The Justice Department Plays Fast and Loose with the Law → Washingtons Blog
The Justice Department Plays Fast and Loose with the Law - Washingtons Blog

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Justice Department Plays Fast and Loose with the Law

While the Justice Department has loudly tooted its horn about it's ability to prosecute bad guys, it hasn't really done much recently.

For example,the Department's "crackdown" on Wall Street is just a P.R. stunt targeting small-time crooks.

And former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke said of all the publicity surrounding the handful of terrorism prosecutions since 9/11:
A lot of the cases after 9/11 were manufactured or enormously exaggerated and were announced with great trumpets by the attorney general and the FBI director so that we felt that they were doing something when, in fact, what they were doing was not helpful, not relevant, not needed.

The DOJ famously refused to prosecute high-level officials who ordered torture, or illegal spying, or other criminal acts, or those who destroyed evidence and obstructed justice, even though top conservative and liberal legal scholars said that crimes had clearly been committed. It appears that Justice is playing politics to protect Bush, Cheney and the gang. See this and this.

Instead of prosecuting the big fish and protecting the little guy, the Department of Justice is bending over backwards to protect giant corporations. For example, the Justice Department - along with the Department of Homeland Security - has been using its national security powers to help big businesses. For example:

As the ACLU notes, Fusion Centers - a hybrid of military, intelligence agency, police and private corporations set up in centers throughout the country, and run by the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security - allow big businesses like Boeing to get access to classified information which gives them an unfair advantage over smaller competitors.

Moreover, the Justice Department has itself been playing fast and loose with justice.

For example, an ATF agent told CBS News yesterday that Justice Department ordered the ATF to let guns cross into Mexico. The guns went to the Mexican drug cartels, which have used them to terrorize the locals and kill American agents:

And see this.

And documents leaked a couple of weeks ago show that - instead of following leads showing criminal wrongdoing by the big banks - the Department of Justice is instead working to crush whistleblowers who have the goods on the white collar criminals.

For example - in an effort to protect Bank of America from the threatened Wikileaks expose of wrongdoing - the Department of Justice told Bank of America to a hire a specific hardball-playing law firm to assemble a team to take down WikiLeaks. As a leaked email states:

DOJ called the GC [general counsel] of BofA and told them to hire Hunton and Williams, specifically to hire Richard Wyatt who I'm beginning to think is the emperor. They want to present to the bank a team capable of doing a comprehensive investigation into the data leak. Currently they are recommending:
-Hire H&W as outside council on retainer


-Use Berico/HBGary to analyze wikileaks the organization (people, history, where they are located)....

HB Gary, of course, proposed smearing journalists with forged documents and otherwise pressuring journalists to avoid WikiLeaks. See this and this.

Of course, the Justice Department's fast and loose behavior is not new under the current administration.

As I wrote in August:

Jon Eisenberg is a very well-known California lawyer. Eisenberg literally wrote the book on California appellate practice.

In a new interview, Eisenberg ... reveals the games played by the Department of Justice:

[Interviewer] You have written "effectively ... President George W. Bush is a felon." Why, and do you ever think he'll be brought to justice?

[Eisenberg] President Bush has freely admitted that his administration committed warrantless electronic surveillance, violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. That's a felony, according to title 50, section 1809 of the United States Code. So President Bush is a felon. It's that simple.

Will he ever be brought to justice? Evidently not by a criminal prosecution, in which the Obama administration seems to have little interest...

[Interviewer] During [a lawsuit against the Bush administration concerning illegal spying,] you wrote a response to a government brief that you were not allowed to see. How does one go about doing that?

[Eisenberg] It was quite a challenge. It wasn't just that we had to speculate as to what might be in the secret DOJ brief; the conditions under which we wrote our secret response were onerous, approaching the bizarre: We were required to write the brief under guard in the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco; we were forbidden from preparing any notes for the brief-writing session; the DOJ retained sole possession of the brief we produced; and the DOJ has refused to allow us to review the brief since we wrote it. Litigation doesn't get any weirder than that.

There is no justifiable reason why the Department of Justice would refuse to allow the opposing counsel to see DOJ's brief, force the attorney to write his response brief under armed guard and without being able to use any notes, and then bury that brief without even letting the attorney who wrote it have a copy.

Attorney General Ashcroft approved torture, as did high-level Justice Department officials such as Assistant deputy Attorney General John Yoo. Promotion of torture is not just an ethical breach: it also constitutes a war crime under U.S. and international law. See this, this, this, and this. Yoo xsxseealso wrote memos defending illegal spying.

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey supported illegal wiretapping, torture and indefinite detention (and see this).

Congressional Quarterly, Glenn Greenwald, Raw Story, FireDogLake and others point out that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales virtually blackmailed Congresswoman Harman into support illegal warrantless spying on Americans by threatening to prosecute her for her AIPAC shenanigans if she didn't play ball.

And former constitutional law teacher Glenn Greenwald says that - in it's defense of state secrecy, illegal spying, preventative detention, and other positions - Obama's Department of Justice under Eric Holder is even worse than under Bush.

Given the above, it's worth asking: how much justice does the DOJ actually dispense?

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