TIME The Holocaust

The Selection at Auschwitz

Auschwitz survivors and families visit the Birkenau Memorial carrying candles on Jan. 27, 2015 in Oswiecim, Poland.
Auschwitz survivors and families visit the Birkenau Memorial carrying candles on Jan. 27, 2015 in Oswiecim, Poland. Ian Gavan—Getty Images

Primo Levi's account of his arrival at the death camp

Seventy years ago today, Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp in German-occupied southern Poland where, from 1942 on, the Nazis killed at least 960,000 Jews, 74,000 Poles, 21,000 Roma (Gypsies), 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and 10,000-15,000 others. Most were killed in gas chambers designed and constructed for the purpose.

In February 1944, less than a year before the liberation, the Italian chemist Primo Levi arrived at the camp with more than 600 other Jews who had been deported from German-occupied Italy in sealed train cars. In all, some 10,000 Jews were deported to concentration and extermination camps from Italy after the German occupation in September 1943.

Following is Levi’s account of the selection process by means of which the Nazis determined who would be killed and who would be kept alive for slave labor, from Survival in Auschwitz, (Simon and Schuster):

The climax came suddenly. The door opened with a crash, and the dark echoed with outlandish orders in that curt, barbaric barking of Germans in command which seems to give vent to a millennial anger. A vast platform appeared before us, lit up by reflectors. A little beyond it, a row of lorries. Then everything was silent again. Someone translated: we had to climb down with our luggage and deposit it alongside the train. In a moment the platform was swarming with shadows. But we were afraid to break that silence: everyone busied himself with his luggage, searched for someone else, called to somebody, but timidly, in a whisper.

A dozen SS men stood around, legs akimbo, with an indifferent air. At a certain moment they moved among us, and in a subdued tone of voice, with faces of stone, began to interrogate us rapidly, one by one, in bad Italian. They did not interrogate everybody, only a few: ‘How old? Healthy or ill?’ And on the basis of the reply they pointed in two different directions.

Everything was as silent as an aquarium, or as in certain dream sequences. We had expected something more apocalyptic: they seemed simple police agents. It was disconcerting and disarming. Someone dared to ask for his luggage: they replied, ‘luggage afterwards’. Someone else did not want to leave his wife: they said, ‘together again afterwards’. Many mothers did not want to be separated from their children: they said ‘good, good, stay with child’. They behaved with the calm assurance of people doing their normal duty of every day. But Renzo stayed an instant too long to say good-bye to Francesca, his fiancée, and with a single blow they knocked him to the ground. It was their everyday duty.

In less than ten minutes all the fit men had been collected together in a group. What happened to the others, to the women, to the children, to the old men, we could establish neither then nor later: the night swallowed them up, purely and simply. Today, however, we know that in that rapid and summary choice each one of us had been judged capable or not of working usefully for the Reich; we know that of our convoy no more than ninety-six men and twenty-nine women entered the respective camps of Monowitz-Buna and Birkenau, and that of all the others, more than five hundred in number, not one was living two days later…

This is the reason why three-year-old Emilia died: the historical necessity of killing the children of Jews was self-demonstrative to the Germans. Emilia, daughter of Aldo Levi of Milan, was a curious, ambitious, cheerful, intelligent child; her parents had succeeded in washing her during the journey in the packed car in a tub with tepid water which the degenerate German engineer had allowed them to draw from the engine that was dragging us all to death.

Thus in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared. We saw them for a short while as an obscure mass at the other end of the platform; then we saw nothing more.

[The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum]

[Centro Primo Levi, New York]

Read next: Eva Kor: What It Was Like to Be Experimented on During the Holocaust

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TIME Justice Department

Sloppy Russian ‘Spymasters’ Burn a Deep Cover Operative in New York

Busted in the Bronx, he faces 20 years in prison.

Monday was a bad day for Evgeny “Zhenya” Buryakov, the alleged spy arrested in the Bronx for his role as a deep cover case officer in a Russian ring targeting female university students, business consultants and the operations of the bank at which Buryakov worked. But it was an even worse day for his alleged spymasters, two Russian officials operating under diplomatic immunity who come across as sloppy, bureaucratic buffoons in the Justice department complaint detailing the alleged conspiracy.

Buryakov nominally faces up to 20 years in prison on two charges of acting as a foreign agent. But practically speaking he will only have to cool his heels in a U.S. jail for a few weeks or months until officials in Moscow find a suitable American operative to arrest and trade for him. Thereafter, he’ll likely return to Moscow, and given what appears to be fairly entrepreneurial work as a deep cover agent in New York, he can probably expect to thrive in the public or private sector there.

His two bosses, on the other hand, broke basic tradecraft rules and exposed Buryakov’s work, as well as other intelligence efforts by the Russian espionage services, according to the complaint. Both have already left the U.S. for other assignments. And while the days of banishment to Siberia for failed spy-handlers are long gone, the two at least face a grim professional future of pushing paper in the bowels of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service in Moscow.

Buryakov was a particularly valuable asset known as a “NOC,” operating under “non-official cover,” according to the complaint. A regular employee of a bank in New York, with no diplomatic immunity, he was able to gain valuable economic intelligence that a Russian government official—even one pretending to be a normal diplomat not a spy—wouldn’t have easy access to, according to the complaint. Placing and maintaining NOC’s is one of the more challenging aspects of running spies in a foreign country.

But Igor Sporyshev, a Russian Trade Representative in New York, and Victor Podobnyy, an attaché to the Russian United Nations mission, managed to expose Buryakov by calling him on an open phone line and by using his true name in a conversation in the New York offices of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Services (SVR) which were apparently being bugged by the FBI’s counterintelligence division.

Even before they outed their deep cover man, the two come across as buffoons in the complaint. In April 2013, the Justice department recounts, Podobnyy tells Sporyshev how disappointed he is at how boring the life a spy runner is, contrasting his life with a James Bond movie. Sporyshev responds that he always “thought that at least I would go abroad with a different passport,” according to the complaint.

The two men also discussed their attempts to recruit young women from a financial consulting firm and from a major university in New York, which a Justice Department official identifies as New York University. Sporyshev blusters that “in order to be close you either need to —k them or use other levers to influence them to execute my requests. So when you tell me about girls, in my experience, it’s very rare that something workable will come of it,” according to the complaint.

But it is in the exposure of the NOC Buryakov that Sporyshev and Podobnyy really shine. First, in May 2013, Sporyshev calls up Buryakov over a phone that was being monitored by the FBI and announces that he needs his help. Sporyshev says a Russian news organization acting on behest of the SVR wants to know what questions to ask a source about the New York Stock Exchange, the complaint claims. Sporyshev says he needs the questions in 15 minutes.

Twenty minutes later, according to the complaint, Buryakov calls back and tells Sporyshev the news organization should ask about how Exchange Traded Funds could be “mechanisms of use for destabilization of markets” (Buryakov has to correct Sporyshev who thinks he says “stabilization”). Buryakov also points Sporyshev towards the issue of automated trading robots, and says he could also ask about the interest of NYSE participants in products tied to the Russia.

Buryakov later shows himself to be entrepreneurial in his efforts. In November 2012 and March 2013, he attended conferences in a foreign country for the bank he worked for, and gathered intelligence about a potential airplane deal that could benefit Russia, the Justice department alleges. The deal was potentially a good one for Russia as it would bring jobs and technology, but unions in the company’s home country were resisting, the complaint says.

Buryakov drafted and submitted to Sporyshev and Pobodnyy a proposal recommending that the SVR’s “Active Measures Directorate” take steps “towards pressuring the unions and securing from the company a solution that is beneficial to us,” according a recording the FBI made of a conversation between the two spy-runners in the SVR offices in late May 2013.

Having a deep cover operative who is capable of getting inside a potential trade deal and is clever enough to see how it might be positively influenced is, despite what movie watchers like Sporyshev and Pobodnyy might think, an unusually fortunate set of circumstances for a spy service. But the bureaucratic Pobodnyy hesitates, according to the complaint, because the action is taking place in the country Buryakov visited for the conference:

VP: It’s strange to offer a [Country-2] proposal from New York.

IS: Why?

VP: It’s considered bad taste. What the —k? Can’t [Country-2] sort this out?

Ultimately, Buryakov’s aggressiveness tripped him up. In the summer of 2014, the complaint alleges, Buryakov met a wealthy investor looking to develop casinos in Russia and willing to trade U.S. Treasury documents he’d obtained from a friend in exchange for help setting up a deal—a plot-line worthy of “American Hustle.” The investor was in fact an undercover FBI agent.

But if Buryakov was naïve, his handlers didn’t do much to protect him. Sporyshev said it sounded like “some sort of a set up. Trap of some sort.” But rather than warning Buryakov off, Sporyshev told him to go ahead and meet an associate of the “investor”: “You will look and decide for yourself.” Later in the summer, Buryakov allegedly received documents purporting to be from the U.S. Treasury regarding sanctions against Russia and passed them along to Sporyshev at a clandestine meeting.

Acting as a foreign agent without registering with the Justice department is a crime in the U.S., as is receiving coded documents and passing them along. And now Buryakov is under arrest.

TIME Foreign Policy

Why Saudi Arabia’s Neighbor Is the Real Concern for the U.S.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah receives U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the king's Riyadh Palace on April 6, 2011 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah receives U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the king's Riyadh Palace on April 6, 2011 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

A smooth succession is all but guaranteed in the Kingdom — but that won't help imperiled U.S. allies in Yemen

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died Thursday of natural causes at age 90, leaving in place what appears to be a well-laid succession plan that U.S. analysts hope will assure continued stable relations between Washington and the oil-rich country that dominates most of the peninsula.

Unfortunately, in neighboring Yemen, the government of U.S. ally President Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi also died Thursday, leaving nothing but the prospect of a failed state and increased sway for Iran-backed Houthi rebels and a powerful and dangerous branch of al Qaeda.

On balance, the bad news outweighs the good.

Abdullah’s successor, Crown Prince Salman, is an established figure in U.S.-Saudi affairs, with a history of collaboration on national security matters dating to his fundraising for the Afghan Mujahedeen during their war against the Soviets in the 1980s, says Bruce Reidel of the Brookings Institution. One of Salman’s sons, Reidel reports, “led the first RSAF mission against Islamic State targets in Syria last year.”

But while oil futures soared on the news of Abdullah’s death as traders worried about potential instability in Saudi Arabia, former U.S. officials viewed the collapse of central governing authority in Yemen as the real cause for concern. “Rule number one of contemporary national security policy is allow the emergence of no new failed states,” says former State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Amb. Daniel Benjamin.

The power vacuum is most worrying because it imperils U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism operations against one of the few al Qaeda off shoots that retains the U.S. as its primary target. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has a talented bomb-maker in its upper ranks, a Saudi fugitive named Ibrahim al Asiri. U.S. officials believe al Asiri is behind several near-miss attempts to bring down Western airliners, at least one of which was foiled by a Saudi double agent who had penetrated the group.

The Houthis are only a threat to the U.S. insofar as they appear to have effected the ouster of the U.S.-backed Hadi and left a collapsed state in his wake. “We were banking on a guy who was very pro-American, but had far less support in his country than we thought,” says Whitley Bruner, a former CIA Baghdad station chief who previously served in Yemen and has worked as a security consultant there in recent years.

The Saudis dislike both the Houthis and AQAP, which dispatched al Asiri’s brother in a suicide attack that nearly killed the Saudi Interior Minister in 2009. But the kingdom has little chance of putting its neighbor back together again: with Yemen’s history of sectarian, tribal and ideological violence, “it’s going to get worse,” says Bruner. AFP reported late Thursday that “four provinces of Yemen’s formerly independent south, including its main city Aden, say they will defy all military orders from Sanaa” now that the capital has fallen to the Houthis.

TIME State of the Union 2015

Barack Obama Warns Against Terrorist Fear Factor in State of the Union

Obama says he wants Americans to fight terrorists but not fear them

President Obama had a mixed message for Congress on terrorism in his State of the Union address Tuesday: don’t fear terrorists, but do authorize me to use military force against them.

Obama’s not the only one advancing that national security paradox. Leaders around the world face the same problem. Terrorists are scary—that’s their point. So how do you get support to fight them without freaking people out and handing them a win?

“We lead best,” Obama said in his speech, “When we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents.” And he implicitly attacked his predecessor, George W. Bush, for failing at the task. “Will we approach the world fearful and reactive, dragged into costly conflicts that strain our military and set back our standing?” Obama asked.

MORE How 7 ideas in the State of the Union would affect you

But Bush has been back in Texas for six years and Gallup reports that 40% of Americans are very or somewhat worried that they or someone in their family will become a victim of terrorism—a slightly higher percentage than when Obama became President in 2009. That’s particularly remarkable when you consider that an American is more likely to be struck by lightening than get hit by a terrorist.

Obama and Bush may not be entirely to blame. The public’s fear of terrorists and its expectations that government will aggressively defend against them are not necessarily the fault of political leaders, says Daniel Byman, co-author of a recent Brookings Institution analysis of the threat posed by foreign fighters returning to the West, “Be Afraid. Be a Little Afraid.”

“It’s very difficult for people to think rationally about low probability events that are high publicity,” Byman says. Furthermore, Byman says, “There are certain things we expect our government to do and one of them is to keep us safe, especially from foreign terrorists—it’s a core government function.”

MORE: Obama made history by using this word during the State of the Union

Which doesn’t make it any less costly to over-react to terrorist threats. Western fear is very specifically what the terrorists are after, as a recruiting tool, as a means of inspiring the troops they have, and as a way of getting opponents to make costly mistakes, Byman says. Some U.S. intelligence officials look at the long-term strategic challenges posed by China, Russia and European economic weakness and think ISIS and the chaos Middle East amounts at best to a diversion and at worst to a trap.

Obama suggested Tuesday that he wants to avoid such a trap. “Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.” Yet his administration has sought broad powers from Congress to go after ISIS, including the authority to put troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria, where the group is principally operating, and to pursue it in other countries as well.

Republicans have the terrorist threat on their mind, too, of course. In her response from the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing room, Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst said, “This is where we’ll debate strategies to confront terrorism and the threats posed by Al Qaeda, ISIL, and those radicalized by them,” Ernst said. “We know threats like these can’t just be wished away. We’ve been reminded of terrorism’s reach both at home and abroad; most recently in France and Nigeria, but also in places like Canada and Australia. Our hearts go out to all the innocent victims of terrorism and their loved ones. We can only imagine the depth of their grief.”

In the end, one of the most effective tools against terrorists is domestic resilience, especially an acceptance that some level of violence from terrorists, while extremely undesirable, is probably inevitable. “You have to accept that this is a part of modern life,” says Byman. “We need to resource security services, but you don’t want to make it the focus of foreign policy.”

TIME intelligence

Senate Torture Report Describes CIA Interrogation Program

Senate Democrats say the methods were illegal and ineffective

Thirteen years after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. by the terrorist group al Qaeda, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a 500-page assessment of the program of harsh interrogation and detention used by the Central Intelligence Agency from 2002 to 2007 on more than a hundred members of the terrorist organization after their capture.

Based on 6.2 million pages of documents, photos and other CIA files, the report presents evidence that the agency’s interrogation methods were brutal and possibly illegal, that they were poorly managed, and that the agency misrepresented it to the White House, the Justice Department, Congress and the American people. Ultimately, the Senate Democrats conclude the methods used were not effective, and were not worth the costs to reputation and national security that resulted from the program.

Aspects of the detention and interrogation of al Qaeda suspects, according to the report, included: a detainee becoming unconscious during the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding, requiring medical attention as he regurgitated air and water; a detainee dying from exposure to extreme cold shackled to the floor in what government observers later described as a dungeon; detainees’ injuries being allowed to deteriorate as part of interrogation; and psychological effects from interrogation including hallucinations, paranoia, self-harm and self-mutilation. The report also finds the CIA at times lost detainees and discovered them only after days of neglect.

President Barack Obama said the report detailed a “troubling” program and showed that “some of the actions that were taken were contrary to our values.”

“That is why I unequivocally banned torture when I took office, because one of our most effective tools in fighting terrorism and keeping Americans safe is staying true to our ideals at home and abroad,” Obama said in a statement.

“These techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners,” Obama added. “That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chair of the intelligence committee who has spent years fighting CIA and Republican resistance to producing and releasing the report previously said, “If the Senate can declassify this report, we will be able to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.”

Current and former intelligence officials, and Republican members of Congress strongly dispute the characterization of the program and the CIA’s actions, arguing that it produced much of the information that led to the successful efforts by the Bush and Obama administrations to roll back the central leadership of al Qaeda. Republican members of the intelligence committee released at the same time a 100-plus page minority report dissenting with some of the findings and conclusions of the Democrat’s document.

The CIA also released a summary of its response to the SSCI report rebutting many of the findings. Of the 20 cases the SSCI report cites to show the CIA program was ineffective, the agency disagrees with all but two. “We acknowledge that the detention and interrogation program had shortcomings and that the Agency made mistakes,” said CIA Director John Brennan. Brennan said the interrogation of detainees “did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives.” The agency argues that it is impossible to say whether the harsh techniques produced intelligence that would otherwise have been obtained through less harsh methods. Brennan said the SSCI report provides an “incomplete and selective picture of what occurred.”

The report is likely to produce extended political battles over what information was known about the CIA program, by whom and at what time. The report finds evidence that both the CIA and some at the White House took steps to limit questions about the legality of the program and the number of senior Bush administration officials who were aware of it. It finds that President Bush first learned of the details of the interrogation techniques in 2006 and appeared uncomfortable with some of them, including the image of a prisoner shackled and having to go to the bathroom on himself.

The underlying question that authors and opponents of the report both would like to see settled in the debate is whether the techniques described in the report should ever be used again. Vice President Dick Cheney, former CIA director Michael Hayden, and many others argue that it was legal, effective and crucial in the fight against terrorism. Feinstein, President Obama, and many outside human rights groups say the techniques were wrong and crossed the line into torture, violating core American values.

TIME torture

How to Read the Senate Torture Report

Avoiding the politics, finding the facts

More than 10 years after the last al Qaeda operative was waterboarded, the Senate intelligence committee is set to release parts of its 6,000-page report on the CIA’s use of so-called “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” (EITs) on senior al Qaeda figures in the years after 9/11.

The report will put new facts on the table about what the CIA did and will draw conclusions about whether it was worth it. Ideally, the new facts would produce a national conversation, maybe even a consensus, about how far America should go to get its enemies to talk.

Instead, we’re likely to get a battle over the barely-concealed political interests of current and past public figures. Here’s what to look for in the report, how to put it in context, and how to avoid becoming an unwitting surrogate for someone else’s arguments.

What Was Done?

The report will contain new details about the “brutality” of the EIT program, says a senior Senate aide. The first thing to look at will be these details. Previous government reports have shown how the approved techniques—waterboarding, sleep deprivation, “walling”, among others—were actually implemented. But the Senate staff had access to over 6.2 million pages of operational cables, internal emails, memos and other documents from the CIA. That means Senate Democrats saw pretty much everything—good, bad and ugly—that was ever written by the CIA on the program and what happened in the rooms where it was implemented.

Democrats, including some who approved the EIT program, will say they never thought it would be implemented in such a brutal way. Those involved in the program will argue the excesses are exaggerated, and that Democrats signed off on everything. The Obama administration’s CIA will try to find a safe middle ground.

The important thing is to establish exactly what was done and whether it crossed a moral or legal line. Here’s the anti-torture statute, and here are some arguments for and against the legality and morality of the EIT program.

Was it worth it?

The answer to that question should depend on whether the EIT program advanced the government’s duty to protect citizens without breaking U.S. laws or undermining the core American and enlightenment values they are based on.

Instead, the debate will likely focus on whether the EIT program led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. That argument was launched within hours of Bin Laden’s death here at TIME, and has continued ever since, but the report will put new facts about the case on the table. In particular, it will reveal new details on detainees subjected to the EIT program who provided information about the Bin Laden courier, Abu Ahmed, in whose house in Pakistan the Saudi was staying.

As McClatchy reported last spring, the committee will conclude “The CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques did not effectively assist the agency in acquiring intelligence or in gaining cooperation from detainees.” The report will also say the CIA inflated the value of the intelligence to justify the brutal methods it had used. Opponents of the report will say Hill Democrats are playing down the value of the information gained from the EIT program in order to say the whole program was a mistake. The Obama CIA will say no one can know whether the EIT program made a difference.

Bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. forces is not a great measure of the value of the EIT program. His killing probably has more to do with justice and accountability than with national security; most counterterrorism experts will tell you that, by the time he died, Bin Laden was a largely symbolic figure with very limited operational significance as a terrorist leader. He definitely wasn’t a ticking time-bomb.

To judge whether the EIT program was worth its costs, it’s better to look at the totality of the program and the totality of the result. This has been tough to do until now. The report will make it possible to assess—Democrats say, debunk—claims that U.S. success against al Qaeda threats came largely thanks to the EIT program. It will also make it possible to gauge assertions that torture cost the U.S. more than it gained, including perhaps pushing the country to go to war in Iraq.

Who Screwed Up?

Here’s where the politics will get hottest. All sides agree that things went wrong with the EIT program, but who’s to blame is where the loudest voices will be.

The Senate Democrats will assert that the CIA’s leaders deceived everyone from the Bush White House to the Bush Justice Department to both parties on Capitol Hill. CIA officials involved in the EIT program will allege Congressional Democrats pursued the entire review of the program to protect themselves from the fact that they approved it to begin with. George W. Bush will not take the opportunity to throw the CIA under the bus, the New York Times reports.

The report may restart a discussion about accountability: the State Department reportedly expects questions about whether the U.S. government will reopen investigations into the program and the effort to keep it secret. Bush-era intelligence officials say they have already dealt with the program’s mistakes and the Obama administration says it investigated those involved and found no reason to bring criminal charges.

What effect will assigning blame have? The CIA says it is so burned by the EIT program that it is permanently out of the business of interrogation and Dianne Feinstein, the hawkish head of the Senate Intelligence committee, says that’s fine. The purpose of her report, she says, is to ensure such a program is never again acceptable to Americans.

But plenty of others, from ex-CIA officer Jose Rodriguez, to former Vice President Dick Cheney, to former CIA chief Michael Hayden, say the program should be available for use if there is another major attack on the U.S. Even Obama’s CIA chief says only that the EIT program is not now “appropriate,” suggesting it might be in other circumstances.

Ultimately, the report’s value lies in answering that simple question: should we ever do it again?

TIME Crime

Why a Medical Examiner Called Eric Garner’s Death a ‘Homicide’

Eric Garner Police Brutality Death
Ramsey Orta

The word doesn't mean the same thing to medical examiners

New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner on July 17 when he grabbed him by the neck and, with other officers, threw him to the ground and pinned him there. But did he commit homicide? And if so, was it a crime?

Everyone from Charles Barkley to Judge Andrew Napolitano has weighed in with an opinion on the matter. The resulting confusion has the potential to take the hard, painful question of equal justice in America and make it harder and more painful.

The key to clearing up the confusion is to understand the difference between two uses of the word “homicide” and to focus not on the medical cause of Garner’s death but on Pantaleo’s behavior.

On Aug. 1, a New York City medical examiner determined that the cause of death in the Garner case was “homicide,” specifically the neck compressions from the Pantaleo’s chokehold and “the compression of [Garner’s] chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” according to spokeswoman, Julie Bolcer.

But “homicide” in this context doesn’t mean what you think. It’s one of five categories medical examiners use to label causes of death and it indicates that “someone’s intentional actions led to the death of another person,” says Gregory G. Davis, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners. The other four labels are suicide, accident, natural, and undetermined, Davis says.

So in a medical examiner’s report “homicide” just means one person intentionally did something that led to the death of someone else. It doesn’t mean the death was intentional and it doesn’t mean it was a crime.

Criminally negligent homicide, on the other hand, is a class E felony in New York State. Someone who commits it can go to jail for around one to four years. A lot of things are class E felonies in New York State, like arson, computer trespass, auto stripping and residential mortgage fraud.

Was Pantaleo criminally negligent in killing Garner? He was, according to New York State law, if he failed “to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk” that Garner would die from his actions, and that failure was “a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.”

Nobody should dispute that Pantaleo committed homicide—that fact was determined Aug. 1. Was Pantaleo’s behavior a gross deviation from the standard of care that a police officer should take when confronting an unarmed father of six whom he suspects may have been selling cigarettes illegally? Napolitano and many others who have watched the video of Garner’s killing think Pantaleo’s behavior was criminally negligent. The Staten Island grand jury apparently did not.

As to the confusion about the different uses of “homicide,” why don’t medical examiners try using a different word to indicate someone has killed someone else so that it doesn’t get mistaken for a legal judgment?

“There are only so many words that we have,” says the National Association of Medical Examiner’s Davis.

TIME justice

Obama Mulls Replacements for Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Civil Rights Investigation Into Michael Brown Death
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announces a Justice Department 'patterns and practice' investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri, police department during a news conference at the department's headquarters Sept. 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

The President announced Eric Holder will remain in office until a successor is confirmed

The White House is already working with a narrow list of possible successors to outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, Democratic sources familiar with the selection process tell TIME.

The candidates include former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington State Jenny Durkan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and former Associate Attorney General Tony West, the Democratic sources say.

President Barack Obama has not yet decided whom he will choose to succeed Holder, White House officials say, and Holder will stay in office until a successor is confirmed by the Senate. The sources caution that the list of seven names is not exhaustive, and that some on it are being more seriously considered than others. The White House has initiated a formal selection process run by a team that will include White House Counsel Neil Eggleston and will involve interviews and background checks both for security and for political viability.

That latter consideration will be important as the Administration intends to bring the nominee up for Senate consideration during the lame-duck session after the midterm elections in November. Already Republicans, including the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), have said the confirmation process should be put off until January, when a new, possibly Republican-led Senate convenes.

That is unlikely, though.

“This is a high-priority position; it’s important not just for the President in terms of offering some advice and counsel, it also is important to the country in terms of enforcing our laws,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday afternoon. “So this is something that will get a fair amount of attention and I’m confident that whoever is nominated to this position will be the kind of candidate that deserves bipartisan support in the Senate.”

But in a sign of how cold relations between the White House and Hill Republicans have become, an aide to Grassley said the senator was not informed of Holder’s imminent resignation before the announcement Thursday, and as of 6 p.m. that evening, he had not been contacted by the Administration. An aide to Senate Judiciary Committee’s Democratic chairman, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, said the senator and Holder had spoken “in the last couple of days.”

It is unclear whether the White House intends to consult Republicans as part of the process of selecting a nominee. Holder’s predecessor, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, was picked by then-President George W. Bush after lengthy discussions with Senate Democrats, though the circumstances were quite different. In the wake of the scandal surrounding the politically-motivated firing of federal prosecutors by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Bush White House had secret conversations with powerful Democrats, who controlled the Senate. One Democratic aide then on the Judiciary Committee said Bush’s White House counsel Fred Fielding consulted Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) over possible successors and that Sen. Harry Reid (R-Nev.) rejected one candidate, former Solicitor General Ted Olson. Both sides eventually settled on Mukasey.

The candidates this time represent a fairly broad cross section of legal backgrounds. Two have limited experience on national security matters. At least one has a rocky record of confirmation in the Senate.

Perez faced a tough battle in the Senate to become Labor Secretary, getting confirmed 54-46 on a party-line vote after overcoming a GOP filibuster. Mayorkas was confirmed as Homeland deputy last December after heading the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; he was previously a U.S. attorney in California during the Clinton administration. Napolitano served as Obama’s Homeland Security secretary from 2009-13. Durkan has said she intends to step down as the top prosecutor in Seattle this month; she prosecuted financial and national security cases. Bharara has successfully pursued scores of insider trading cases on Wall Street and several high profile national security cases. Verrilli is the Administration’s top lawyer at the Supreme Court and argued high-profile cases including the successful defense of Obamacare. West stepped down Sept. 15 as the No. 3 Justice Department official after successfully winning more than $30 billion in settlements from Wall Street banks in the wake of the financial crisis.

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