Corruption of the Law Leads to Corrupt Government – Brief Article
Paul Craig Roberts
June 26, 2000
If you were a U.S. attorney general confronting possibly the biggest presidential scandal in American history and the FBI director strongly advised you to recuse yourself from the investigation because of a conflict of interest, would you ever forget such a tense and dramatic moment?
On May 19, Attorney General Janet Reno said, "I don't have a recollection" of FBI Director Louis J. Freeh advising her, face to face, to recuse herself from the Clinton-Gore Chinese campaign-finance scandal.
The collective amnesia of the Clinton administration is a wondrous thing. It makes you wonder how these people find their way to work in the morning. Also suffering from memory loss is Lee Radek. Radek spearheads Reno's cover-up of the scandal. Radek doesn't recall telling two senior FBI officials that he was "under a lot of pressure" to cover up the scandal because Reno's job "hangs in the balance."
But FBI Deputy Director William J. Esposito and Assistant Director Neil J. Gallagher haven't lost their memory. Both confirm that Radek made the statements that he doesn't recall.
Radek's memory has failed him altogether. He can't recall why he assigned the important investigation of the role played by Chinese government money in the 1996 U.S. presidential election to an unqualified and inexperienced prosecutor, who promptly disorganized the investigation.
Neither can Radek explain why he issued a "cease and desist" order to the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, who was nailing down Vice President Al Gore's role in the illegal fund raising. Nor can Radek give a reason for his order blocking FBI agents from seizing evidence of the scandal before it could be destroyed.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the Department of Justice, or DOJ, has been obstructing justice. In fact, the situation is so serious and so explosive that the DOJ has called on the departmental loyalty of former Republican Justice Department officials to quiet the waters and keep the cover-up from being investigated by a subsequent administration.
"People might lose confidence in the government," they implore, as if anyone has a drop of confidence in the DOJ. In a recent speech at Hillsdale College, Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia, a former U.S. attorney, blames the politicization of the DOJ on Bill Clinton. As Latin Americans are fond of saying, "When corruption begins at the top, everything falls into decay."
Conservatives used to emphasize the importance of Supreme Court appointments as the reason for voting Republican. Today, they emphasize cleaning up the Department of Justice. Even Griffin Bell, who was attorney general during the Carter administration, says that "it would be better to have a Republican" win the next presidential election. "Then, you can just change everybody."
If only it were that simple. Unfortunately, the corruption in the DOJ goes deeper than personnel. The very concept of law that protects us from tyranny has been lost. No longer the people's shield, law has become a weapon in the hands of government.
As Lawrence M. Stratton and I show in our just-published book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, each of the legal principles that protects us from arbitrary and abusive government power has been eroded by ambitious prosecutors, inattentive judges and juries and legal theories inimical to our legal heritage.
William Blackstone called these protective principles "the Rights of Englishmen." They are the attorney-client privilege, due process, habeas corpus, equal standing in law with no group having status-based privileges and the prohibitions against retroactive law, crimes without intent, self-incrimination and bills of attainder.
It was not the corrupt Clinton administration that undermined these rights. The attorney-client privilege was undermined by Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Gerson in a Republican administration, when he justified an asset freeze to coerce the blue-chip Wall Street law firm Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler to pay a $41 million fine for refusing to snitch on a client. It was not the corrupt Clinton administration that criminalized the Exxon Valdez accident or brought a bill of attainder against Charles Keating or created retroactive liability with the Superfund or vitiated the 1964 Civil Rights Act by imposing illegal racial quotas.
It was not the Clinton administration that initiated the vile practices of confiscating people's assets without indicting and convicting them of a crime and paying criminals to concoct testimony against people targeted by prosecutors.
It wasn't Clinton who resurrected torture and self-incrimination with coerced plea bargains. The corruption of DOJ personnel is a reflection of the corruption of law. The Justice Department cannot be restored until the law is.
Paul Craig Roberts is a commentator for the Washington Times and is nationally syndicated.