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EDITORIAL: Holder scolded

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Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, gave a tongue-lashing to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. at a June 17 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Mr. Holder deserved it.

In less than five months on the job, Mr. Holder already has called into question the integrity and independence of the Department of Justice. Mr. Sessions -- who broke with a majority of his Senate Republican colleagues on Feb. 2 by voting in favor of Mr. Holder's appointment to the job -- detailed a disturbing list of the attorney general's transgressions.

"I am disappointed," the senator said. "I think these are very serious matters. When the Office of Legal Counsel attorneys told you something was unconstitutional, I think I'm not happy that you ignored that and went around them. When security officials came to you and said we should keep our interrogation methods confidential, you said no. When the civil rights of Americans were trampled on by members of the Black Panthers at the voting place, you let the offenders get away. And as the American people look to you to lead in the war against terrorism, you have remained too silent. You even granted the release of dangerous detainees, including Jose Padilla's alleged accomplice and another detainee who reportedly killed an American diplomat."

That's not even mentioning the attorney general's infamous speech in which he said America is "a nation of cowards" on racial matters. Or his sponsorship of official leave time for employees to attend a speech by highly partisan, self-described "veteran Democratic political strategist" Donna Brazile. Or his highly politicized refusal to release memos showing the positive results of terrorist interrogations after releasing the descriptions of those interrogations.

Perhaps most outrageous of all, and directly contrary to earlier administration assurances, Mr. Holder reportedly has ordered that high-value detainees captured and held in Afghanistan be provided Miranda rights. In his opening remarks at last Wednesday's hearing, he announced that his department's "number one priority" is "to close Guantanamo."

This is the man who oversees the whole system of domestic law enforcement, and his first priority is to close a military detention facility in Cuba. Clearly, Mr. Holder's priorities are out of whack.

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