When he served as deputy attorney general, now Attorney General Eric Holder
gave a "neutral leaning positive" recommendation that led to President Bill
Clinton's pardoning of gazillionaire fugitive Marc Rich, who was on the lam
in Switzerland hiding from federal charges of fraud, evading more than $48
million in taxes, racketeering and trading oil with Iran in violation of a
Holder also had a role in the 1999 Clinton pardons of 16 Puerto Rico
independence terrorists members of the bomb-happy FALN or the splinter
group Los Macheteros who had been convicted on such charges as bank
robbery, possession of explosives and participating in a seditious
conspiracy even though none of the 16 had applied for clemency. As the
Los Angeles Times reported, two of the 16 refused to accept the pardon as
it required them to renounce violence while another later was killed in a
shootout with federal agents.
During his confirmation hearing in January, Holder refused to explain why
the Clinton Department of Justice changed its earlier position against the
16 commutations citing President Clinton's claim of executive privilege.
So you'll forgive me if I don't buy into the argument that, as a simple
lawman, Holder had no choice but to appoint a special prosecutor to
investigate alleged abuses during CIA interrogations of high-value
The Clinton Justice Department didn't even make the 16 terrorists disclose
pertinent information about the crimes they committed, just as they tied no
strings around Rich. Yet 10 years later, Holder's Justice Department won't
give a break to CIA officials desperate to stop another terrorist attack.
Holder's decision would be understandable if the CIA engaged in a pattern of
brazen lawlessness and bloodlust that could be stopped only by DOJ
To the contrary, the CIA waterboarded all of three high-level detainees
then stopped in March 2003 when Bush White House lawyers determined the
technique to be legal.
Moreover, it was a CIA official who, learning that some agents and
contractors may have abused detainees, began an investigation in November
2002 that resulted in an agency request for an inspector general probe in
January 2003. Hence the 2004 report newly released by the Obama
The agency's behavior isn't that of a coverup, but quite the opposite. A
contractor was prosecuted in 2007. John L. Helgerson, the former CIA
inspector general who issued the 2004 report, told the New York Times that
he "personally" would not prosecute the other cases.
The Helgerson report and other documents revealed that 9/11 mastermind
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gave up crucial information about planned terrorist
attacks as a result of the CIA's detention and interrogation program.
There's no way to prove that the enhanced interrogation techniques also
known as "torture" led to those disclosures, but they may have saved
lives by thwarting plans for attacks on London's Heathrow airport, to fly
planes into tall buildings in California and even a plan to weaponize
anthrax. The Washington Post notes that there is no proof that the attacks
were "imminent." OK, but they were in the works.
Now the reward for those who stuck out their necks to uncover these plots is
the very thing that they feared that their names may end up in a World
Court "most wanted" list. As one operative told the IG, "Ten years from now,
we're going to be sorry we're doing this ... (but) it has to be done."
As a candidate for the White House, President Obama left the door open for
prosecuting alleged intelligence abuses, but straddled the controversy by
noting that, if elected, he would not want to see his tenure consumed with
what might be perceived "as a partisan witch hunt."
Sorry, but there is no escaping that perception now.
And it doesn't help when his own attorney general was able to support the
pardon of unrepentant (but left-leaning) offenders, but he can't stop
hounding professionals whose biggest fear was that they might fail to
prevent another large-scale terrorist attack.
I don't know why Obama bothered to keep the Bush rendition policy in play
there can't be many operatives who would be willing to so much as raise
their voices during interrogations after Holder played the
Hey, all operatives have to do is read a newspaper to know that inside the
Beltway in 2009, there is more outrage that agents might have threatened to
kill Khalid Sheikh Mohammad's kids to prevent a terrorist attack than at KSM
for claiming to have beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Likewise, the public seems more exercised at the kill-KSM's-kids threat than
at today's preferred (but necessary) method of fighting al-Qaida: lobbing
missiles that sometimes kill innocent people.
If Obama truly wants to move "forward," as his aides contend, he has the
means as Holder well knows. Obama could use the presidential pardon to
immunize CIA interrogators from the threat of criminal prosecution and end
the constant flogging of serial investigations.
It's true, the CIA interrogators may lack the political connections enjoyed
by Rich and the FALN guys. But maybe this once, Holder can overlook that.