Eric Holder: ‘We’re Not at a Time of War’

The Attorney General tells reporters that the U.S. isn’t at war against ISIS—never mind all those airstrikes, and all those troops deployed in Iraq.

U.S. and coalition forces have conducted nearly 2,300 airstrikes hitting more than 4,800 targets in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, as part of the ongoing campaign to defeat the so-called Islamic State. Three service members have already perished in these ongoing operations against ISIS.

But according to Attorney General Eric Holder, “we're not at a time of war.”

The comments, during a luncheon at the National Press Club, came just days after the White House sent Congressional leaders a draft bill that would authorize the continuation of the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

President Obama declared an end to the ‘Global War on Terror’ in 2013, but that was before the emergence of the so-called Islamic State and the operation the president launched to fight them. Last week, the White House proposed a war authorization that set out no geographical limits on the use against ISIS and its affiliated groups, which was criticized by some of the left who said it allowed the president too much leeway to conduct military action.

Holder made the remarks Tuesday while responding to a question about the Department of Justice's prosecution of journalists over national security matters. The attorney general was making a broader point about the need for reporters to consider whether publishing sensitive information might undercut American national security.

“I'll use an extreme example, perhaps unfair. In World War II, if a reporter had found out about the existence of the Manhattan Project, is that something that should have been disclosed? Now we're not at a time of war, I understand, and I said, it's an extreme example. But I think there is a question that members of the press should ask, about whether or not the disclosure of the information has a negative impact on the national security of the nation,” Holder said.

This isn’t the first time an Obama administration official has tried to argue that the war against ISIS is not, in fact, a war. Last September, Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS, “If somebody wants to think about it as being a war with [ISIS], they can do so, but the fact is that it’s a major counterterrorism operation.” The remarks were quickly walked back.

The White House is currently holding a summit on countering violent extremism. On Thursday, the president will address representatives from some 60 countries who have come to Washington, D.C. to take part in the summit.