Let's Be Clear About Who's In Charge

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Aug 28, 2009 3:46 PM
This Washington Post piece from today shows obvious discomfort from the Obama White House about the fallout from the unforgivable decision announced this week by Eric Holder to investigate -- and possibly prosecute -- CIA interrogators.

The problem for the President is that, try as he might, he cannot simply transfer all responsibility for the decision to  the Attorney General.  Either the President is in charge of his Cabinet, including the Attorney General, or he isn't.  If he's not, then why did the left and the press blame President Bush for the unpopular decisions of Alberto Gonzales?  If he is, then he bears ultimate responsibility -- and makes the ultimate decision -- about what happens over at DOJ.

The AG serves at the President's pleasure.  When -- as the Post piece points out -- the AG has "won many" battles with the CIA and the intelligence community, then it's clear that Holder is doing what Obama wants him to do.  The final arbiter is always the President.

That presumably must include the decision to re-investigate and possibly prosecute CIA interrogators (1) who were following the law and legal directives at the time; (2) whose activities, as the recently released report makes clear, were at least tacitly approved by legislators of both parties, includigng Nancy Pelosi; and (3) who obtained information that helped save innocent American lives.

And that's why when (yes, not "if," but "when") this foolhardy decision comes back to haunt America by making all of us less safe, the final responsibility will rest -- not with the Attorney General -- but with the President.  He could have stopped this if he had wanted to.  Instead, he's decided to try to buy off the frothing-mouth Bush-haters with an investigation, while distancing himself by outsourcing the matter to the AG.