U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Wednesday he has no plans to leave his job despite a stormy tenure marked most recently by a cascade of criticism about how his Justice Department handles leak probes.
The top U.S. law enforcement official told NBC News in a televised interview that there are still things he wants to accomplish before he eventually steps down.
"There's some things that I want to do, some things I want to get done that I've discussed with the president, and once I have finished that I'll sit down with him and we'll determine when it's time to make a transition to a new attorney general," Holder said.
I doubt one of those things was having to publicly explain this.
The Obama administration is collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S.-based Verizon Communications customers, relying on a secret court order obtained under a Bush administration policy that sparked a national controversy, the Guardian newspaper reported.
The administration is defending the practice this morning. The reason they're defensive is because they have been doing this kind of thing since, you know, they took over from the Bush administration.
And, as a concurrent Guardian report points out, the government has long argued that this kind of data is perfectly legal to collect because it's similar to collecting the information on the outside of an envelope. But even that so-called "transactional" data—phone numbers, phone serial numbers, time and length of calls—can represent a goldmine of information. Collect a ton of data and you can use it later to identify individuals.
Remember what I said a couple of weeks ago about lingering past one's expiration date? Yep; it got worse.
I know Holder doesn't want to hit the door while the VRA hangs in the balance. He suggested as much when he spoke in Houston at the NAACP convention last summer. But he is quickly moving down a track to a point where that is impossible. He is just not going to be around to fight that battle.
The longer he keeps holding out, the worse the stench gets.
You can read more analysis on this NSA business from Booman, Americablog, and emptywheel. But the news for Obama just isn't going to begin to get better until Eric Holder resigns. And after that, somebody is going have the dirty job of cleaning up after him.
Then again... it could just be business as usual. After all, not many of us expected Obama's people to do the same thing as Bush's.
Update -- Holder got off real easy at his first post-Verizon hearing on the Hill this morning:
Toward the end of his testimony, which lasted less than an hour, Holder made one statement that appeared to be the only one to betray his inner feelings. "Whoever the attorney general is a year, two years from now," he said, he would want that person to be able to do his job without encumbrance. It was a very vague, very off-handed reference to someone else doing his job, an idea that he — as recently as last night — has consistently suggested wouldn't happen.
And if he continues to face a level of critique similar to what he saw this morning, there's no reason to think that he's going anywhere any time soon.