Holder Says Waterboarding is Torture

Leahy championed Holder's appointment as a step toward realizing the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because Holder would be the first black attorney general if confirmed. Leahy said Holder would help right a department still reeling from accusations of political bias during the tenure of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

"Americans have to be able to trust their Justice Department. That trust can never be squandered or taken for granted," Leahy said, claiming that career professionals at the department have been "misused and demoralized."

Holder said the Justice Department needs to rise above political bias, a nod to the era of Gonzales, who resigned after accusations that the department had improperly fired at least nine U.S. attorneys for political reasons, as well as allowed politically biased hiring practices to take hold within the department.

On Wednesday, the department's inspector general released the latest in a series of reportson the issue, alleging that the one-time head of the department's Civil Rights Division made hiring decisions based upon the applicants' political leanings.

"What we have seen revealed in these inspector general reports is almost unbelievable to me. It is clearly abhorrent. And it's inconsistent with the way in which I would run the Department of Justice," he said.

Sources say Holder, 57, has been participating in mock hearings to prepare for today's grilling.

Holder spent most of his career with the Justice Department, most recently serving in the No. 2 spot of deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration. He has spent the eight years since leaving that post as a partner at Washington law firm Covington & Burling.

"The responsibilities of the attorney general of the United States are too important to have this appointment delayed by partisan bickering. We have known and worked with Mr. Holder for more than 20 years" and confirmed him for three past appointments, Leahy said, adding that his record merits respect and deserves support.

President-elect Barack Obama announced Holder's nomination last month. Holder served on Obama's presidential campaign and worked with Caroline Kennedy to help select Joe Biden as the vice presidential candidate during the summer.

President-elect Barack Obama announced Holder's nomination last month. Holder served on Obama's presidential campaign and worked with Caroline Kennedy to help select Joe Biden as the vice presidential candidate during the summer.

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