COMMENTARY | Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed two U.S. attorneys to pursue criminal investigations into possible leaks in classified information, according to the Associated Press. There is already an FBI investigation, but the U.S. attorneys will conduct their own outside investigations. As someone who studies politics, I see this as a disturbing move by Holder.
Ronald Machen is the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and Rod Rosenstein is the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland. While Holder mentioned the prosecutors would have full power to bring charges against anyone found to have leaked information, he never implicitly stated the prosecutors would work concurrently with the FBI. We should be concerned about the prosecutors not sharing information with the bureau. The investigation then becomes a political game of who can find the information first and lead to a prosecution. This type of environment is not healthy as it could lead to prosecutors not spending the time needed to build a solid case.
At the same time, Holder's investigators minimize the importance of the FBI and tradition. While concurrent investigations happen all the time in government, Congress will usually create a probe to work alongside the White House instead of the administration starting its own investigation outside of the FBI. The Church Committee, for example, worked with the FBI to investigate the workings of the CIA. The 9/11 Commission worked with multiple governmental investigations to see what went wrong with the flow of information. In this case, Holder is overstepping a traditional mode and norm of governmental investigation. By instituting his own outside investigators, I have to question if Holder wants to make sure his people find the leak first for some reason.
Holder is in the middle of the congressional investigations into the inner workers of Operation Fast and Furious. He has been accused of not being forthcoming with the members of Congress and not providing the information needed to complete the investigation. There are members in Congress who are going as far as to press for charges of contempt of Congress against him. This is not the time for Attorney General Holder to act suspicious or to veer from traditional political actions. His current moves make him appear that he is attempting to cover something up and negative perceptions can kill a political career.
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