Talk:Eric Holder

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 Definition (born January 21, 1951) Current United States Attorney General in the Obama administration [d] [e]

Holder confirmation

I have found no evidence that any Democrat was willing to entertain the issues raised by Republicans. The closest one could come to such a statement is: (1) if you include Charles Schumer's condemnation of Holder's actions back in 2001, or (2) if you count Arlen Specter as a Democrat avant la lettre. But Chuck did not repeat his criticism of 2001 when Holder was nominated and instead called him an outstanding pick. What prominent Democrats made a big deal out of it? I have not yet found any name of Democrats who complained but I've only searched around for less than an hour.

An additional problem with the phrase "some senators" is that it excludes Representatives in the House and all other Republicans who raised the issue. Since a good many Republicans did not object to Holder's appointment (including Orrin Hatch, for instance) "some Republicans" is perhaps the better way to phrase this. I do not disagree that the issue was a legitimate one to raise but it became, unfortunately, a partisan issue. Smoothing over that aspect in CZ just because one has a distaste for partisanship is not doing anyone a favor. Michel van der Hoek 19:36, 12 August 2009 (UTC)

I can live with "some Republicans", but I do believe that "smoothing" over generalizations about Republican vs. Democrat, conservative vs. liberal, is quite appropriate. Partisanship has its place, but not simply to throw about as a sound bite.
It would, for example, not be inappropriate to discuss how Holder's nomination was specifically made a partisan issue. That can be documented. Simply saying undifferentiated Republicans disliked it, however, does not add substance to the article.
As you say, not all Republicans objected, so whether or not any Democrats made a "big deal of it" isn't especially relevant. Believe it or not, the United States is not a parliamentary democracy and not everything happens on party lines, much as that might disappoint Karl Rove, James Carville, and Mary Matalin. Not every disagreement is treason, regardless of what Ann Coulter might have to say; I prefer the opinions of Theodore Roosevelt on dissent. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:44, 12 August 2009 (UTC)


Why was the dismissal surprising? To whom? Howard C. Berkowitz 17:03, 14 August 2009 (UTC)

Reorganization; considering significance

Let me begin by questioning if it was editorially wise to move Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. to the end under "other". I'll be the first to agree that the specific case, and even the broader state secrets privilege, is a specialist matter. It has real significance, however, in that it was a case where the Obama administration made a preliminary determination to continue some George W. Bush Administration policies regarding terror suspects, which has been reversed on appeal.

In other words, national security actions are not purely Republican-Democratic, yet I find the article seems to be framing them in such terms. The question of investigating the CIA is very complex, and I've tried to keep up with it in intelligence interrogation, U.S., George W. Bush Administration. A very major report has just been declassified in 2009 and there were a number of declassifications before that; to say the Republicans are objecting due to a 2004 report is missing about 5 years of extensive discussion. Indeed, a 2004 report precedes both legislation and Supreme court decisions on the matter.

It's fair to talk about the matter, but it's being greatly oversimplified, and gives me a sense that the article is being written from a Republican viewpoint -- or of some Republican viewpoints. Cheney, for example, is out of step with a significant number of Republicans who indeed don't wan't a full Justice Department investigation — I'm not personally convinced that is a good idea — but there is a wide range of opinions on a very complex matter.

If it is going to be brought up briefly in a Holder article, at least mention the opinions are not consistent and link to the detailed discussion. Now, over there, I have not written up the most recent input, and political discussions, that came from the latest 145-page report, which I'm still studying. Perhaps a subarticle about investigations is called for; I've never liked the subheading of "reform." Howard C. Berkowitz 16:19, 7 September 2009 (UTC)

Rather than argue what I consider to be great oversimplification of Holder's actions regarding the CIA and senior officials, see the new intelligence interrogation, U.S., review. It's a work in progress, but certainly should help establish I'm not picking on Republicans. Frankly, I find it hard to know what to say about senators complaining about a matter being settled in 2004, when there have been five additional years of declassifications, legislation, and court decisions; there's also an apparently lack of knowledge that double jeopardy does not apply to prosecutorial investigation. Howard C. Berkowitz 00:46, 8 September 2009 (UTC) (Copied here from the talk page on George W. Bush by Michel van der Hoek 01:50, 8 September 2009 (UTC))
Howard, why don't you just amend and add what you think is missing or inaccurate? As far as I am concerned, the article now accurately presents the situation as it has played out in the media, albeit only on a superficial level. Presenting the media view of this situation is an important viewpoint of the way this or any issue develops in society, but it is only the beginning. Rather than complain about bias and oversimplification, you could supply those facets that were distorted or ignored in the common presentations of this topic. Add links to other articles. Put the material in context. As you have shown here and in other CZ article and talk pages beyond a shred of doubt, you know this subject matter. So go ahead and change this article. Nobody owns this article. Michel van der Hoek 01:58, 8 September 2009 (UTC)
I suppose I don't tend to regard as the mass media view of a subject as a good starting point for complex coverage. For whatever reason, the Republican criticism seems here just to defend Republican positions. It shouldn't be obscure that using 2004 material for an evolving situation is, on their part, silly.
To put it in a fair context, I started the new article. I'd get rid of this completely or link. Howard C. Berkowitz 04:07, 8 September 2009 (UTC)
Have you got a link to this new article? Michel van der Hoek 03:24, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Hopefully a constructive suggestion

See also: Intelligence interrogation, U.S., review

I don't think I'm the first Citizen, commenting on political events, who has suggested the media is not the best starting point for encyclopedia-quality articles. Might I suggest that when you feel media is covering a valid issue, bring it up first on a talk page, or, if a new subject, even in a forum or mailing list?

The idea, for example, of an Attorney General not following a President's ruling is arguably a lower-level check and balance, not a fault. So as not to make a Republican-Democrat thing of it, consider when Richard Nixon told Elliot Richardson to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Cox, and Richardson resigned rather than do it, as did Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus. Solicitor General Bork, according to Richardson and Ruckelshaus, was prepared to resign as well, but they told him the point had been made and someone had to run the Department.

There are various legal authorities granted to the Attorney General for special surveillance, as in the Communications Act of 1934. In other words, there is precedent for some autonomy.

I have not completed my analysis of the latest declassified CIA report, but there is an abundant amount of information that came out since 2004; also see intelligence interrogation, U.S., George W. Bush Administration.

I just don't see a point, in an encyclopedia rather than a blog, of covering the latest announcements, without context, of politicians of either party. Howard C. Berkowitz 04:33, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Howard, for the record, I do NOT disagree with you on the substance of your comments. I do not dispute Holder's authority, even his duty to examine whether there is actionable evidence in this case, especially in light of new reports and reviews that have become available since 2004. Also, I agree that media-driven writing is almost per definition bad writing (unless, perhaps, it is about the media, but even then...).
And yet, perhaps I am reading the wrong sources, but I do think that there is legitimate cause to at least include the media perspective in a discussion of this case, even if only to point out why any public perception of the matter, driven by the media's covering of it, is incorrect, flawed, incomplete, or flat-out wrong. Whether you like it or not, you have to take the media seriously in discussing political topics, because in our society media and politics are inseparable. I am especially afraid that if we make a principled decision to disallow media views to be included in the discussion--because we consider them inherently misleading, naive, simplified, mendacious, untrustworthy, unscientific, imprecise, etc.--the article will end up being so technical as to be incomprehensible to all but a few experts. Your suggestion to refrain from including media views until this has been discussed on the talk page seems to me an unnecessarily restrictive approach to writing. There are only a few people writing anything about politics on CZ and I do not think we would ever get enough input from others to come to any agreeable conclusion. I suggest we simply keep writing and rewriting, editing and re-editing, adding and removing, as the article (and the topic as a whole, covered by related articles) grows. Until we have more material and more context, it is hard to make judgments about what is superfluous and what is lacking. It is something that requires hindsight.
All this is to say that I do not disagree with your comment that we ought not include every comment spouted by every politician. The objections of a number of senators and of some former CIA officials (but they may well be fearing personal reprisals) to investigating EITs within intelligence interrogations by CIA agents may well turn out to be completely irrelevant in a few years' time (when indictments are filed or, alternatively, the special prosecutor concludes there is nothing left to do). At the moment, the Republican senators' objections at least illustrate an alternative opinion to the legality/constitutionality of this investigation.Michel van der Hoek 14:31, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Let's look at "erroneous edit"

After you corrected my reference to Jennifer Rubin, I became a bit curious, and researched both her and Pajamas Media. Interesting. Blogger and collection of blogs, which we at CZ usually don't take as authoritative without confirmation, and a news article isn't confirmation. Rubin and Pajamas are hardly neutral sources.

The Weekly Standard is a real journal that doesn't make any argument about being conservative.

As far as your comment,
I suggest we simply keep writing and rewriting, editing and re-editing, adding and removing, as the article (and the topic as a whole, covered by related articles) grows. Until we have more material and more context, it is hard to make judgments about what is superfluous and what is lacking. It is something that requires hindsight.

I could not disagree more. CZ is not a political debating society nor a place to float news balloons. When I do use news reports, I make every effort to cross-check them (and source) opposing journalistic views, and, as happened many times with interrogation, replaced or supplemented with primary sources when they became available. "Writing and rewriting" based on rapidly evolving content, when it comes exclusively from provocative partisan sources, is not a way to approach encyclopedic quality. So far, it comes across as attack-Democrats. Seriously, do you really think that 5-year-old investigations of a current subject are worthy of notice, when there are reams of more recent material?

Please put back the references to Jennifer Rubin and Pajamas Media; that, and Commentary, are her affiliations. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:52, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Howard, I did not remove these references. They are still there.
I did correct one of the references where you accidentally made Jennifer Rubin a reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. This error arose because you misdivided two references and put her name with the publication of the previous reference. I simply corrected this division so that the footnote pointed to the correct publication (in this case, The Weekly Standard, where she is a regular contributor, though she is more closely affiliated with Commentary magazine). Michel van der Hoek 02:52, 10 September 2009 (UTC)
If I may make a technical suggestion -- no matter what the subject, putting more than one citation between a pair of <ref></ref> directives invites even innocent errors.
Now, as to her affiliation: she may be a contributor to Commentary (magazine) and the Weekly Standard, but she is listed as Washington Editor for Pajamas Media. That third affiliation seems her major one. The latter is a collection of blogs, and, in many of its articles, does not seem to reach the accuracy standards of Commentary or the Weekly Standard. Let's not give her more gravitas than she has earned.
You will see, in the intelligence interrogation, U.S., review article, a reference to Victoria Toensing's current and pertinent comments on the CIA prosecution, going back to her direct experience in 1981, her expert analysis of the Bush decisions, and criticism of what implicitly is the Holder investigation. I only partially agree with her, but I'd say she has far more credentials than Rubin, and there can be abundantly more. There are people that want far more aggressive prosecution than Holder, and they are not represented — and I think they are wrong. Indeed, Holder's actions are preliminary, and I think a bit early to report, at least outside an extensive context. Right now, however, the article just covers some Republican criticism of his actions, which does not strike me as balanced. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:08, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

Constable comment

I've asked politics editor, User:Roger Lohmann, to stop in and take a look to see if he can help with some direction here. Please be patient. D. Matt Innis 01:24, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

Response from editor Roger Lohmann

The following was moved from Roger's talk page: D. Matt Innis 17:18, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

I've just read this article through once without attempting to comprehend any of the comments on the Talk Page (except what was necessary to scroll to the bottom!). My initial reaction is that once again we have a problem trying to get the right focus on a politically-controversial living public figure.
And in this case, its complicated by Holder's position as Attorney General. Is he the President's man, a neutral public servant, are the two roles in conflict and do we even know yet, since he's only been in office for a few months. Moreover, with his appointment of a special prosecutor, the political controversy is likely just beginning. For CZ purposes, the current article is not yet encyclopedia; it reads a little too much like the kind of "box score" daily political commentary we have come to expect from CNN and Newsweek and the blogsphere. But, that's fine; its a good start. I didn't see any overt evidences of political biases, The article does makes the Attorney General out more to be a partisan political figure than the nation's #1 law enforcement official. (Obviously, that isn't an either or proposition.)
This is the start of a good solid encyclopedia entry. There is certainly no reason for any kind of drastic action about the article at this point. It might be a good time however for a "time out" on continuing to add to the growing body of argumentation on the talk page. Mostly, contributors are probably talking past one another anyway. (They usually do). The only contribution I can see worth making at this point would be a purely editorial one: a list of short bullet points extracted from that discussion, noting continuing issues and concerns only (and not reviewing any of the arguments pro and con.)
How about a moritorium for a week or so on additions to the main entry? Authors and critics can go on to other things for that time; like building the subpages. Meanwhile, I'll try to sift through the comments on the talk page and compile my own list (and invite a couple of other editors to do the same). Then, let's see if, a week or so we can be at a new starting point and ready to move on. In the meantime, please don't shift the discussion and pummel me with private emails, because I won't read them until later anyway.
Roger Lohmann 15:36, 10 September 2009 (UTC)

Good Improvements

Howard, I like what you are doing with the article. I hope you don't mind my cleaning it up a little (there were sentence fragments you must have overlooked). Since you are actually doing the work of substantiating and contextualizing the whole discussion with more useful references from credentialed experts, I would be in favor of deleting the reference to Jennifer Rubin altogether in this article. She is simply a journalist and her opinion has no added value in the discussion as it is being developed on this page. We can probably also lose her on the linked page about intelligence investigations. Michel van der Hoek 03:01, 18 September 2009 (UTC)

May I further propose the following condensing of the material to keep this one issue from overloading this article?


See also: Intelligence interrogation, U.S., review#Justice_Department

On August 24, 2009, Holder announced that he would renew the appointment of John H. Durham as acting U.S. attorney investigating possible illegal acts by the CIA, including destruction of evidence and improper interrogation. Durham had originally been appointed by Holder’s predecessor, Michael Mukasey, in January 2008. [1][2]

Holder commented that he was aware of the controversy that would be created by this move but he concluded that, in view of new evidence that had come to light, “it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible course of action for me to take." In taking this step Holder deviated from President Obama’s view that no criminal investigations of his predecessor's policies should be undertaken, but the president ultimately supported the decision, underscoring the independence of the Justice Department in such matters.[3]

Republican senators Jon Kyl, Christopher Bond and Jeff Sessions called Holder’s decision a partisan do-over for political reasons, since a 2004 CIA report on the matter had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove unlawful acts.[4] However, this criticism ignores the fact that the investigation was reopened by Mukasey in 2008, before President Obama took office. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former Director of Central Intelligence Michael Hayden have criticized the way in which the investigation is being handled but they have also disputed that senior Congressional leaders were unaware of the interrogation methods.[5]

(End of proposal) Michel van der Hoek 03:36, 18 September 2009 (UTC)
Let me start with some lower-case "e" editorial things, more pet peeves. I dislike having two consecutive citations with no text between them, with no clear idea what each adds. You'll see that I reformatted the Carrie Johnson citation; while the way in which you are citing is efficient to write, it's much harder for someone else to read in edit mode. Also, and this is personal preference again, I find accessdate is useful for sites that change, but not for quoted articles of a date certain -- accessdate appears in the footnote, so I try to restrict its use to when it adds rather than clutters.
Whether or not we mention Jennifer Rubin here, the reality is that reporters took the GOP senators' claim and ran with it without any fact-checking, aggravating the contentiousness of the situation.
Otherwise, it's a good rewrite. (As an aside, I am trying to write objectively about the ongoing health care reform material, but also trying to get a lot of biographical and relationship material entered so relationships can be seen. I'm more than open to other political perspectives there). See Gang of Six, for example. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:02, 18 September 2009 (UTC)
Fine, fine. Although be aware that articles you think are of a certain date often change their content unexpectedly. Newspapers are notorious to update ongoing online article days, weeks and sometimes months after original publication. The Carrie Johnson article is a case in point: that article was updated since I first put it in this CZ article and I had to fix it. I would advise to simply always include "accessdate" since this is developing as the standard in many academic fields that use online citations. If there are no further objections, shall we incorporate the rewrite in the main article? Michel van der Hoek 22:23, 18 September 2009 (UTC)
Oops, I forgot to address your other pet peeve (two citations together without separating text). I share that pet peeve but frankly don't always know how to circumvent it. I refuse to let this concern force me to write a sentence a certain way. I have tried one way and ended up confusing you, by including two references within one footnote (which looks more elegant on the screen but has other drawbacks). My opinion on the matter is: let it be a pet peeve and do what you can to avoid it, but don't obsess about it.Michel van der Hoek 22:30, 18 September 2009 (UTC)
Go ahead and substitute it. I won't argue hard about accessdate, but do consider the more expanded "citation" for readability.
As far as the two citations, it often puzzles me why it is necessary. If there are multiple points that need citation, those points need to be elucidated. If both citations support essentially the same point, one should suffice. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:33, 18 September 2009 (UTC)

Jennifer Rubin

I would hesitate to remove her, because she is quite representative of the low quality of news reporting. Pajamas Media is not quite the Wall Street Journal; it is not limited to one party or spectrum that essentially uncontrolled bloggers are being picked up as news.

Ironically, I just got back from going over a lecture I'm doing, with the most recent title being "Torture in Perspective". I'm presenting to a couple of groups that tend to be in the left-wing ether, and am hoping to make this a start of a serious contextualization of intelligence. I find both wings able to make equal fools of themselves.

Not strictly related to this, but you may note that I'm doing a series of articles on various Congressional coalitions as well as think tanks, simply to help illustrate the opinion formation networks. Some extremists and sensationalists get into the process, and I think it is useful, in an encyclopedia, to contextualize them. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:57, 18 September 2009 (UTC)

Let me think about the proposal. Howard C. Berkowitz 03:57, 18 September 2009 (UTC)

It's not that I want to suppress Jennifer Rubin or even that I necessarily think that the substance of what she is reporting is extremely bad just because she doesn't have the right sort of credentials (though it is definitely tendentious and somewhat imprecise). My main concern is that in this article her input is of extremely minor importance. We don't have to discuss all the ins and outs of this topic in the article on Eric Holder. We're still working on the rest of his bio and I don't want to make this one topic cause the article to be very lopsided. By all means, in the article on intelligence investigations a discussion of media views would certainly be in place. She could stay there, or one could incorporate a digest of media portrayals. What do you think? Michel van der Hoek 14:29, 18 September 2009 (UTC)

Source cleanup generally

I made a point to link the article from her about the Black Panther matter. In addition, I replaced the Fox News narrative with Wolf's actual release -- his exact language is quite strong, so that is hardly watering it down yet avoiding a potentially controversial source. Wolf, before redistricting, used to be my Congressman and I have a high respect for him; few argue that he's a partisan hack.

In general, let me suggest using the author = rather than first=/last= format in citations, so it's easier to search for specific journalists and wikilink when appropriate.

The Hill is generally considered neutral; I think a primary source is better than Fox. The Weekly Standard has a bias but it's less inflammatory than Fox. Howard C. Berkowitz 19:59, 5 January 2010 (UTC)

The Weekly Standard's bias is unmistakable in its open adherence to conservatism and general criticism of everything liberal and Democratic but I've never read anything in there that was not scrupulously researched. I'd rather have that than the sham-neutrality of the big newspapers such as the New York Times or Washington Post. Michel van der Hoek 03:04, 6 January 2010 (UTC)

Black Panthers

Now that the NBPP is in the news again (because of the USCCR hearing) a lot more nuanced views are coming forward. I guess the actual evidence is in (or rather: it is NOT in).After 18 months of the dust settling, it seems clear to me that the case should be downplayed considerably in this article. An important article by the vice-chair of the USCCR (a conservative scholar and no friend of Holder) has been included in a rewrite of the section, while the waffle by a Republican Rep. has been deleted. Any comments? Michel van der Hoek 16:06, 6 July 2010 (UTC)

There's nothing wrong with adding the material, but I object to removing the Wolf material. I don't care if it was a Republican administration with Democratic "waffling"; Wolf's comment was informative about the political environment at the time he said it and is quite relevant to Holder's relevance to Congress. Howard C. Berkowitz 17:56, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
True, and I can live with that. I just wondered how much the actual quote from Wolf added. The substance of the criticism remains in the article. Considering the fact that even the conservative vice-chair of the USCCR thinks the whole matter is overblown and not worth the rhetoric, perhaps we ought to take the long view at CZ as well and keep the section shorter. But I won't insist on it, if you feel strongly about keeping the quote. Michel van der Hoek 22:54, 6 July 2010 (UTC)
  1. Dan Eggen and Joby Warrick (January 3, 2008), "Criminal Probe on CIA Tapes Opened: Case Assigned to Career Prosecutor", Washington Post. Retrieved on September 17, 2009
  2. "Mukasey: Criminal inquiry begins into CIA tapes; CIA said last month it had destroyed recordings of harsh interrogations", Associated Press, January 2, 2008. Retrieved on September 17, 2009
  3. Carrie Johnson (August 25, 2009), "Prosecutor to Probe CIA Interrogations", Washington Post. Retrieved on September 17, 2009
  4. Greg Miller (August 20, 2009), "GOP senators warn Holder against CIA abuse inquiry", Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on September 17, 2009
  5. Michael Hayden and Michael Mukasey (April 17, 2009), "The President Ties His Own Hands on Terror: The point of interrogation is intelligence, not confession", Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on September 17, 2009