ERIC HOLDER

April 11, 2011

The Following article originated at and is copied from DiscoverTheNetworks.com

Eric H. Holder, Jr. was born on January 21, 1951 in the Bronx, New York. His father, Eric Himpton Holder, Sr. (1905 – 1970) hailed from Barbados and worked as a real estate broker. His mother, Miriam, was the American-born daughter of immigrants from Saint Philip, Barbados.

Eric Holder graduated from Columbia University in 1973 with a degree in American history. Three years later he graduated from Columbia Law School. During one of the summers between his law school academic years, he worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Holder was employed by the U.S. Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section from 1976 to 1988. In 1988 President Ronald Reagan appointed him as a Judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

Five years later Holder left this position when President Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. In 1997 Clinton nominated Holder to replace Jamie Gorelick, the retiring Deputy Attorney General in Janet Reno’s Justice Department. Holder was confirmed in the Senate by a unanimous vote.

As Deputy Attorney General, Holder, as The Washington Post explained, “was the gatekeeper for presidential pardons.” Indeed, Holder was a key figure entrusted with the task of vetting the Clinton administration’s 176 last-minute pardons in January 2001. The beneficiaries of those pardons included such notables as former Weather Underground members Susan Rosenberg (who was involved in the deadly 1981 armed robbery of a Brink’s armored car) and Linda Evans (who had used false identification to buy firearms, harbored a fugitive, and was in possession of 740 pounds of dynamite at the time of her arrest in 1985).

Holder and the Pardon of Marc Rich

Holder also played a role in the presidential pardon granted to the billionaire financier Marc Rich, a fugitive oil broker who had illegally purchased oil from Iran during the American trade embargo -- and who then proceeded to hide more than $100 million in profits by using dummy transactions in off-shore corporations. Rich later renounced his American citizenship and fled to Switzerland to avoid prosecution for 51 counts of racketeering, wire fraud, tax fraud, tax evasion, and the illegal oil transactions with Iran.

Over the years, Rich’s ex-wife Denise had funneled at least $1.5 million to Clinton interests. Some $1.2 million went to the Democratic National Committee, $75,000 went to Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign, and $450,000 helped finance the Bill Clinton Library in Arkansas.  Mrs. Rich also had given expensive gifts to the Clintons and, according to some rumors, had a very close relationship with the President.

According to The New York Times:

“Mr. Holder had more than a half-dozen contacts with Mr. Rich’s lawyers over 15 months, including phone calls, e-mail and memorandums that helped keep alive Mr. Rich’s prospects for a legal resolution to his case. And Mr. Holder’s final opinion on the matter — a recommendation to the White House on the eve of the pardon that he was ‘neutral, leaning toward’ favorable — helped ensure that Mr. Clinton signed the pardon despite objections from other senior staff members.”

The Times details the sequence of events:

“Holder’s role in the Rich issue actually began … [a]t a corporate dinner in November 1998, [where] Mr. Holder was seated at a table with a public-relations executive named Gershon Kekst, who had been trying to help Mr. Rich resolve his legal troubles. When Mr. Kekst learned that his dinner companion was the deputy attorney general, he proceeded to bring up the case of an unnamed acquaintance who had been ‘improperly indicted by an overzealous prosecutor.’ … A person in that situation, Mr. Holder advised, should ‘hire a lawyer who knows the process, he comes to me, we work it out.’ Mr. Kekst wanted to know if Mr. Holder could suggest a lawyer. Mr. Holder pointed to a former White House counsel sitting nearby. ‘There’s Jack Quinn,’ he said. ‘He’s a perfect example.’ Months later, Mr. Rich’s advisers settled on Mr. Quinn to lead the legal efforts …

“In February 2000, Mr. Quinn sent Mr. Holder a memorandum entitled ‘Why D.O.J. [Department of Justice] Should Review the Marc Rich Indictment.’ About a month later, Mr. Holder spoke with Mr. Quinn again and told him that ‘we’re all sympathetic’ and that the legal ‘equities’ in the issue were ‘on your side.’ … By the fall of 2000, efforts to re-open the criminal case were dead, and Mr. Rich’s lawyers had moved on to the idea of a pardon. Again, Mr. Quinn turned to Mr. Holder. On Nov. 21, 2000, at the close of a meeting on a separate topic, Mr. Quinn took Mr. Holder aside, told him he was planning on filing a lengthy pardon petition with the White House and asked whether the White House should contact Mr. Holder for his opinion … In a separate e-mail message that Mr. Quinn [had] sent three days before that to other members of the Rich team,… he wrote: ‘Spoke to him last evening. Says to go straight to W.H. [White House]. Also says timing is good.’ …

“For the next months, Mr. Rich’s team pressed ahead with the pardon … On Jan. 19, 2001, Mr. Quinn called Mr. Holder and let him know that the White House would be contacting him for his recommendation on the pardon, which he said was receiving ‘serious consideration.’ Mr. Holder told him that he did not have a personal problem with the pardon, and Mr. Quinn quickly passed on the gist of the conversation to the White House. Minutes later, Mr. Holder received a call from Beth Nolan, the White House counsel, who had opposed the pardon idea and was surprised to hear that Mr. Holder apparently felt differently.

“Mr. Holder, according to Ms. Nolan’s testimony, told her that if the Israelis were in fact pushing for the pardon, he would find that ‘persuasive’ and would be ‘neutral leaning toward’ favorable.”

The next day, President Clinton signed the pardon. Clinton later cited Holder’s assessment as one of the factors that had persuaded him to issue the pardon. And once the pardon was granted, Holder sent his congratulations to Quinn.

A March 2002 congressional report concluded that Rich's lawyers had tried to circumvent prosecutors (who they knew would oppose the pardon), and instead had chosen to take their case directly to the White House. Holder’s assistance in this process, coupled with his failure to alert prosecutors of a pending pardon, was crucial, said the report.

Holder and the Pardon of FALN Terrorists

Holder was also intimately involved in President Clinton’s August 11, 1999 pardon of 16 members of the FALN, acronym for the Armed Forces of National Liberation—a violent terrorist organization (as designated by the FBI) that was active in the U.S. from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s.

The FALN was a Marxist-Leninist group whose overriding mission was to secure Puerto Rico’s political independence from the United States. Toward that end, between 1974 and 1983 the group detonated nearly 130 bombs in such strategically selected places as military and government buildings, financial institutions, and corporate headquarters located mainly in Chicago, New York, and Washington DC. These bombings were carried out as acts of protest against America’s political, military, financial, and corporate presence in Puerto Rico. All told, FALN bombs killed six people—including the Chilean ambassador to the United States—and wounded at least 80 others.

On April 4, 1980, eleven FALN members were arrested in Evanston, Illinois. More of their comrades would also be apprehended in Chicago in the early 1980s. All were charged with seditious conspiracy, but they refused to participate in their own trial proceedings—claiming defiantly that the U.S. government was an illegitimate entity and thus had no moral authority by which to sit in judgment of them. All the defendants were found guilty and were sentenced to federal prison terms ranging from 35 to 105 years.

On November 9, 1993, a self-identified “human rights” organization named Ofensiva ’92 filed a petition for executive clemency on behalf of 18 members of the FALN and another violent organization seeking Puerto Rican independence, Los Macheteros (“The Machete-Wielders”). According to a December 12, 1999 report issued by the House Committee on Government Reform, the prisoners themselves “refused to take part in any process that would legitimize the government’s actions against them, therefore they refused to file their own petitions.”

This presented a problem because the Department of Justice (DOJ) traditionally stipulates that clemency will be considered only if a prisoner first files a petition on his or her own behalf, an act which the Department views as a sign of contrition. Nonetheless DOJ made an exception in this case and accepted Ofensiva ’92’s petition, a document which cast the FALN prisoners as blameless freedom fighters analogous to those Americans who had fought in the Revolutionary War against Britain.

Among the notables who joined Ofensiva ’92’s clemency crusade were Cardinal John O'Connor, Coretta Scott King, Jimmy Carter, and the National Lawyers Guild. Perhaps the most passionate support came from Democrat Representatives Luis Gutierrez (IL), Jose Serrano (NY), and Nydia Velazquez (NY), each of whom echoed Ofensiva ’92’s claim that the FALN members were “political prisoners” who deserved to be released.

The attorneys and advocates who were fighting for the freedom of the FALN prisoners first met with the Justice Department’s Pardon Attorney on July 19, 1994. In October 1996 they met with Jack Quinn, Counsel to the President. They were unsuccessful, however, in their efforts to convey the legitimacy of their cause to the Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA), which in 1996 contacted the Justice Department and recommended against clemency; that recommendation, in turn, was forwarded to the White House.

But the matter was not over; OPA continued to meet with groups and individuals lobbying for clemency on behalf of the FALN terrorists. Then in 1997, Eric Holder -- who was President Clinton’s new Deputy Attorney General (in the Justice Department headed by Janet Reno) -- became involved in the case.

In this role, Holder was responsible for overseeing clemency investigations and determining which of those requests were ultimately worthy of President Clinton’s attention. As evidenced by a September 1997 memorandum from the Pardon Attorney, the Justice Department was, at this point, receiving numerous inquiries about the FALN and Macheteros—from the White House and from supporters of the prisoners. The aforementioned House Committee on Government Reform report stated: “Throughout the closing months of 1997 it appears that Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder was active in the issue. The privilege log reflects at least two notes regarding his questions on the clemency or his thoughts on the matter.”

On November 5, 1997, Holder met with Representatives Gutierrez, Serrano, and Velazquez to discuss the clemency issue. He advised the legislators that they might greatly increase the likelihood of a presidential pardon if they could convince the prisoners to write letters testifying as to the personal remorse they felt for their past actions. But no such letters would be produced for five months, during which time the clemency issue remained on hold. Meanwhile, in a January 6, 1998 letter a senior Justice Department official expressly referred to the FALN members as “terrorists.”

Then on April 8, 1998, Holder again met with FALN supporters. This time, they finally delivered statements from the prisoners as Holder had advised in November. But all the statements were identical—indicating that not one of the prisoners had made an effort to craft his own personal expression of repentance.

Undeterred, Holder then raised the question of whether the prisoners might at least agree to renounce future violence in exchange for clemency. One of the prisoners’ backers, Reverend Paul Sherry, made it clear that they surely “would not change their beliefs”—presumably about the issue of Puerto Rican independence—but was vague as to whether they were apt to eschew violence altogether.

Over the next few weeks, Holder and the Justice Department continued to meet with numerous advocates of clemency and to review pertinent materials which the latter brought forth on behalf of the prisoners. Holder clearly was the point man for these clemency negotiations. As Brian Brian Blomquist wrote in the New York Post, “A list of FALN documents withheld from Congress shows that many memos on the FALN clemency decision went directly to Holder, while [Janet] Reno’s role was minimal.” Similarly, New York Daily News reporter Edward Lewine wrote that Holder was “the Justice Department official most involved with this issue.”

Throughout the clemency review process, neither Holder nor anyone else in the Justice Department contacted any of the people who had been victimized (or whose loved ones had been victimized) by the FALN. Most were never aware that clemency for the terrorists was even being contemplated. And those few who were aware of the possibility were rebuffed in their efforts to participate in the review process.

On May 19, 1998, the Pardon Attorney sent Eric Holder a 48-page draft memorandum “concerning clemency for Puerto Rican Nationalist prisoners.” Seven weeks later, on July 8, Holder sent President Clinton a “memorandum regarding clemency matter.” Indeed the Deputy Attorney General was methodically spearheading the march toward clemency -- despite the fact that the sentencing judges, the U.S. Attorneys, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the FBI were unanimous in their opposition to pardoning the individuals in question.

In late July 1999 an attorney from Holder’s office spoke to White House Counsel Charles Ruff regarding the clemency matter. On August 9, 1999, Holder’s office and OPA held one final meeting to hammer out the details, and two days later the President made his announcement: clemency was granted to sixteen terrorists, most of whom had served only a fraction of their prison terms. Of the sixteen, twelve accepted the offer and were freed, two refused it, and two others, who already were out of prison, never responded.

Congress, for its part, was not pleased—condemning the clemencies by votes of 95-2 in the Senate and 311-41 in the House.  

In the aftermath of August 11, 1999, a report by the Justice Department stated that the FALN posed an “ongoing threat” to national security. And in late October 1999 the Senate Judiciary Committee released a report from Attorney General Janet Reno stating that the FALN members’ “impending release from prison” would “increase the present threat” of terrorism.

In an October 20th Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, and again with reporters the following day, Eric Holder denied that Reno was referring to the same FALN terrorists whose pardons he had worked so long and hard to secure. Yet when Holder was asked to identify whom Reno was in fact talking about, he responded as follows:

“I don’t know, no, I don’t know that. We might be able to get you some more information on that, but, I mean, you know, there were certain people who are due to be released, or who were at least eligible for parole, had a release date in the next, as I said, three, four years. I don’t know exactly who they were. Maybe—we might be able to get you that information.”

Neither Holder nor the Justice Department ever provided any additional names.

The December 1999 House Committee on Government Reform report stated:

“The 16 [FALN] terrorists appear to be most unlikely candidates. They did not personally request clemency. They did not admit to wrongdoing and they had not renounced violence before such a renunciation had been made a quid pro quo for their release. They expressed no contrition for their crimes, and were at times openly belligerent about their actions…. Notwithstanding the fact that the 16 did not express enough personal interest in the clemency process to file their own applications, the White House appeared eager to assist throughout the process. Meetings were held with supporters, and some senior staff [i.e., Holder] even suggested ways to improve the likelihood of the President granting the clemency. Overall, the White House appears to have exercised more initiative than the terrorists themselves.”

Holder’s Views on Other Matters

At an American Constitution Society gathering in 2004, Holder made the following comments:

  • "Conservatives have been defenders of the status quo, afraid of the future, and content to allow to continue to exist all but the most blatant inequalities."
  • Conservatives have "made a mockery of the rule of law."
  • Conservatives try to "put the environment at risk for the sake of unproven economic theories, to play to the fears of our citizens, and not to their hopes, and to return the nation to a time that in fact never existed."
  • Conservatives are "breathtaking" in their "arrogance," which manifests itself in such things as "attacks on abortion rights," "energy policies that are as shortsighted as they are ineffective," and "tax cuts that disproportionately favor those who are well off and perpetuate many of the inequities in our nation."
  • The hallmarks of the "conservative agenda" include "social division, mindless tax cutting, and a defense posture that does not really make us safer."
  • "The nation must be convinced that it is a progressive future that holds the greatest promise for equality and the continuation of those policies that serve to support the greatest number of our people. In the short term this will not be an easy task. With the mainstream media somewhat cowered by conservative critics, and the conservative media disseminating the news in anything but a fair and balanced manner, and you know what I mean there, the means to reach the greatest number of people is not easily accessible."

Holder has condemned the Guantanamo Bay detention center as an “international embarrassment,” even though detainees there are treated more humanely than even the Geneva Conventions require. Despite evidence to the contrary, he has accused the U.S. government of having “authorized torture and … let fear take precedence over the rule of law.” And he has demanded an immediate end to warrantless eavesdropping by intelligence and counterterrorism officials.

In a June 2008 speech to the American Constitution Society (ACS), Holder, who was himself an ACS Board of Directors member, condemned “the disastrous course” which the Bush administration had followed in its efforts to combat terrorism. “Our needlessly abusive and unlawful practices in the ‘War on Terror,’” he said, “have diminished our standing in the world community and made us less, rather than more, safe.”

Holder added that the Bush administration had taken many steps that “were both excessive and unlawful” in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

“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.”

On the subject of the post-9/11 anti-terrorism measure known as the Patriot Act, Holder in April 2004 said the following:

“I don't think there's any question that there is the need for the Patriot Act, but I think there's also the need to re-examine the Patriot Act and see how it has been enforced and whether or not we need to strengthen it, whether or not there are things we need to change…. When you look at some of the things that have done under the spirit of the act, where you detain citizens without giving them access to a lawyer, where you listen in on attorney-client conversations without involving a judge, these are the kinds of things that have been done in the name of the Patriot Act by this administration that I think are bad ultimately for law enforcement and will cost us the support of the American people … You have to deal with this whole question of secrecy and the way in which the administration has conducted itself. You need to involve judges. If you're going to look at business records or library records, this should not be something that's simply done by the executive branch without the involvement of judges.”

Holder has stated that he is personally opposed to the death penalty.

In 2008 Holder campaigned heavily for then-Illinois senator Barack Obama's presidential run. In the summer of 2008, candidate Obama tapped Holder to serve on the vice presidential selection team that ultimately chose Joe Biden to be Obama’s running mate. In November 2008, President-elect Obama, who was slated to take his oath of office two months later, selected Holder to serve as his Attorney General.

At the time Obama made this selection, the Washington, DC-based law firm Covington & Burling (C&B), where Holder was a partner, was representing 17 Yemeni detainees (and one Pakistani national) in Guantanamo Bay. A notable former client of Holder's firm was yet another Guantanamo detainee, from Kuwait, who contributed to an anthology of detainee poetry compiled and published by Holder’s C&B colleague, Marc Falkoff. Falkoff likened the “gentle, thoughtful” poets’ plight to that of the Jews who had been held in concentration camps during World War II. The aforementioned Kuwaiti was released from Guantanamo in 2005 and promptly resumed his terrorist activities. In March 2008 he blew himself up with a truck bomb in Mosul, Iraq, killing 13 Iraqi army soldiers and wounding 42 others.

In a February 18, 2009 speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder alleged that Americans on the whole were afraid to confront racial issues in an honest or meaningful way. Among his remarks were the following:

"Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.... [W]e, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. It is an issue we have never been at ease with and, given our nation’s history, this is in some ways understandable.... [T]his nation has still not come to grips with its racial past ... [A] black history month is a testament to the problem that has afflicted blacks throughout our stay in this country. Black history is given a separate, and clearly not equal, treatment by our society in general and by our educational institutions in particular."

In May 2009, Holder announced that Ahmed Ghailani -- who was indicted by a federal grand jury for the 1998 bombings (which killed 224 people, including 12 Americans) of two U.S. embassies in Africa -- would be transferred from the Guantanamo Bay detention center to New York City for trial. This would make Ghailani the first Guantanamo detainee brought to the U.S. and the first to face trial in a civilian criminal court. Said Holder:

"By prosecuting Ahmed Ghailani in federal court, we will ensure that he finally answers for his alleged role in the bombing of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.... This administration is committed to keeping the American people safe and upholding the rule of law, and by closing Guantanamo and bringing terrorists housed there to justice we will make our nation stronger and safer."

In August 2009, Holder appointed a federal prosecutor to investigate possible abuses by Bush-era CIA interrogators who used harsh tactics on terror detainees.

On November 13, 2009, Holder announced that his Justice Department would try five Guantanamo Bay detainees with alleged ties to the 9/11 conspiracy, in a civilian court -- the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The defendants were Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Holder also stated that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a major suspect in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, would be tried by a military commission, along with a few other detainees.

On April 23, 2010, Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, signed into law a bill deputizing state police to check with federal authorities on the immigration status of any individuals whom they had stopped for some legitimate reason, if the behavior of those individuals -- or the circumstances of the stop -- led the officers to suspect that they might be in the United States illegally. In the ensuing days and weeks, Holder spoke out forcefully against the bill and indicated that the federal government might challenge it. During the weekend of May 8-9, he participated in a number of television interviews in which he warned that the law could lead to racial profiling and might cause Latinos to stop cooperating with police. But in a May 13 House hearing, Holder admitted that he had not read the statute: "I have not had a chance to. I've glanced at it. I have not read it."

On May 13, 2010, Holder testified before the House Judiciary Committee. During his testimony, Rep. Lamar Smith tried to get the Attorney General to acknowledge that radical Islam might have played a role in motivating several recently attempted terrorist attacks against U.S. interests -- most notably Major Nidal Malik Hasan's November 2009 shooting of 13 fellow U.S. soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas; Farouk Umar Abdulmutallab's attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines jet on Christmas Day 2009; and Faisal Shahzad's attempted car bombing in New York's Times Square on May 1, 2010. Holder refused to acknowledge Smith's assertion. A video and transcript of Holder's exchange with Smith can be viewed here.

In June 2010, J. Christian Adams, a five-year Department of Justice (DOJ) veteran, resigned to protest the “corrupt nature” of DOJ's dismissal (under Holder) of a case involving two Philadelphia-based members of the New Black Panther Party who had intimidated white voters with racial slurs and threats of violence on Election Day, 2008. In July 2010, Adams gave damning public testimony about how the DOJ believed that “civil rights law should not be enforced in a race-neutral manner, and should never be enforced against blacks or other national minorities.”

In September 2010, Christopher Coates – Voting Section Chief for the DOJ – testified to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and corroborated Adams' assertion that the Department had routinely ignored civil rights cases involving white victims. For more than a year, Holder's DOJ had denied the Commission's requests to hear Coates' testimony and had instructed Coates not to testify. But in September 2010, Coates finally chose to go public with his story and asked for protection under whistleblower laws. For the full text of Coates' testimony, click here.

In a January 2011 address to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Civil Rights, Holder cited a 2005 report based on EPA data which showed that African Americans were almost 80 percent more likely than whites to live near hazardous industrial pollution sites. He said:

“In 2011, the burden of environmental degradation still falls disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color.... This is unacceptable. And it is unconscionable. But through the aggressive enforcement of federal environmental laws in every community, I believe that we can – and I know that we must – change the status quo.”

On April 4, 2011, Holder announced that the Justice Department, in a reversal of its November 2009 decision, would now proceed to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (and 4 co-conspirators) in a military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay. 

PREVIOUS ARTICLES:


We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.