Barack Obama

Holder on Executive Power

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One issue where Eric Holder sounds pretty good compared to his predecessors in the Bush administration is executive power as it relates to fighting terrorism. In a June speech to the American Constitution Society, notes The Boston Globe's Jason Tuohey, Holder forthrightly condemned President Bush for breaking the law:

I never thought I would see the day when a Justice Department would claim that only the most extreme infliction of pain and physical abuse constitutes torture and that acts that are merely cruel, inhuman and degrading are consistent with United States law and policy, that the Supreme Court would have to order the president of the United States to treat detainees in accordance with the Geneva Convention, never thought that I would see that a president would act in direct defiance of federal law by authorizing warrantless NSA surveillance of American citizens. This disrespect for the rule of law is not only wrong, it is destructive in our struggle against terrorism.

Here, unlike in the area of drug policy, Holder is in sync with the opinions expressed by Barack Obama. Of course, it is always easier to worry about illegal extensions of executive power when the other party controls the executive branch. And you have to weigh Holder's speech against the less-rehearsed post-9/11 comments noted by Damon Root.

You can watch Holder's speech here.