A Pattern of Abuse


The way our politicians behave, it is easy to toss off a sarcastic remark about our government, e.g., calling it a government “of the elite, for the elite, by the elite.” Is this just sarcastic hot air by an embittered blogger? Unfortunately, every day, new evidence illustrating the veracity of this accusation emerges. As Manning receives a 35-year sentence for revealing the truth despite promising not to, NSA officials remain not just free but still in office despite deceiving Congress and the FISA Court that oversees NSA. Meanwhile, new evidence emerges about FBI collusion with the banks it was supposed to have been investigating for financial fraud.

In a democracy, bureaucratic organs are authorized to keep secrets from the public for exceptional purposes regarding national security, while oversight organs are established to police the bureaucrats and—most importantly—to police the bureaucrats’ political bosses (e.g., NSA director Keith Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper). The suddenly famous oversight organizations include Congressional intelligence committees and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. While it may unfortunately be necessary to keep secrets from the citizenry temporarily in order to avoid alerting hostile forces, it would be highly informative to hear such officials as Alexander and Clapper publicly justify misleading not only Congress but the specific oversight organs established for the precise purpose of judging the behavior of the intelligence bureaucracies. This whole scandal has of course come to light only because of the sacrifices made by a handful of whistleblowers, most recently Manning and Snowden, the former having just been given a 35-year sentence and the latter being the object of a global manhunt, while the White House tries to focus attention on the whistleblowers to distract public outrage from the abuses. In brief, then, the first piece of evidence of government “of the elite, by the elite, and for the elite” is the national security state’s deceptive behavior regarding domestic snooping, its efforts to make excuses for guilty officials, and its simultaneous eagerness to punish whisteblowers for revealing that behavior.

The day’s second piece of evidence in support of the government “of the elite, by the elite, and for the elite” is in the very different but tightly connected arena of finance: namely, the collusion between the FBI, which is supposed to investigate financial fraud, and the banks that brought us the delightful Recession of 2008…2009…2010…2011…2012…2013…. As Professor William Black, financial fraud expert and former deputy senior counsel at the Office of Thrift Supervision, puts it in a Real News interview:

 

So these frauds are overwhelmingly coming from the banks, but are being completely ignored, because the FBI is operating in this bizarre Tea Party world in which the banks are wonderful and honest and it’s the small people who are the nasty, terrible folks. [The Real News 8/21/13.]

 

Black provides a new layer of details critical to understanding how government regulatory organs have aided and abetted elite financial fraud and been derelict in their responsibilities for protecting the American public. 

And this is the bad news of only August 22. If one added in the bad news of August 21, it would include the Obama Administration’s intensifying campaign to punish reporters for publishing information provided by whistleblowers. But that was yesterday… 

Surely, though, all this is too harsh. Surely, it is the case that our leaders are genuinely desperate to prevent another disaster like 9/11. After all, Obama is now President, and he cannot be accused of knowing in advance or of taking full advantage of a useful surprise and bending it to partisan purposes. Assuming, then, that our leaders are reasonably rational and intelligent, as well as being sincere defenders of the security of the American people and of our liberty, how else could they have responded to these two scandals: 1) the whistleblowing revelations and 2) the 2008 Fraud Recession? 

Even if they judge that whistleblowers who break the rules deserve punishment, such rulers would still take very seriously the abuses these whistleblowers have exposed. Obama has, in fact, taken public note of the abuses, albeit so slowly and so half-heartedly and after so perversely defending them that he can no longer be deemed sincere. Once in the public realm, thanks to a long string of whistleblowers ending with Manning and Snowden, one can only wonder how Obama could ever have imagined that he could deny the tsunami of evidence; it was rather obvious from the first that regardless of his personal attitude toward NSA domestic snooping or its dishonesty toward the FISA Court, his only defense was to admit, apologize, put the blame on NSA, and promise full transparency (no more than we demand of Iran on the nuclear issue). It is all the more obvious that were he truly committed to defending American liberties, he would have done so for the profound purpose of cleaning up Washington. 

What about the intel chiefs themselves? Again, all they had to do on Day 1 was state that it was up to the courts to judge the whistleblowers but that they took very seriously the charges, and immediately to launch a full investigation themselves while publicly calling for an independent investigation to discover the truth and ensure that no further transgressions were committed. 

So much for the response of honest, intelligent, and patriotic leaders to the charge of illegal snooping on innocent Americans. And how would such honorable leaders have responded to the 2008 financial fraud scandal? 

In the same sentence as officials cried, wide-eyed, that a financial crisis was threatening “the economic system as we know it,” our mythical wise and patriotic leaders would have recognized that discarding the legal wall protecting banking from financial investing was a mistake. They would further have stated clearly that big capitalists, unregulated, had been found to be untrustworthy, and they would have launched an immediate full-scale investigation, based on the precedent of the S&L crisis resolution (which jailed some 1,000 financial fraudsters). They might have added that in order to save the system, we must punish (not reward) those who abuse it, and that those who abuse it the most will be punished the hardest. Taking jobs from some ten million workers and stealing perhaps several hundred thousand houses from honest mortgage holders is no joke. A sentence of 35 years in jail would have been appropriate for a number of CEO’s and other high officers of a well-known list of major banks, mortgage firms, and semi-governmental agencies. 

Thus would honorable and competent leaders of a democracy have acted. 

Be it national security state snooping on the American people, a Federal campaign to punish as harshly as possible those who expose abuses of power—regardless of whether they are employees who have signed secrecy agreements or reporters doing their jobs, or efforts by regulatory agencies to facilitate large-scale financial fraud, evidence of the government being “of the elite, by the elite, and for the elite” continues to pile up—on the shoulders of the American people.

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