Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. told reporters today that the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to run the Office of Legal Counsel has been pending for "far too long" and that he is confident Johnsen will be confirmed.
Holder, addressing more than two dozen reporters in a conference room at the Justice Department, said he is looking forward to working with Johnsen on the 5th floor of Main Justice. Johnsen was nominated in January. The BLT reported in August that Johnsen is making a tentative return to the classroom.
Holder’s remarks came during an informal pen-and-pad session with reporters. The gathering began with Holder jesting about the group of reporters being a new “division” of Justice, and it ended with his thoughts on being one of 18 finalists for an award from the American Mustache Institute. Holder said he’d be honored to win the award but it’s not something he's campaigning for.
Tops on Holder’s agenda today was national security. He said it will be difficult to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center by January, but that setting a deadline was the “right thing” because it focused effort and attention on the issue.
Holder touted the investigation that led to the arrest of Najibullah Zazi, accused in an alleged plot to detonate a bomb in the United States. Holder said Zazi posed the most serious domestic threat to national security since the attacks of Sept. 11. “This wasn’t merely an aspirational plot with no chance of success,” Holder said today.
Holder said the case against Zazi shows the threat posed by terror networks in the United States is “very real.” He declined to comment on how Zazi—who “certainly” has an al-Qaeda connection, according to the attorney general—got on the radar of law enforcement. Holder said the investigation is ongoing and that at the conclusion, “everyone” involved will be brought to justice.
Commenting on the reauthorization of three provisions of the Patriot Act that are set to expire in December, Holder said they are “necessary tools” for the effective investigation and prosecution of terrorism cases. The provisions include the use of so-called “roving wiretaps” and FBI access to business and other records.
Holder said special prosecutor John Durham’s investigation of the destruction of CIA interrogation tapes is nearing completion. He did not say what Durham is going to recommend.