Saturday, January 17, 2009

'Mr Chairman, no one is above the law'



Video via Neil from Amnesty

Meanwhile, via Democracy Now, some righteous signs to be hopeful about...

JUAN GONZALEZ: President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee to be attorney general, Eric Holder, has declared waterboarding to be a form of torture and has vowed to shut down Guantanamo Bay. At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Holder also pledged to restore credibility to the Justice Department and to serve as the people’s lawyer. If confirmed, Holder will become the nation’s first African American attorney general.

Here are excerpts of the hearing, including questions from Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy; Wisconsin’s two Democratic senators, Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold. This is Eric Holder.

ERIC HOLDER: Let me try to state this as simply as I can. It simply should not be the policy or the practice of the United States of America to turn over a prisoner, a captured person, to a nation where we suspect or have reason to believe that that person will be tortured.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Do you agree with me that waterboarding is torture and illegal?

ERIC HOLDER: If you look at the history of the use of that technique, used by the Khmer Rouge, used in the Inquisition, used by the Japanese and prosecuted by us as war crimes—we prosecuted our own soldiers for using it in Vietnam—I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, waterboarding is torture.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Do you believe that the President of the United States has authority to exercise a commander-in-chief override and immunize acts of torture?

ERIC HOLDER: Mr. Chairman, no one is above the law.

SEN. HERB KOHL: Mr. Holder, for decades, this country has been looked up to around the world for its unwavering commitment to human rights and the rule of law. There is a growing consensus that the detention center at Guantanamo Bay has tarnished that image. While the past two attorneys general, the current secretaries of Defense and State, and the President himself have publicly said that they would like to close Guantanamo, no steps, as yet, have been taken.

ERIC HOLDER: To responsibly close the facility, I think that we have to understand who these people are, make an independent judgment of who they are based on an examination of the records that exist down there, so that we can treat them in an inappropriate way. I think substantial numbers of those people can be sent to other countries safely. Other people can be tried in a jurisdiction and put in jail. And there are possibly going to be other people who we’re not going to be able to try for a variety of reasons, but who nevertheless are dangerous to this country, and we’re going to have to try to figure out what we do with them. But I think that review that we’ll have to go through to figure out who these people are and in what categories they fit will take an extended period of time, and I think that is the thing that will prevent us from closing Guantanamo as quickly as I think we would like, but I want to assure the American people that Guantanamo will be closed.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: Is there anything in the FISA statute that makes you believe that the President has the ability under some other inherent power to disregard the FISA statute?

ERIC HOLDER: No, I do not see that in the FISA statute.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD: Well, thank you. I think that’s a very important break in favor of the rule of law that we’ve been waiting for in this country for many years, and I appreciate that answer.

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