Judging by his past statements, Eric Holder Jr., reportedly Barack Obama's top pick for attorney general, may aim to roll back several of the Bush administration's most controversial legal moves if he is selected for the post.
In a June speech to the American Constitution Society, Holder said the Bush administration had taken many steps that "were both excessive and unlawful" in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"I never thought I would see the day when a Justice Department would claim that only the most extreme infliction of pain and physical abuse constitutes torture and that acts that are merely cruel, inhuman and degrading are consistent with United States law and policy, that the Supreme Court would have to order the president of the United States to treat detainees in accordance with the Geneva Convention, never thought that I would see that a president would act in direct defiance of federal law by authorizing warrantless NSA surveillance of American citizens. This disrespect for the rule of law is not only wrong, it is destructive in our struggle against terrorism," Holder said in the speech.
Holder also advocated closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, transferring the remaining prisoners to the US and adopting an "expedited and procedurally fair" review process.
"It is our task over the next several years to reverse the disastrous course that we have been on over the past few years," Holder said in his conclusion.
Watch Holder's speech.
Jonathan Mahler pointed out in the New York Times magazine last Sunday that although executive power greatly increased under President Bush (in large part because of the war on terror) the subject went mostly unnoticed in the presidential race.
The Boston Globe in 2007 gave the presidential candidates a 12-question survey on presidential authority. Read Obama's answers here, Vice President-elect Joe Biden's answers here, John McCain's answers here, and possible secretary of state Hillary Clinton's answers here.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.