2002 Video Flashback- Eric Holder: Terrorist Detainees Don't Fall Under Geneva Conventions

President-Elect Obama’s choice for Attorney General, Eric Holder, had a 2002 interview with CNN’s Paula Zahn, (partial transcripts and stories have appeared on several sites recently including: National Review, Salon, Israpundit, and Democrats.com) where he cited a stance on terrorist detainees and their rights which was very different from not only Vice President-elect Joe Biden  but also  Obama himself  (my emphasis throughout:)

Obama voted against the tribunal system and has vowed to scrap it. "As president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists," Obama said in 2007. An Obama aide says he wants to try the suspects publicly in existing courts.

Holder’s view on terrorist detainees could very well cause some tension in the new Obama White House. Talking with CNN’s Paula Zahn in 2002, Holder had a different take on who fell under the Geneva Conventions:

ZAHN: When you have Secretary of State Powell saying, "Let's abide by the Geneva Convention," and then folks on the other side, we are told, saying "Wait a minute. If we hold them to that kind of status, then all they'll be required to give us is their name, rank and file number."

HOLDER: Yes, it seems to me this is an argument that is really consequential. One of the things we clearly want to do with these prisoners is to have an ability to interrogate them and find out what their future plans might be, where other cells are located; under the Geneva Convention that you are really limited in the amount of information that you can elicit from people.

It seems to me that given the way in which they have conducted themselves, however, that they are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention. They are not prisoners of war. If, for instance, Mohammed Atta had survived the attack on the World Trade Center, would we now be calling him a prisoner of war? I think not. Should Zacarias Moussaoui be called a prisoner of war? Again, I think not.

And yet, I understand what Secretary Powell is concerned about, and that is we're going to be fighting this war with people who are special forces, not people who are generally in uniform. And if unfortunately they somehow become detained, we would want them to be treated in an appropriate way consistent with the Geneva Convention.

ZAHN: So is the secretary of state walking a fine line here legally? He is not asking that the United States declare these men as prisoners of war right now. He's just saying let's abide by the Geneva Convention in the meantime.

HOLDER: Yes, and I think in a lot of ways that makes sense. I think they clearly do not fit within the prescriptions of the Geneva Convention. You have to remember that after World War II, as these protocols were being developed, there seemed to be widespread agreement that members of the French Resistance would not be considered prisoners of war if they had been captured. That being the case, it's hard for me to see how members of al Qaeda could be considered prisoners of war.

And yet, I understand Secretary Powell's concerns. We want to make sure that our forces, if captured in this or some other conflict, are treated in a humane way. And I think ultimately that's really the decisive factor here. How are people, who are in our custody, going to be treated? And those in Europe and other places who are concerned about the treatment of al Qaeda members should come to Camp X-ray and see how the people are, in fact, being treated.

The video is now uploaded at Eyeblast.tv 

Cross Posted at Video Done Right


CNN Video Eric Holder

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