Holder bucks the boss, appoints investigator

As someone consistently fascinated by power and politics in organizations, I was surprised that Obama was (de facto) overruled by his attorney general on the matter of “moving on”:

Holder notified the White House that he was reluctantly leaning toward naming a prosecutor to review whether laws had been broken during interrogations — the very thing Obama had said he wanted to avoid. And the word Holder got back, according to people familiar with the conversations, was that the decision was up to him.

The back story to Monday’s appointment of a career prosecutor to review CIA interrogation methods illustrates Holder’s influence in the new administration and sheds light on the emerging and delicate relationship between the White House and the Justice Department. In this and other big battles, including the decision to release memos this year by Bush administration officials giving the green light to harsh interrogation tactics, Holder and his Justice Department have prevailed over strong objections from the CIA and the intelligence community. Holder hasn’t won every one of those battles, but he has won many.

The investigation itself is interesting, of course, but the role of the attorney general has its own set of nuances.  It is one of the few offices in which the incumbent is at times required to overrule the boss.  As anyone who has had or been a boss knows, bosses don’t often like that.  Just ask Archibald Cox.

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