As the Obama administration is facing multiple growing scandals, both real and imagined, enemies of the administration are investigating various alleged misdeeds. Unfortunately, most of the efforts being leveled against the current regime in Washington are driven by petty partisan agendas and miss the bigger picture of institutionalized abuse at the hands of the federal government. Arguably, many of the same people now investigating the unlawful seizure of the Associated Press’ phone records previously supported, and continue to support, numerous efforts to further enhance the federal government’s investigative power through abusive laws like the Patriot Act. A similar observation can be made of those looking into the IRS’ targeting of perceived political enemies. Obama is hardly the first, and unlikely to be the last, president who has used the near limitless power of the IRS to further a political agenda. Unfortunately, most of those who feign outrage at this latest IRS abuse appear to be more interested in scoring political points than in curbing abusive government action against citizens. Many of this administration’s harshest critics were oddly silent when the preceding administration engaged in similarly violative acts.
President Barak Obama is engulfed in several current scandals, but his use of the justice system to punish perceived enemies may be the most egregious
In reality, the Obama administration has long pursued a strategy of using various government agencies to punish its enemies. While tactics of this type have been employed by numerous preceding administrations, there is something particularly troubling about seeing Obama embrace this approach. His liberal veneer and repeated promise of “change” caused many to believe that he would forego allowing his administration to be a vehicle for this sort of pernicious abuse. His record has evidenced that nothing could be further from the truth.
In addition to the scandals currently receiving the most attention, there is Obama’s war against whistleblowers. While George W. Bush’s administration was quick to exact retribution against government whistleblowers, the current regime has taken the battle to heights previously unseen. Even members of the press have been deemed to be fair game as the Obama administration seeks to silence its critics.
George W. Bush oversaw flagrant abuse within his Justice Department, but has arguably been eclipsed in this regard by Obama
“The Obama administration's been extremely aggressive in trying to root out whistleblowers within the government,” says NBC News investigative reporter Michael Isikoff. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, describing the secrecy required in her reporting for a profile of whistleblower Thomas Drake, said the experience did not “feel [like] America, land of the free press.”
Drake, a former senior executive of the National Security Agency, stated, "It's extremely dangerous in America right now to be right as a whistleblower when the government is so wrong." He added, “Speaking truth to power is now a criminal act."
Drake was charged in 2010 under the Espionage Act, a law passed in 1917 to prosecute spies. Drake was not a spy, but a government employee who tried unsuccessfully to report waste and abuse through official channels before contacting a Baltimore Sun reporter. The government's case eventually collapsed, with Drake only pleading guilty to the misdemeanor of "exceeding the authorized use of a computer."
Thomas Drake was vigorously prosecuted by the Obama administration for whistleblowing activities
"I've talked to a number of people who've made it clear that they are too afraid for their jobs," said Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project On Government Oversight. "You have a combination of the fear of prosecution and in this economy if they lose this job, they might not be able to pay for groceries." Ms. Brian’s warning is well-founded. Thomas Drake was last heard to be working in an Apple retail store.
While the Drake matter received a fair amount of publicity, there are countless other cases of government retribution against whistleblowers and other perceived enemies receiving little or no attention. The most common tactic employed is for operatives within the Department of Justice (DOJ) to target and criminally prosecute those deemed to be “troublesome” by the current regime. The federal code is replete with catchalls and amorphous “crimes” that lend themselves to easy applicability. Lavrentiy Beria, head of Joseph Stalin's secret police in the old Soviet Union, is alleged to have famously quipped, "Show me the man, and I'll show you the crime. Sadly, the federal justice system had devolved into a strikingly similar system.
Lavrentiy Beria, head of Stalin’s secret police, can be viewed as the ideological progenitor of the U.S. Department of Justice
Despite presiding over a justice system that prides itself in employing prosecutors able to “indict a ham sandwich,” Attorney General Holder has publicly stated that the FBI is coordinating with the DOJ to “see if any laws were broken” with the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups. This ridiculous claim is laughable to seasoned DOJ observers as the federal code is replete with options for ready prosecution. Holder’s professed need to predicate criminal charges upon tangible violations of law only applies to scenarios in which prosecution is not the government’s desired goal.
Attorney General Eric Holder oversees a Department of Justice that routinely railroads defendants on scurrilous charges, but needs to “see if any laws were broken” by the IRS before action can be taken
Matthew Hutcheson was a nationally renowned 401(k) fiduciary advocate. His advice was widely sought within the industry and he had repeatedly testified before various congressional
Hutcheson was asked by the Department of Labor to mitigate his testimony by filing a false declaration with a federal court. It was assumed that like so many others, he would comply and capitulate. When he refused, he was labeled as a political dissenter.
Matthew Hutcheson’s legal woes began upon being labeled as an enemy of the Obama administration because of his whistleblowing
Soon thereafter, a lawyer revealed to Hutcheson that the aforementioned skimming machine was being used to buy influence with the Department of Labor (DOL). One specific instance involved a skim of $10M, most of which was used to buy influence (the skimmer was a lobbying organization) with DOL leadership. The DOL attempted to ignore the entire matter. When Hutcheson threatened to expose the crime, the DOL essentially accused him of the exact criminal behavior in which the DOL was engaged. Hutcheson’s enemies within the Obama administration were further angered by his meeting with presidential candidate Mitt Romney and by his making additional disclosures to Congress about the DOL skimming scandal.
Meeting with presidential candidate Mitt Romney only added Hutcheson’s legal problems with Obama’s DOJ
On August 25, 2011, the DOL announced to the media the initiation of a criminal investigation into Hutcheson. Neither Hutcheson nor his attorneys were previously advised of the investigation nor asked in any way to cooperate with the DOL’s inquiry. In March of 2012, Hutcheson’s computer hard drive was remotely hacked and copied through sophisticated means, suggesting likely government culpability. Several days later he was advised by a political operative to make a large contribution to an Obama PAC and his problems with the DOL would be resolved. Hutcheson was threatened with having Eric Holder throw him in jail if the requested contribution was not made. Fearing further retribution, Hutcheson made the contribution.
On April 12, 2012, despite having acquiesced to the demand for a contribution, Hutcheson was arrested at his home and charged with theft of pension funds and wire fraud. He maintains that had the government ever made a legitimate effort to learn the true nature of the transactions, they “could have been explained in 15 minutes.” Having been at the time unfamiliar with the deceitful nature of the federal criminal justice system, Hutcheson had no way of knowing that succumbing to the demand for a “contribution” would likely afford him no protection. Lawyers familiar with such matters know that government officials can never be taken at their word in these situations. Hutcheson’s payment and subsequent arrest was almost certainly a source of great amusement to those orchestrating the DOJ’s retributive campaign.
Hutcheson’s trial in federal court was typical in many ways. A jury of laypersons was asked to make legal determinations on extremely complex financial transactions. Part of the problem in federal trials is that often what is at issue is not what a defendant did, but rather why he did it. The element of intent is front and center. Despite the difficulty in determining why certain complex transactions were performed in a specific way, the feds currently enjoy a 99% conviction rate. This obscene and blatantly illegitimate rate of conviction speaks volumes of the lack of legitimacy in the federal criminal justice system. Even if 100% of those charged were somehow guilty, a normal margin of error would cause the rate of conviction to be well below 99%.
Another problem in such trials is the jurors’ presumption of guilt. They are presented with a complicated fact patter that by design cannot be easily followed, and their ultimate fallback position is that the defendant “must have done something.” Government prosecutors correctly assume that if they throw enough charges at the accused, something will usually stick. All the DOJ has to do is select their target and allow what passes for justice on a federal level to run its course.
The Department of Justice has become the weapon of choice for the Obama administration
On April 15, 2013, after only three hours of deliberation, Hutcheson was convicted on 17 counts of wire fraud. How a jury could reach a verdict after only three hours of deliberation for a complex trial that lasted eight days is anyone’s guess, but Hutcheson’s prosecutors were not about to question how their desired result was achieved. "We're pleased with the jury's verdict," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ray Patricco said. "We believe justice was done and that the victims of the pension plans have been vindicated."
Hutcheson’s counsel, Robert Schwartz, had a decidedly different take on the proceedings. "No matter how the government wants to spin it, they cannot tell you what his intent is, what was going on in his mind,” Schwartz said. "People are not infallible, but what's important in this case is Mr. Hutcheson was trying to do the right thing."
While decidedly a victim of American justice, Hutcheson’s case is hardly remarkable. As with so many others, he was prosecuted for reasons that have little, if anything, to do with the facts alleged in his charges. He is scheduled for sentencing in July but regardless of the term imposed, another message has been sent by the Obama administration. Whistleblowers and anyone else who embarrasses or otherwise threatens the administration will be dealt with accordingly. Benjamin Tucker wrote that the essence of government is control, or the attempt to control. While Obama is arguably following a well-worn path, he appears to be seeking an unprecedented level of control, mercilessly punishing those who interfere. His growing reliance upon using the DOJ to target selected enemies is arguably the worst kind of abuse in which the government can engage.