Holder talks WikiLeaks, terror stings in Bay Area visit

December 11, 2010 12:55:32 AM PST
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says the latest WikiLeaks release has put the safety of the American people at risk, but he will not say whether the Justice Department intends to prosecute.

Holder is in town to attend a financial fraud conference and to talk with a Muslim legal group about hate crime prosecutions, but most of the questions at Friday morning's news conference were about the recent release of diplomatic cables by the website WikiLeaks.

"Well the investigation that we have with regard to the WikiLeaks matter is something that is ongoing it's an active very serious investigation," Holder said in response to a question about the possible prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for violating the Espionage Act.

Because it is an ongoing investigation, Holder would not discuss specifics, saying only the main stream media that published much of the same information is not as culpable as WikiLeaks.

"They acted, I think, in a responsible way so I think that is at least one of the distinctions," he said.

He denied the government is trying to pressure the website.

"We have not pressured anybody to take to do anything," he said.

At the San Francisco Islamic Center Friday afternoon, Director Khalid Siddiqi said his members are not happy with the way Holder's Justice Department is investigating suspected terrorists.

"The way the things are handled are not in a proper way," Siddiqi said.

Siddiqi was speaking specifically of the recent arrest of a 19-year-old Oregon man who was caught in a FBI sting after telling undercover agents he wanted to blow up Portland's tree light ceremony.

"We believe in the honest, we don't believe in illusion and deceit and all those kinds of things," Siddiqi said.

Holder's response was the sting operation saved lives.

"The concern we have in these cases is that if we do not participate in them in a way that's appropriate, we don't entrap people, that a person like him would ultimately come in contact with somebody who might provide him with the necessary materials so that a successful bombing could occur," Holder said. "I make no apologies for how the FBI agents handled their work in executing the operation that led to Mr. Mohamud's arrest. Their efforts helped to identify a person who repeatedly expressed his desire and intention to kill innocent Americans."

Part of the reason Holder came was to reach out to the Muslim community. Holder addressed a legal organization committed to ending racial and religious profiling. Organizers of the event were thrilled when he accepted their invitation to speak and by accepting, Holder made history.

Until Friday night, Holder had never addressed a national Muslim organization and neither had any of his predecessors, which may explain the warm reception he received from the legal organization Muslim Advocates.

Holder also assured the crowd, his department is just as intent on going after people who target the Muslim community. The attorney general says his reinvigorated civil rights division is committed to pursuing hate crimes.

"There can be no 'us' or 'them' among Americans and I believe law enforcement has an obligation to ensure that members of every religious community enjoy the ability to practice their faith in peace," Holder said.

For members of the crowd, those assurances are what they wanted to hear. They say the fact that Holder came to talk to them in person is a huge first step.

"It's our community that has been identified by the FBI, by federal law enforcement as priority number one frankly for the last few years. So it's critically important that there be a conversation between the Justice Department and the American Muslim community on these issues," Farhana Khera from Muslim Advocates said.


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