Why is there one set of criminal laws for the private sector and another set for U.S. officials?
The inspectors general for the State Department and the Justice Department have released a report that states that DEA officials lied to Congress about an episode in Honduras in which DEA agents killed innocent people. According to the report, the DEA falsely told Congress that its agents had shot drug smugglers in self-defense during a nighttime shootout after a boat containing the victims had collided with a boat containing the DEA agents. The truth was that the boat containing the victims was nothing more than a commercial passenger vehicle that had the misfortune of colliding into the DEA boat.
You can read all the details in this New York Times article and this article from the Intercept.
Obvious, the DEA killings of those innocent people raise an important question: Under what constitutional authority does the DEA or any other U.S. official wage the drug war in Honduras or any other foreign country? Do you see anything in the Constitution that empowers them to do that?
In fact, I don’t see anything in the Constitution that empowers them to enact drug laws here at home? Do you? After all, if it took a constitutional amendment to empower the feds to criminalize the possession and distribution of alcohol, why doesn’t the same principle apply to drugs?
Another question is: Why aren’t those DEA officials who lied to Congress being criminally prosecuted for lying to Congress? Isn’t that still a criminal offense? Wasn’t that what CIA Director Richard Helms was convicted of doing?
Actually, though, Helms is a good example of the immunity phenomenon for U.S. officials because in actuality he was guilty of perjury, which is a felony. Since he was a CIA agent, however, they gave him a sweetheart deal in which he pled guilty to a misdemeanor and received a moderate fine.
They certainly didn’t do that with Martha Stewart, a private citizen who was convicted of lying to a federal investigator about some stock transaction. And she wasn’t even under oath. Do you remember all the moral preaching and speechifying that federal prosecutors engaged in as they prosecuted and jailed Stewart? How come federal prosecutors aren’t prosecuting and jailing those DEA agents who lied to Congress?
I suppose it’s just a sign of the times in which we now live, times that give immunity to federal officials who break the law in the process of enforcing the law against private citizens.
Many decades ago, a man named Bruno Hauptmann was prosecuted and convicted of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby. A few years ago, CIA agents kidnapped a man in Italy and forcibly removed him against his will to Egypt so that he could be tortured. Italy prosecuted and convicted those CIA agents for the felony crime of kidnapping, just as U.S. officials had prosecuted and convicted Hauptmann. But not the U.S. government. The Justice Department didn’t lift a finger against those felons because they were CIA, which, as everyone knows, is a much more powerful and influential agency than the Justice Department. As Congressman Charles Schumer recently put it, rather bluntly, it’s “really dumb” to take on the CIA because “they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”
Consider James Clapper Jr, the former director of national intelligence. He also lied to Congress, telling them that the U.S. government wasn’t secretly gathering data on the American people. Lo and behold, Edward Snowden showed that he was lying. The U.S. conclusion: Go after Snowden for revealing the truth and give Clapper a pass on his lying. Maybe even thank him for his service.
After Helms returned to CIA headquarters after being convicted of misleading Congress, his fellow CIA officials celebrated his misdemeanor “victory” and honored him by passing a hat around to collect the money to pay his fine for him. His conviction for misleading Congress was considered a badge of honor.
Consider other crimes that the national-security state has engaged in over the years. Just one example: Chile. There was the conspiracy to meddle in the Chilean national election in 1970 (which is somewhat ironic given the big brouhaha about so-called meddling in the recent U.S. presidential election), which included bribery Chilean congressmen. Also, the conspiracy to kidnap and murder Gen. Rene Schneider, the overall commander of Chile’s armed forces. Also, the conspiracy to inflict economic harm on the Chilean people by bribing truck drivers to not deliver food across the country. Also, the conspiracy to oust the democratically elected president of the country from office and replace him with an unelected military regime, a conspiracy that resulted in the death of the president. Also, the conspiracy to murder two American men living in Chile at the time, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi. Also, the conspiracy to become a partner in Operation Condor, which assassinated (i.e., murdered) two people on the streets of Washington, D.C., Orlando Letelier and his young assistant Ronni Moffitt.
Those are the crimes that Richard Helms (and the CIA) tried to keep secret from Congress (and the American people) when he lied to Congress about whether the CIA was meddling in Chile’s presidential election. Although Helms later got slapped on the wrist for lying about the matter, not one single U.S. official has ever been criminally prosecuted for any of those felonies involving Chile, including the murders of Schneider, Horman, Teruggi, Letelier, and Moffitt.
Like I say, a sign of the times in which we live, which is why those DEA agents who lied to Congress will go scot free, while private citizens continue to get punished for doing things for which federal receive a pass.
Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.