Saturday, June 30, 2012

Is the DOJ in Trouble?

     "Very few people on the Hill would accuse this particular DOJ [Department of Justice] of being competent.  There's been a long cumulative history of incompetence," poliical pundit Michael Gerson said on PBS News yesterday.
     He and another expert on politics, Mark Shields, were commenting on the current state of affairs at the highest levels of our government.
     Naturally these statements interest me.  If the DOJ's competence is suspect at the highest levels, what about members of the DOJ who are responsible for "low-level" activities, such as the raid on my medical clinic and the forfeitures of my bank accounts?  Could there be a pattern of "incompetence," in Michael Gerson's words, that permeates the entire Department of Justice?  Might there not be enough oversight of DOJ activities?  Is it possible for the DOJ to investigate, accuse, and arrest citizens without sufficient cause, and to deny them due process?  Might there be a permissive attitude regarding attacks on us all, especially if the yield in terms of recuperation of money for the federal government, or publicity that shows how "tough on crime we are," or the inculcation of fear in the general public serve a higher good, namely to increase the power of the DOJ?
     Michael Gerson is not alone in his assessment.  There is widespread criticism of our DOJ these days.  For the first time in American history Congress voted to hold a cabinet member, Attorney General Holder, in contempt of court.  The Attorney General is the head prosecuting attorney for the entire country.  Holder declined to divulge the facts behind the "Fast and Furious" mission, which involved transfer of thousands of guns across the Mexican border and resulted in a multitude of deaths.  "There was dissembling on the part of the Justice Department," the commentators said.  "They gave misinformation to Congress.  The DOJ didn't want to be subject to hearings, so they used Executive Privilege to protect the jobs of mid-level Justice Department employees."
     The DOJ also messed up in the John Edwards case.  It's true that Edwards may have used campaign contributions from friends as hush money to protect himself from scandal.  This was a question of morality, not legality.  But this case in North Carolina wasn't the domain of the DOJ, there was no precedent for using campaign finance law to condemn Edwards, and it served as another example of the DOJ overreaching, acting incompetently, and exposing weakness.
     The DOJ also lost in the high-profile case against Roger Clemons, the Hall of Fame pitcher accused of taking steroids.  Because of an anti-trust provision for baseball in Congress this case was heard in a top-level court and was a stain on Clemons' reputation.  The outcome?  The DOJ didn't have enough evidence to convict him.  It was another black mark on the DOJ's record.  Are they wasting taxpayers' money going after people without sufficient cause?
     I am one small person, a lowly doctor in a rural area trying to do my job.  Perhaps I cannot compare myself to these high-profile cases.  But I can't help wondering if the DOJ as a whole is infected with the bug of intrusion and attack, so much so that its henchmen don't discriminate very well when they decide whom to investigate.  As long as the FBI and DOJ can keep their evidence secret, their operations aren't subject to criticism.  The motivation for their agents to raid, steal, and attack under the pretext of protecting America is very strong.   They end up harming innocent people.
     When the FBi invades your life there is scatter everywhere.  Shards of self-doubt enter your relationships.  Questions about your integrity surface, questions that would never have been raised in any other way.  Your reputation in the community is marred.  My reputation has been harmed by the FBI's virulent attack on my office and by their need to publicize it.  
     My staff tells me that from the outset on the day of the raid TV-20 cameramen were at my clinic shooting the story, and so were newspaper reporters, writing away.  No one in my office called these people, no one in the neighborhood could have known the raid was going to be "news."
     The FBI must have given the media a heads-up about the imminent raid on my clinic.  It seems they love publicity.  I wonder how they feel now about the negative publicity for the DOJ, which must answer to all United States citizens for its blatant political motives, for its misappropriation of power, and for the apparent incompetence of our judicial system.
     My life will not be the same since the FBI raid and forfeitures.  I understand that "many countries are much worse." But this fact doesn't exonerate the American justice system.  Corruption is first an individual problem, and then becomes a social problem.  A corrupt society improves one person at a time, as each one of us attends to his own behavior and understands the motives behind it.  Maybe the FBI agents acted out of envy or greed, or the lust for power in an environment with too few restrictions on what can and can't be taken from others.  The envy and greed aren't the problem so much as the agents' not knowing whether envy or greed serve as the impetus for their disintegrating acts.  As long as they don't know themselves very well, our Justice Department employees are not serving society, but endangering it.
     The government should be careful where it sends its henchmen.  Our society feels endangered from my vantage point.  A disintegrated life is no small thing.  

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