On April 27, Attorney General Eric Holder defended a federal judge’s decision to read confessed terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda rights after only 16 hours of interrogation, saying: “Everything was done appropriately, and we got good leads.” Holder’s statement confirmed earlier reports that he had foreknowledge of, but failed to object to, U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler’s decision to “mirandize” Tsarnaev.
Judge Bowler’s sudden appearance at Tsarnaev’s hospital bedside prompted alarm from the FBI agents who were questioning him. Holder is correct that the FBI had managed to obtain “good leads”; what he does not acknowledge is the leads they might yet have uncovered.
The failure to insist on as full an interrogation as possible fits a pattern of Holder standing up for terrorists’ rights despite the danger to American lives.
During his confirmation hearings in 2009, Holder came under scrutiny for his role as President Bill Clinton’s Deputy Attorney General in granting clemency to terrorists from the radical Puerto Rican radicals in the FALN organization. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Holder “instructed his staff at Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney to effectively replace the department’s original report recommending against any commutations.”
The FALN case was not the only troubling evidence of Holder’s sympathy for terrorists. Holder served as senior partner in the Covington and Burling law firm, which took on the cases of 17 Yemeni terror detainees being held at the Guantánamo Bay prison. Holder also represented Chiquita Brands International in a plea bargain over payments to the AUC, a Columbian terrorist paramilitary organization, as Michelle Malkin noted in 2009.
In 2010, Liz Cheney and her Keep America Safe organization pointed out that Holder’s Department of Justice (DOJ) included nine lawyers who had previously represented Al Qaeda terror suspects. Critics charged, falsely, that Cheney was arguing that terrorists did not deserve lawyers. She did not dispute their right to counsel, but did question whether those who volunteered to provide it could be trusted with the nation’s security.
Indeed, over and over again, Holder has placed his left-wing political agenda ahead of national security. He insisted on trying 9/11 master plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court in New York City until he was forced to back down under political pressure. Shortly after the 2012 election, Holder seized the opportunity to bring Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law to New York City for a civilian trial, again regardless of the risk.
One of Holder’s top priorities at the DOJ was to investigate the CIA for interrogations of terrorists conducted under the administration of President George W. Bush. Ultimately, Holder decided not to bring any charges, but the investigation had reportedly damaged morale at the intelligence agency. Intelligence-gathering from terror detainees has since become a repeated source of trouble, from the Christmas Day bomber in 2009 to Tsarnaev.
Holder famously promised that bin Laden would not be read his rights because he would be killed first. As with much of the Obama administration’s policy on terrorism, however, bin Laden has proved to be an exceptional case. Holder has shown enthusiasm for the expansive use of executive powers, such as the use of drones, but has shown less enthusiasm for his fundamental responsibility of enforcing the law and keeping America safe.
Marc Thiessen, writing at the Washington Post, notes that Holder suggested in mid-2010 that the rules around Miranda warnings should be reformed to reflect the realities of international terrorism. Such changes were a “top priority,” Holder promised. Yet despite Democrats holding control of both houses of Congress, Holder “failed to deliver,” Thiessen observes, leaving the U.S. unequipped to deal with Tsarnaev.
Celebrated defense lawyer and civil libertarian Alan Dershowitz was calling for Tsarnaev to be mirandized even before Judge Bowler had done so, largely because he believed the public safety risk had passed once both suspects had been neutralized. But others called Holder’s move premature, and Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence went further, calling it “absolutely disgraceful.”
After the Boston Marathon bombings, President Barack Obama promised: “But make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this, and we will find out who did this, we’ll find out why they did this.” The DOJ had advance warning of the judge’s intent and did not dissuade her. At best, Holder’s conduct reflects appalling incompetence and confusion. At worst, it is part of an effort to place the rights of terrorists above the lives of Americans.