Eric Holder’s Legacy

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from The New York Times,

By any measure, the nearly-six-year tenure of Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has been one of the most consequential in United States history. His decision to resign, which he announced on Thursday, was long anticipated; he has said he will stay on through his successor’s confirmation. It is hard to imagine that anyone who could make it through the current Senate would have an impact comparable to Mr. Holder’s.

As the first African-American to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official, Mr. Holder broke ground the moment he took office. In a position that rarely rewards boldness — and in the face of a frequently hostile Congress — Mr. Holder has continued to stake out strong and laudable legal positions on many of the most contested issues of our time. But his record is marred by the role the Justice Department played in matters of secrecy and national security under his leadership.

While much of Mr. Holder’s legacy rightly will be defined by the improvements he made in areas of civil rights and criminal justice reform, it will also be defined by deeply harmful actions — and failures to act — involving issues of national importance.

Under Mr. Holder, the Justice Department approved the targeted killing of civilians, including Americans, without judicial review, and the Obama administration fought for years to keep the justifications for such efforts secret. In the zeal to stop leaks of government information, Mr. Holder brought more prosecutions under the Espionage Act than during all previous presidencies combined. In tracking the sources of leaks, prosecutors seized phone and email records of journalists who were doing their jobs.

On the financial front, he did not prosecute a single prominent banker or firm in connection with the subprime mortgage crisis that nearly destroyed the economy. These are not accomplishments to be proud of.

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