Debra J. Saunders

When he served as deputy attorney general, now Attorney General Eric Holder gave a "neutral leaning positive" recommendation that led to President Bill Clinton's pardoning of gazillionaire fugitive Marc Rich, who was on the lam in Switzerland hiding from federal charges of fraud, evading more than $48 million in taxes, racketeering and trading oil with Iran in violation of a U.S. embargo.

Holder also had a role in the 1999 Clinton pardons of 16 Puerto Rico independence terrorists -- members of the bomb-happy FALN or the splinter group Los Macheteros -- who had been convicted on such charges as bank robbery, possession of explosives and participating in a seditious conspiracy -- even though none of the 16 had applied for clemency. As the Los Angeles Times reported, two of the 16 refused to accept the pardon -- as it required them to renounce violence -- while another later was killed in a shootout with federal agents.

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During his confirmation hearing in January, Holder refused to explain why the Clinton Department of Justice changed its earlier position against the 16 commutations -- citing President Clinton's claim of executive privilege.

So you'll forgive me if I don't buy into the argument that, as a simple lawman, Holder had no choice but to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate alleged abuses during CIA interrogations of high-value detainees.

The Clinton Justice Department didn't even make the 16 terrorists disclose pertinent information about the crimes they committed, just as they tied no strings around Rich. Yet 10 years later, Holder's Justice Department won't give a break to CIA officials desperate to stop another terrorist attack.

Holder's decision would be understandable if the CIA engaged in a pattern of brazen lawlessness and bloodlust that could be stopped only by DOJ intervention.

To the contrary, the CIA waterboarded all of three high-level detainees -- then stopped in March 2003 -- when Bush White House lawyers determined the technique to be legal.

Moreover, it was a CIA official who, learning that some agents and contractors may have abused detainees, began an investigation in November 2002 that resulted in an agency request for an inspector general probe in January 2003. Hence the 2004 report newly released by the Obama administration.

Debra J. Saunders

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