Conservative critics of Attorney General Eric Holder’s national security record are calling on him to resign, citing a federal jury’s acquittal of an accused conspirator in the 1998 terrorist bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa on all but one count.
Potential 2012 presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty are among the Republicans citing the Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani case as reason for Holder to go. A Manhattan jury last week found Ghailani guilty on one conspiracy charge related to the 1998 bombing in Kenya and Tanzania, for which he faces life in prison.
The Justice Department trumpeted the conspiracy conviction, but most commentators saw the outcome as another blow to Holder’s already shaky political standing on national security issues.
Gingrich said in a video interview with NewsMax.com that Holder had “endangered national security” by trying Ghailani in court. “I think that Attorney General Holder should resign,” the former House Speaker said.
Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, also said last week in a radio interview that he thought Holder should step down. And Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, called on Holder to resign in a statement. Holder is pursuing an “insane policy of appeasing terrorists,” Franks said.
The calls for Holder to resign echo a similar chorus from conservatives earlier this year, also upset over his national security polices. Today, however, Holder’s critics appear more emphatic, perhaps emboldened by the GOP’s strong showing in the mid-term elections. They are not merely suggesting he should consider resigning but saying directly that he should go.
The Justice Department transferred Ghailani from Guantanamo Bay into federal custody in New York last year as part of a strategy to close the U.S. military detention facility in Cuba. Conservatives have argued that non-U.S. citizen terrorism suspects should be tried in military tribunals. But in practice, the tribunals have been ineffective, while the DOJ has underscored that terrorism-related cases have routinely gone to civilian courts since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
In the Ghailani case, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan refused to let prosecutors introduce evidence obtained from a witness whose identity was learned after Ghailani had been subjected to harsh interrogation techniques that critics have called torture.