are exempt from disclosure or that it interferes with national security. When it comes to Wall Street, justice is not blind. As revealed in a PBS Frontline report, the Obama administration has driven federal prosecutions of financial crimes down to a two-decade low, buoyed in its blindness to corporate corruption by campaign donations from Wall Street banks (whom Holder has determined are too big to prosecute anyhow) and staffers whose lucrative financial portfolios came about as a result of chummy relationships with financiers.

As David Sirota points outs: After watching the [PBS] piece, you will understand that the word "justice" belongs in quotes thanks to an Obama administration that has made a mockery of the name of a once hallowed executive department... Rooted in historical comparison, it contrasts how the Reagan administration prosecuted thousands of bankers after the now-quaint-looking S&L scandal with how the Obama administration betrayed the president's explicit promise to "hold Wall Street accountable" and refused to prosecute a single banker connected to 2008's apocalyptic financial meltdown.

Not all suspects should have the right to remain silent. In 2010, Holder began floating the idea that Miranda rights should be modified depending on the circumstances. Curiously, the Supreme Court is presently reviewing a case addressing a similar question, namely whether a suspect's silence equates to an admission of guilt.

Clearly, it's not the Constitution that Eric Holder is safeguarding but the power of the presidency. Without a doubt, Holder has taken as his mantra Nixon's mantra that "When the President does it, that means it is not illegal." It may be that the time has come to create a "non-political" and "independent" Attorney General, one who would serve the interests of the public by upholding the rule of law rather than justifying the whims of the President.


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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Article comment by: It Is Whaddit Is

Interesting headline. However, in nearly 7 decades of life the only actual sitting President I've ever heard utter those exact words was Nixon.

Posted: Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Article comment by: Crazy Town

I hope you are feeling better El Pica. This forum would be boring without your funny spin. You are wise to keep a low profile. All of us should hide in our homes with the shades down. lol Don't forget to load your gun and get your bible.

Posted: Saturday, March 23, 2013
Article comment by: EL PICA BUYAS

@ My Concern. I'm here just keeping a low profile here. You know Holder said that Obama could order a drone strike on a US Citizen if he deemed it necessary since you know what affect my words make in today's society. LOL. hey! What can we do if we can't even handle the local politics here. What can we expect to accomplish on the state or much-less on the national level? I still have more, but I'm not feeling well just got out of the Hospital about a week and half a go. (Not the one here in town)

Posted: Saturday, March 23, 2013
Article comment by: My Concern

Where are all the AJ McKays, the El Picas, the Just Saying folks? Anybody really concerned about this crucial federal action? It is ever more important, in the long run, than the hospital skullduggary, the city council mire, or the police department ineptness, or the school district crap. Is THIS okay??

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013
Article comment by: Buster Webb

We have a devil for a president!! Does not care about any of us (us citizens). But to all that voted for him, thanks!!

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013
Article comment by: On the Mark

Great piece, showing another area in America besides our Hospital Board and City Council, where justice does not prevail! And it's the Office of the Attorney General, for goodness' sake! When will "enough be enough"? Who is going to take the bull by the horns and stop this insanity of ignoring the laws of this land of ours? It ought to be perfectly clear that the direction of this country is NOT conducive to freedom. How can we expect local government to play by the rules, when our federal government flaunts their disdain for American Principles and we just let it slide by. Oh, there might be a few flurries of concern, but ultimately, they get lost in the crowd of instances where Obama, Holder, et. al, just ride it out with lies, and then they do it again, when it cools off. Just like the crooks they are. May God bless America! But, at the same time, may America return to blessing God.



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