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Holding up Holder

A short time ago I expressed some cautious optimism about the possibility that the Obama administration might go after the torturers. My basic argument was that a flat out declaration of intent to do so would give Bush the cover to pardon his henchman, on the grounds that any such prosecutions would be political harassment, etc. Equivocation was therefore in order, no matter their intentions.

At least one Republican Senator appears to have come to the conclusion that Eric Holder has left himself too much wiggle room:

In his confirmation hearing, Attorney General nominee Eric Holder unequivocally declared that “waterboarding is torture” and has signaled a willingness to investigate Bush officials. But torture advocate Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is holding up the nomination because he wants to know exactly whether Holder will pursue criminal prosecutions of “intelligence personnel” involved in torture.

Of course Cornyn doesn’t care about the line personnel. It’s the top guys he’s protecting. This may be an early test of the Democrat’s willingness to control the Senate. It may be buried there somewhere, but I couldn’t find anything in the Senate rules giving any Senator the right to hold up a nomination. This may be, like so much else, one of those Senate traditions the Republicans take such pleasure in abusing when their in the minority, and quashing when they hold the power.

In any event, it can’t be a bad sign that the Republicans haven’t received the same message from Holder or Obama as have so many of us on the left. I’m still betting against prosecutions, but I think there’s a glimmer of hope, particularly in light of the fact that more dirt will be coming out soon, as Seymour Hersh promised:

“You cannot believe how many people have told me to call them on 20 January … ‘You wanna know about abuses and violations? Call me then.’ So that is what I’ll do, so long as nothing awful happens before the inauguration.”

Well, nothing awful happened, (not counting economic meltdowns and Gaza wars) so I’m guessing we’ll be hearing more, and it will be grisly. The pressure may build for some sort of effective response. As others have noted, this may be one of those issues on which Obama would like to appear to have been pushed into doing something he would very much like to do anyway.

UPDATE: That was quick. Russell Tice was just on Countdown, revealing that (surprise, surprise!) the Bush Administration was spying on people with no suspected links to terrorism.

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