Holder on “Something That Gives Us Really Extreme, Extreme Concern”

By Jack Goldsmith
Sunday, July 13, 2014, 2:01 PM

President Obama, in his NDU speech last year, stated: “[T]his war, like all wars, must end.  That’s what history advises.  That’s what our democracy demands.”

Attorney General Holder, in a conversation today (scroll down) with Pierre Thomas on ABC’s “This Week” about the threat from Americans and Europeans in Syria, stated:

HOLDER: “In some ways, it's more frightening than anything I think I've seen as attorney general.  9/11 was something that kind of came out of the blue.  This is a situation that we can see developing and the potential that I see coming out, the negative potential I see coming out of the facts in Syria and Iraq now are quite concerning.”

THOMAS: “Among the concerns: intelligence that bomb makers from Yemen -- those responsible for the 2009 underwear bomb plot -- are now in Syria joining forces with the thousands of foreign fighters there.”

HOLDER: “[I]t's a deadly combination, where you have people who have the technical know-how along with the people who have this kind of fervor to give their lives in support of a cause that is directed at the United States and directed at its allies. And it's something that gives us really extreme, extreme concern.”

This seems like a politically fraught time for the Obama administration.  On the one hand, the President and others in the administration are talking about “the war” winding down and the appropriateness of switching from reliance on military authorities to the law enforcement and intelligence authorities that prevailed – and failed – in the pre-9/11 period.  On the other hand, (i) the President is under growing scrutiny and criticism for seeming inaction in the face of the swelling terrorist threat in Syria and Iraq, and (ii) his Attorney General is contrasting 9/11, which he says “kind of came out of the blue,” with the terrorist threat emanating from the Middle East “that we can see developing,” and that causes “really extreme, extreme concern.”