Thursday, December 04, 2008

Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African American Attorney General in the history of the United States and Gov. George C. Wallace's daughter celebrated the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march on 8 March - 44 years after state troopers from her father's administration beat marchers starting the landmark journey.

Peggy Wallace Kennedy introduced Attorney General Eric Holder at a historic Selma church filled to overflowing.

"It's reconciliation and redemption," Wallace's daughter said.

Selma's annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee, commemorating the 1965 voting rights march, brought together civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Joseph Lowery in addition to the attorney general and several members of Congress, including Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who was beaten in the original Selma march.

Holder and Kennedy embraced at Brown Chapel AME Church, where marchers organized on March 7, 1965, to begin their 50-mile march to Montgomery.

A few blocks into the march, they were beaten by state troopers on Selma's Edmund Pettus Bridge-an event that became known as "Bloody Sunday."

The march to Montgomery was later completed under federal protection, with Martin Luther King Jr., leading it. It prompted passage of the Voting Rights Act, which opened Southern polling places to Blacks and ended all-white government.

"I am a beneficiary of Selma," Holder said.

Wallace's daughter endorsed Barack Obama for president last fall, but she and Holder had never met until Sunday. U.S. Rep. Artur Davis of Birmingham, a Democrat who is campaigning to try to become Alabama's first Black governor, asked her to introduce Holder. But the ties between Holder and Kennedy go back decades in Alabama history.

Her father stood in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama in 1963 in an unsuccessful attempt to keep Holder's future sister-in-law, Vivian Malone Jones, from integrating the university.

"I so wish Vivian had lived to see this moment," Holder said after hugging Wallace's daughter.

Kennedy said that as a child watching the Selma-to-Montgomery march, "I knew their cause was just." But she said she never spoke out politically until she endorsed Obama, who appointed Holder.

Selma's Black mayor said it was appropriate that the 44th anniversary of the voting rights march followed the inauguration of the nation's 44th president.

"What happened in Selma 44 years ago set in motion events that led to the election of our 44th president, Barack Obama," Mayor George Evans said.

Holder said no one dreamed on "Bloody Sunday" that George Wallace would later apologize for his segregationist views or that his daughter would one day support Obama for president.

But he said it's not time to rest.

"It will take much more than the election of the first African-American president to make Dr. King's dream a reality," Holder told an audience of more than 500 people earlier at Wallace Community College.

Holder also said it's vital to protect a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in January to review a lower court ruling upholding a portion of the law that requires all or part of 16 states, including Alabama, to get federal approval before implementing any changes in the way elections are held.

"We must commit ourselves to continuing to defend the Voting Rights Act, which is under attack," Holder said.

Holder did not make direct mention of his remarks last month to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month. In that speech, Holder said that while the country has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, "in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards."

President Barack Obama said he would not have used that language.

In Selma, Holder said there are still injustices to address. "We need to do more including communicating more, about the difficult challenges we face as a nation," he said.

After Holder's speech, more than a thousand people marched from the church across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate "Bloody Sunday."

Attorney General Eric Holder, the first African American in the history of the United States to hold that position, on his first day on the job, signaled a clean break with past policies of the Bush administration and promised to hold Wall Street accountable if any major financial institutions engaged in fraud that contributed to the global financial crisis.

Attorney General Eric Holder described the United States on 18 February 2009 as a nation of cowards on matters of race, saying most Americans avoid discussing awkward racial issues. In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards," said Holder, nation's first black attorney general.

Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, Holder said, but "we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race."

He urged people of all races to use Black History Month as a chance for honest discussion of racial matters, including issues of health care, education, and economic disparities.

Race "is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation's history, this is in some ways understandable," Holder said. "If we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another and tolerant enough of each other to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us."

He told hundreds of Justice Department employees gathered for the event that they have a special responsibility to advance racial understanding.

Vice President Joe Biden swore in President Barack Obama's choice — the first African-American to hold the post — in a Tuesday morning ceremony before dignitaries and employees at the department.

Atty Gen Holder with his Mother, Miriam, and his wife, Sharon, and the children after the swearing-In ceremony.

The lanky, 58-year-old former prosecutor, federal judge and No. 2 official during the Clinton administration promised the start of a new era at the Justice Department, which was wracked by Bush administration scandals over politically motivated hirings and firings.

General Holder has pledged to restore its reputation.

"This is a place that has I think been hurting, but I think it's ready to heal," he told reporters.

"I am determined to ensure that this shall be a new day for the dedicated career professionals that I am so honored to call my colleagues," Holder said after taking the oath. He said he was committed to remaking the department "into what it once was and what is always should be."

Biden said the department, under Holder, would return to a past standard of "no politics, no ideology. Only a clear assessment of facts and law."

Shortly after the ceremony, Holder was questioned about Wall Street, reviled by some Americans for extravagant company bonuses while seeking taxpayer dollars to remain solvent.

"We're not going to go out on any witchhunts, and yet we'll drill down and see" to what extent the economic troubles are the result of fraud or misconduct, Holder said. "We'll find it and hold people accountable."

Holder was confirmed Monday, 2 February, evening by a 75-21 Senate vote, with all the opposition coming from Republicans.

His first official act as attorney general will be to attend a national security meeting, then head to the White House for a meeting on homeland security, aides said.

Holder's inbox is overflowing with pressing legal issues from the prior administration.

For starters, the new attorney general will learn the secrets of the Office of Legal Counsel, whose lawyers justified the use of controversial interrogation tactics and even declined to provide Bush administration documents to internal Justice Department investigators.

Holder also will play a major role in the future of terrorism detainees.

Obama, in a major policy shift, signed an executive order to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. He also created a special task force to review detainee policy; Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will serve as co-chairs.

That panel will look at options for apprehension, detention, trial, transfer or release of detainees and report to the president within 180 days.

18 Feb 2009. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal appeals court today overturned a ruling that 17 Chinese Muslims who have been held for years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba must be freed in the United States.

The appeals court ruled that a federal judge did not have the authority to order the U.S. government to bring the members of the Uighur ethic group to the United States for their release. It said only the executive branch, and not the courts, could make such immigration decisions.

The new administration of President Barack Obama says it will close Guantanamo within a year but has not yet decided what to do with the detainees, who were picked up as foreign terrorism suspects after the September 11 attacks.

At the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder, who will play a leading role in deciding what to do with the approximately 245 prisoners left at the base, said he would visit Guantanamo next week.

Holder told reporters he would go to the base on 23 Feb "to really see what is going on down at the facility, to see how people are being detained, to talk to people down there about the interrogation techniques that are being used."

He called the visit "an important first step."

In the case of the Uighurs, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina had ruled in October that there was no evidence the detainees, who have been held at Guantanamo for about seven years, were "enemy combatants" or a security risk.

He ruled they should be freed and allowed to live with Uighur families in the United States.

But the three-judge panel of the appeals court overturned his decision.

The fact that the detainees were no longer considered "enemy combatants" did not mean they qualified for admission into the United States, the appeals court said, adding, "Nor does their detention at Guantanamo for many years entitle them to enter the United States."

The Uighurs have remained at Guantanamo because the United States has been unable to find a country willing to take them. The U.S. government has said it cannot return them to China because they would face persecution there.

The appeals court said the Uighurs were being held under the least restrictive conditions at the base while diplomatic efforts continued to find a country willing to accept them.

Lawyers for the Uighurs denounced the ruling.

Emi MacLean, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, said, "The new administration must act quickly to remedy the failings of the old. If President Obama is committed to closing Guantanamo, he must allow these stranded Uighurs into the United States."

20 Feb 2009 WASHINGTON. The Pentagon says the Guantanamo Bay prison meets the standard for humane treatment laid out in the Geneva Conventions, according to a report for President Barack Obama, who has ordered the terrorist detention center closed within a year.

The report recommended some changes, including an increase in group recreation for some of the camp's more dangerous or less compliant prisoners, according to a government official familiar with the study. The report also suggested allowing those prisoners to gather in groups of three or more, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not officially been released.

Some of the hard-core prisoners are not currently allowed to meet with other prisoners for prayer or socialization and are kept in their cells for 23 hours a day. Alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed is among the prisoners who could be affected by the change. Prolonged social isolation has been known to harm mental health among prisoners.

The 85-page report by Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, the Navy's second in command, was written in response to Obama's Jan. 22 executive order to close the facility at the U.S. naval base in Cuba within a year.

Attorney General Eric Holder, meanwhile, named a top federal
prosecutor, Matthew Olsen, as executive director of Obama's Guantanamo Detainee Review Task Force, which will recommend where to send each detainee. Obama has ordered the task force to consider whether to transfer, release or prosecute the detainees, or figure out some other "lawful means for disposition" if none of those options is available.

The report found the camp to be in compliance with the Geneva
Conventions Common Article 3, the international rules that require the
humane treatment of prisoners taken in unconventional armed conflicts,
like the war on terrorism. The camp's controversial force-feeding of
prisoners on hunger strikes was also found to be compliant with the
Geneva guidelines, a second government official confirmed.

Guantanamo was selected for legal reasons: As a military base, it is
sovereign U.S. territory but, according to Bush administration
lawyers, was outside the scope of the Constitution. That would allow
prisoners to be prosecuted for war crimes using evidence that would be
difficult to use in the U.S. civilian court system.

Holder promised senators he would review why career prosecutors in Washington decided not to prosecute the former head of the department's Civil Rights Division. An inspector general's report last month found that Bradley Schlozman, the former head of the division, misled lawmakers about whether he politicized hiring decisions.

Another key question facing Holder is how to advise Obama on the order by President George W. Bush that three of his former top aides — Karl Rove, Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten — should not testify before Congress about firings of U.S. attorneys. Rove and Miers were former aides when Bush gave his order.

If Obama reverses Bush's policy, it would create a new legal issue: whether a former president's order against testifying would still be valid.

The Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program is certain to come under Holder's scrutiny.

After a lengthy and heated debate that pitted privacy and civil liberties concerns against the desire to prevent terrorist attacks, Congress last year eased the rules under which the government could wiretap American phone and computer lines to listen for terrorists and spies.

Eric Holder, First Black Attorney General of the USA.
President-elect Barack Obama has decided to nominate Eric Holder as attorney general, according to a source close to the Obama-Biden transition team.

The source said that Obama recently offered Holder the position, and that he had accepted. No one on the transition team has publicly confirmed the pick, and Holder would still need to undergo a formal "vetting" review by the Obama transition team to finalize the selection.

Holder, 57, was deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration and more recently, he has been a prominent attorney at the Washington, D.C., law firm of Covington and Burling. If confirmed, Holder would be the country's first African-American attorney general.

Holder has been a close friend and prominent adviser to Obama throughout the campaign, helping him to lead the search for a vice presidential candidate.

With more than 55 Democrats in the Senate, Holder's confirmation seems likely, though there may be some concern about the role he played in the 2001 pardon of fugitive Marc Rich by Clinton at the end of his presidency.

Holder helped vet the pardon and said he was "neutral, leaning towards favorable." He later publicly apologized and said had he given the issue more attention, he would have cautioned against a pardon.

(28 Jan '09) The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the nomination of Eric Holder to become attorney general.

The vote was 17-2, reports The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. A full Senate vote could come as early as tomorrow.

The only senators voting against Holder were Republicans John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the Associated Press reports. The ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, had been Holder’s harshest Senate critic. But before the vote, he said he decided to support Holder because of his good record and support within the law enforcement community.

Specter had questioned Holder’s role in the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich, but said today that Holder allayed his concerns. "I think it was important that Eric Holder was willing to admit publicly his mistake in the Marc Rich pardon," Specter said.

Specter also said Holder had addressed Republican fears that he would prosecute officials involved in harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects. Specter says he discussed the issue in a meeting with Holder. "I got a satisfactory answer,” Specter said.



Blogger ichbinalj said...

In an interview, NPR reported that, "[Holder is] a supporter of the death penalty." In fact, in his confirmation hearing for the position of deputy attorney general, Holder said, "I am not a proponent of the death penalty, have stated that publicly on many occasions, but would not hesitate to enforce any law that this Congress has passed that has a death penalty provision."

6:03 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Steve71 said:Seems like a good choice, although just about anyone would be an improvement over the last 8 years. As a John Edwards supporter, I had hoped he would get this appointment once he dropped out of the presidential race. I suppose he pretty much disqualified himself, though.

6:05 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

President Bush's aides have turned down a request from President-elect Barack Obama to move from Chicago into Blair House, the official guest residence across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, in time for Mr. Obama's daughters to start school in Washington on Jan. 5.

"The Obamas were told that they could move into Blair House on Jan. 15, but no earlier, because it is booked, an Obama transition official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity...

"White House officials declined to disclose specifically who is using Blair House during that period, for what purpose or how they could take precedence over the president-elect of the United States when it came to government housing; one White House official would say only that it had been booked for 'receptions and gatherings' by members of the departing Bush administration. Those receptions, the official said, 'don't make it suitable for full-time occupancy by the Obamas yet.'"

3:17 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

A military judge at Guantanamo today rejected a White House request to suspend a hearing for the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, creating an unexpected challenge for the administration as it reviews how America puts suspected terrorists on trial.

The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, said his decision was difficult but necessary to protect "the public interest in a speedy trial." The ruling came in the case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The bombing of the Navy destroyer in 2000 in the harbor of Aden, Yemen, killed 17 U.S. sailors.

It seemed to take the Pentagon and White House completely by surprise.

"We just learned of the ruling ... and we are consulting with the Pentagon and the Department of Justice to explore our options in the case," said White Press secretary Robert Gibbs, adding that he doubted the decision would hamper the administration's ability to decide how to move forward from Guantanamo.
(AP) 1/29/2009

1:00 PM  

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