“Prosecutorial and investigative judgments must depend on the facts, and no one is above the law. But where it is clear that a government agent has acted in ‘reasonable and good-faith reliance on Justice Department legal opinions’ authoritatively permitting his conduct, I would find it difficult to justify commencing a full-blown criminal investigation, let alone a prosecution.”
Newsweek described this written statement as “carefully vetted by Obama's White House lawyers.” In other words, Holder’s statement fairly reflects Obama’s and Holder’s intentions in this regard.
Holder’s comment came to light when a Holder aide pointed to it in an attempt to refute a Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) assertion, reported by the Washington Times (“Holder Assures GOP on Prosecution”) on January 28, 2009 that Holder had promised him that he was not going to prosecute Bush officials for war crimes. The Washington Times article created a storm of concern among human rights groups and others who are rightfully determined that the Bush White House’s crimes against humanity be prosecuted. Holder and the White House rushed to try to reassure people that Holder has not promised the GOP anything.
Sen. Bond had been threatening to block Holder’s nomination in committee over this issue. Bond met with Holder privately this week twice and Sen. Bond emerged from those meetings supporting Holder’s nomination. As the Washington Times’ article relates it:
“[A]fter meeting with Mr. Holder twice over the past week and having received assurances that he was not intent on pursuing intelligence officials who acted in good faith with proper authorization in the conduct of interrogations, Mr. Bond decided to support the nominee, the [senior Bond] aide added.”
Bond is quoted in the article as saying, reiterating the Obama Administration’s mantra about “looking forward” and not “backwards”:
"’I believe [Mr. Holder] will look forward to keep the nation safe and not look backwards to prosecute intelligence operators who were fighting terror and kept our country safe since 9/11,’ Mr. Bond said in the interview.”
Elana Schor in TPM (Talking Points Memo) on January 28, 2009, questioning the veracity of the Washington Times’ article, cited the comments of two Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, beginning with Chairman Patrick Leahy: