Eric Holder has been sworn in as U.S. attorney general, the first African-American to hold that post in the nation's history. He takes over a Justice Department tarnished by scandal during the Bush administration. Holder is also promising changes in how the department pursues anti-terrorism policies.
One day after his confirmation by the Senate, Eric Holder was sworn in as the nation's 82nd attorney general.
"There shall be no place for political favoritism, no reason to be timid in enforcing the laws that protect our rights, our environment and our principles as long as I have the opportunity to lead this great department," Holder said.
Holder was sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden, who said Holder was an excellent choice to restore luster to a department that had suffered from political scandals during the Bush administration.
"The Department of Justice holds a special place in our democracy," Biden said. "It is here that individual liberty and security is defended and protected. Americans need a great Department of Justice. You need a leader that can meet the challenge of restoring this department to the place of honor and respect it deserves."
Biden said the Justice Department will return to a standard of no politics and no ideology, only a clear assessment of facts and law.
The Bush administration came under fire for its hiring practices in the Justice Department, especially the firing of nine U.S. attorneys around the country in 2006. That controversy led Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign the following year.
Holder won confirmation in the Senate despite objections from some Republicans. They criticized him for not opposing a presidential pardon for controversial billionaire Marc Rich in the waning days of the Clinton administration, while he was deputy attorney general.
Former FBI director Louis Freeh was among those testifying on Holder's behalf during his Senate confirmation hearings.
"The attorney general of the United States is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States," Freeh said. "Beyond competence, the elements of integrity, the elements of leadership and I think most importantly, political independence, is critical.".
Holder will play a major role in shaping the Obama administration's anti-terrorism policies.
Holder and a Justice Department task force must implement President Obama's order to close down the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and determine what to do with the remaining prisoners being held there.
Holder has also pledged to end harsh interrogation techniques like waterboarding, in which a suspect undergoes simulated drowning. Holder said he regards the method as torture and has vowed to restore the rule of law to the treatment of detainees.