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Posts Tagged ‘J. EDGAR HOOVER’

THE FBI’S BIGGEST THREAT: THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 3, 2018 at 10:32 am

From 1965 to 1974, Americans watched “The FBI,” a highly fictionalized TV drama supposedly based on real stories from the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary director of the Bureau since 1924, made certain the series reflected the image of the FBI that he wanted seen. 

FBI agents:

  • Didn’t smoke or swear, never used illegal bugs or wiretaps, and seldom fired a gun.
  • Never cheated on their wives.
  • Never planted illegal bugs or wiretaps,
  • Never suffered marital problems from the strains of an FBI career.
  • Could summon a helicopter—like the show’s hero, Inspector Lewis Erskine—with the snap of their fingers.

Yet none of this mattered to the millions who tuned in every week to make this one of the highest-rated series on TV. 

The F.B.I. (TV series).jpg

After decades of a generous self-advertising campaign, Americans generally saw the Bureau as not simply incorruptible but infallible. When agents zeroed in on a criminal—a bank robber, terrorist or member of the Mob—he was as good as caught.  

So it would have been unimaginable to such an audience that the greatest threat to the Bureau would come not from the KGB or Mafia hitmen, but from the President of the United States.

Yet, 53 years after “The FBI” premiered on the ABC network in 1965, that is exactly the case.

On May 9, 2017, FBI Director James B. Comey was brutally fired without warning by President Donald Trump. Trump has since given several explanations why he did it. But the most convincing was the one he gave in the Oval Office to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”  

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James Comey

Trump had three reasons for firing Comey:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January. After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.
  2. Trump had tried to coerce him into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  3. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. 

During that meeting where he disparaged Comey, Trump gave the Russian dignitaries sensitive Intelligence on ISIS that had been supplied by Israel. 

On December 16, 2016, Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. had agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

Trump, however, has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.”   

Since the FBI launched its counterintelligence investigation into collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian Intelligence agents, Trump has repeatedly attacked the American Intelligence and law-enforcement communities. But he has yet to condemn Moscow for its election interference.

Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.svg

FBI Seal

In fact, he has—at least publicly—accepted Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s assertion that the Kremlin did not interfere in the 2016 election. 

On February 17, 2018—three days after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, Trump tweeted: 

“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”

This ignored that:

  • The shooting was not a Federal crime, since it didn’t happen on Federal property nor involve Federal officials.
  • Trump has steadfastly opposed any efforts at gun control—while accepting $21 million from the NRA during the 2016 Presidential race. This was the largest contribution the NRA has ever made to a Presidential candidate.

On May 20, 2018, he tweeted: “I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

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Donald Trump

Trump was demanding that information about an FBI confidential source—in a probe directly relating to himself—be revealed to his cronies in the Republican party.

Trump was desperate to derail the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into proven ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of his 2006 Presidential campaign.  So now he was creating a false charge—that he had been illegally spied upon by the FBI—to divert public attention from that investigation.

With July 4—the 242nd anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence—fast approaching, the outcome of Trump vs. the FBI remains to be seen.

AMERICA’S KLANSMAN-IN-CHIEF

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 25, 2018 at 1:24 am

On August 11-12, 2017, white supremacists from across the country gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a  “Unite the Right” rally.  Among the organizations represented:

  • The Ku Klux Klan (KKK);
  • The Alt-Knights;
  • The “Militia Movement”;
  • The American Nazi Party;
  • The Confederate League of the South;

Like Nazis in 1930s Germany, they marched through the streets carrying flaming torches, screaming racial epithets and frightening the local citizenry.

On August 13, a Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other demonstrators.

President Donald Trump stated: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

Donald Trump official portrait.jpg

Donald Trump

But he refused to specifically denounce the Fascistic demonstrators.

White supremacists were elated.

“He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us,” wrote Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer. 

“No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.” 

Another Trump admirer: Former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke. 

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” Duke tweeted after the news conference. 

Fascistic groups make up a pivotal constituency for Trump. Without their support, he might not have become President. He can’t afford to alienate them.

But others who aren’t beholden to the Fascistic Right have taken a stand against its hate-mongering.

On October 30, 2015, the hacker group Anonymous released a prepared statement:

“Ku Klux Klan, We never stopped watching you. We know who you are. We know the dangerous extent to which you will go to cover your asses….

“We will release, to the global public, the identities of up to 1000 klan members, Ghoul Squad affiliates and other close associates of various factions of the Ku Klux Klan.” This included ages, phone numbers, addresses and even credit card numbers.

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Anonymous mask

By November 5, 2015, Anonymous had released the names of about 1,000 alleged KKK members or sympathizers via a Twitter data dump.

Among those names released by Anonymous:

  • U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.);
  • U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX.);
  • U.S. Senator Dan Coats (R-IN.)
  • U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA.);
  • Mayor Madeline Rogero, Knoxville, TN.;
  • Mayor Jim Gray, Lexington, KY.;
  • Mayor Paul D. Fraim, Norfolk, VA.;
  • Mayor Kent Guinn, Ocala, FL.; and
  • Mayor Tom Henry, Fort Wayne, IN.

All of these officials denied any affiliation with the Klan.

“I got the information from several KKK websites when I [hacked] them and was able to dump their database,” Amped Attacks, who released the information, stated online.

This mass leak was easily the worst assault on the KKK since the Justice Department waged an all-out attack on the Klan during the Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. 

The reason: The murders of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi—Michael “Mickey” Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney—-on June 21, 1964.

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Poster for missing civil rights workers

Johnson ordered the FBI to find the missing activists. After their bodies were found buried near a dam, Johnson gave FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover a direct order: “I want you to have the same kind of intelligence [on the KKK] that you have on the communists.”

So the FBI launched a counterintelligence program—in Bureau-speak, a COINTELPRO—against the Ku Klux Klan.

Klansmen had shot, lynched and bombed their way across the Deep South, especially in Alabama and Mississippi. Many Southern sheriffs and police chiefs were Klan sympathizers, if not outright members and accomplices.

Ku Klux Klansmen in a meeting

The FBI’s covert action program aimed to “expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize” KKK groups through a wide range of legal and extra-legal methods.

“My father fought the Klan in Massachusetts,” recalled William C. Sullivan, who headed the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division in the 1960s. “I always used to be frightened when I was a kid and I saw the fiery crosses burning in the hillside near our farm.

William C. Sullivan

“When the Klan reached 14,000 in the mid-sixties, I asked to take over the investigation of the Klan.  When I left the Bureau in 1971, the Klan was down to a completely disorganized 4,300.  It was broken.

“They were dirty, rough fellows. And we went after them with rough, tough methods.” 

Among those methods:

  • Planting electronic surveillance devices in Klan meeting places;
  • Carrying out “black bag jobs”—burglaries—to steal Klan membership lists;
  • Contacting the news media to publicize arrests and identify Klan leaders;
  • Informing the employers of known Klansmen of their employees’ criminal activity, resulting in the firing of untold numbers of them;
  • Developing informants within Klans and sewing a climate of distrust and fear among Klansmen;
  • Breaking up the marriages of Klansmen by circulating rumors of their infidelity among their wives; and
  • Beating and harassing Klansmen who threatened and harassed FBI agents.

The FBI’s counterintelligence war against the Klan ended in 1971.

Today, there are active Klan chapters in 41 states, with between 5,000 and 8,000 active members.

Only when America has a President who’s not beholden to the Fascistic Right can there be another COINTELPRO aimed at white hate groups.

A LESSON FOR THE FBI

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 8, 2018 at 12:19 am

Since taking office as President, Donald Trump has openly waged war on his own Justice Department—and especially its chief investigative agency, the FBI.

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FBI headquarters

As a result, he has:

  • Fired James Comey, the FBI director pursuing an investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential race to ensure Trump’s election.
  • Threatened to fire Independent Counsel Robert Mueller, who continued that investigation after Trump fired Comey.
  • Repeatedly attacked—verbally and on Twitter—his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.
  • (Sessions did so after the press revealed that, during the 2016 race, he twice met secretly with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.)
  • Repeatedly attacked the integrity of the FBI, raising the possibility of his firing more of its senior leadership for pursuing the Russia investigation.
  • Pressured House Republicans to release a highly partisan memo falsely accusing the FBI of pursuing a vendetta against him.

But the FBI need not meekly accept such assaults.

A February 2 episode of the popular CBS police drama, “Blue Bloods,” offers a vivid lesson on bureaucratic self-defense against tyrants.

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A shootout erupts in a crowded pub between a gunman and NYPD officers. Results: One dead gunman and one wounded bystander.

Problem: The bystander is an aide to New York Governor Martin Mendez.

Mendez visits One Police Plaze, NYPD headquarters, for a private chat with Commissioner Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck). From the outset, he’s aggressive, rude and threatening.

MENDEZ:  I know you guys like to whitewash officer-involved shootings.

REAGAN: I do not.

MENDEZ: That’s not going to happen here. I want the cop who shot my guy fired and charged.

REAGAN: If the grand jury indicts, my officer could be terminated.

MENDEZ:  We all want to protect our people, but mine come first.

Governor Mendez leaves Commissioner Reagan’s office.  Later, he returns:

MENDEZ:  We’ve got a serious problem.

REAGAN:  Why? The grand jury declined to indict my officer.

MENDEZ: Your cop fired into a crowded room.

REAGAN: She returned fire, took out the shooter and likely saved lives.

MENDEZ: What are you going to do?

REAGAN: Our Internal Affairs investigation supports the grand jury’s finding, so the case is closed.

MENDEZ: Either you fire this cop, or I’ll order the Attorney General to investigate every questionable police shooting in the past 10 years and hold public hearings out loud and lights up.

REAGAN: Everybody loves a circus.

MENDEZ: Except the guy who’s got to shovel up afterwards.

At the end of the episode, a third—and final—meeting occurs in a restaurant between Reagan and Mendez.

MENDEZ: Have you dumped the cop who shot my guy?

REAGAN: No.

MENDEZ: Bad news.

REAGAN: Depends on what you compare it to. It turns out that your aide wasn’t drinking alone the night he was shot.

MENDEZ: So what? He’s single.

REAGAN: He was with a married woman.

MENDEZ: That’s on her, not on him.

REAGAN: Except she is married to his boss, your Chief of Staff.

MENDEZ: Sheesh!

REAGAN: Turns out this has been going on for over a year.

MENDEZ:  So what are we doing?

REAGAN:  If this gets out, the circus comes to Albany [where the governor has his office].

MENDEZ: Who else knows?

REAGAN:  Right now it’s safe in the notebook of my lead detective. Whether or not it finds its way into an arrest report that’s subject to a Freedom of Information Act request—that’s a judgment call.

MENDEZ: Your judgment?

REAGAN: Yes.

MENDEZ: And if my investigation goes away?

REAGAN: Neither of us is shoveling up after the circus.

MENDEZ: I have your word on that?

REAGAN: Yes.

MENDEZ: You have a good evening, Commissioner.

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary FBI director, used Realpolitik to ensure his reign for 48 years.

As William C. Sullivan, the onetime director of the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division, revealed after Hoover’s death in 1972:

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator, he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter.

“‘But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.”

Donald Trump has long pursued a strategy of intimidation. But when people have refused to be cowed by his threats, he’s backed off.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, more than a dozen women accused Trump of sexual misconduct, ranging from inappropriate comments to assault.

Trump responded: “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Yet he hasn’t filed a single slander suit.

Similarly, when New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued Trump for running a fraudulent university, Trump initially said he would fight the charge.

Instead, he settled the case by paying $25 million to compensate the 3,700 students Trump University had defrauded.

“You never have to frame anyone,” says Governor Willie Stark in Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1946 novel, All the King’s Men. “Because the truth is always sufficient.”

It’s time the FBI learned—and applied—that same lesson.

IT’S MUELLER TIME FOR THE GHOST OF J. EDGAR

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 18, 2017 at 2:41 am

J. Edgar Hoover was appointed director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1924.  His 48-year reign ended only with his death on May 2, 1972.

Niccolo Machiavelli advised would-be princes to be both loved and feared.  Hoover took this to heart—and ensured that he was both.

To gain love, he shamelessly advertised himself as the Nation’s foremost guardian against crime and espionage–especially the Communist variety.

He did so through

  • A relentless series of interviews with favored journalists and book authors;
  • “Authoring” several ghostwritten books; and
  • Sponsoring comic books, radio programs and even a high-rated TV series to tout the glories of the FBI.

Millions of Americans believed that only Hoover and his ace G-men stood between them and the threat of crime and/or Communist subversion.

J. Edgar Hoover

Members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees supposedly oversee the operations of the Justice Department—of which the FBI is the biggest part. Yet they competed with one another to fawn over Hoover and his agency and to give him even greater appropriations than he asked for.

But it wasn’t just popularity that kept Hoover in power for almost a half-century. While he reveled in feeling loved by the public, he did not rely entirely on this as a guarantee of longevity.

“In large measure, Hoover’s power rested on the information he had squirreled away in his secret files,” wrote investigative journalist David Wise in his 1976 bestseller, The American Police State.

“Put simply, the famous Director of the FBI, the cereal boxtop, G-man hero of generations of American youth, was a blackmailer. Hoover collected and filed away facts, tidbits, gossip, scandal and dark secrets that gave him leverage over members of Congress, the Cabinet, even Presidents.”

“He has a file on everybody,” a terrified President Richard Nixon told White House Counsel John Dean.

It was the major reason why Nixon—and Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson—never dared fire him.

Hoover learned, for example, of the sexual relationship between JFK and “party girl” Judith Campbell.  Aside from the politically explosive matter of Kennedy’s adultery, Campbell was also bedding Sam Giancana, the most notorious Mafia boss in Chicago.

Fearing that his superior, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, meant to fire him, Hoover, in 1962, let President Kennedy know that he was in on the secret.  Hoover quit worrying about involuntary retirement after that.

John F. Kennedy, J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy

Similarly, LBJ told aides he would never fire Hoover: “It’s better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.”

Now, fast forward to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s assignment to investigate well-documented links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign.

On May 9, President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for doing the same thing.  When Mueller was appointed to continue that investigation, Trump made clear his anger at the decision.

Since May, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.

This despite the fact that Mueller was appointed by Republican President George W. Bush and served with an impeccable reputation for 12 years as FBI director (2001-2013).

From the outset of Mueller’s investigation, there have been widespread fears that Trump would fire him, just as he did Comey.

On December 15, Rep. Jackie Spier (D-Calif.) said: “The rumor on the Hill when I left yesterday was that the President was going to make a significant speech at the end of next week. And on December 22, when we are out of D.C., he was going to fire Robert Mueller.”

A member of the House Intelligence Committee, Spier said that Trump was trying to shut down Congress’ own investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

So: How should Robert Mueller respond?

Two methods are open to him.

The first is to follow the straight-arrow path he has always traveled: Keep pressing on with his investigation and wait to see what happens.  And if Trump fires him, hope that, somehow, the probe goes on.

The second is to summon up the ghost of J. Edgar Hoover.

As described by William C. Sullivan, Hoover’s one-time number-three man and the director of his Intelligence Division:

William C. Sullivan

“The moment he would get something on a Senator, he would send one of his errand boys up and advise the Senator that we’re in the course of an investigation and by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter.

“But we wanted you to know know—we realize you would want to know it. But don’t have any concern—no one will ever learn about it. Well, Jesus, what does that tell the Senator?  From that time on, the Senator’s right in his pocket.”

Reports have circulated that many of those Congress members now demanding Mueller’s firing are recipients of financial (and possibly intelligence) support from the Kremlin.

Perhaps it’s time for Mueller to send one of his own “errand boys” up to Capitol Hill for a quiet exchange with such leaders.

Once they realize how much they stand to lose by backing a Kremlin-owned President, they may well change their tunes.

THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND FEAR: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 21, 2017 at 12:02 am

American Presidents—like politicians everywhere–strive to be loved. There are two primary reasons for this.

First, even the vilest dictators want to believe they are good people—and that their goodness is rewarded by the love of their subjects.

Second, it’s universally recognized that a leader who’s beloved has great clout than one who isn’t. In the United States, a Presidential candidate who wins by a landslide is presumed to have a mandate to pursue his agenda—at least, for the first two years of his administration.

But those—like Barack Obama—who strive to avoid conflict often get treated with contempt and hostility by their adversaries.

Image result for Images of Barack Obama giving a speech in the Oval Office

Barack Obama

In Renegade: The Making of a President, Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s successful 2008 bid for the White House. Among his revelations:

Obama, a believer in rationality and decency, felt more comfortable in responding to attacks on his character than in attacking the character of his enemies.

A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama was one of the most academically gifted Presidents in United States history.

Yet he failed to grasp and apply this fundamental lesson taught by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science:

A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

This explains why Obama found most of his legislative agenda stymied by Republicans.

For example: In 2014, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sought to block David Barron, Obama’s nominee to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rand Paul

Paul objected to Barron’s authoring memos that justifyied the killing of an American citizen by a drone in Yemen on September 30, 2011.

The target was Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric notorious on the Internet for encouraging Muslims to attack the United States.

Paul demanded that the Justice Department release the memos Barron crafted justifying the drone policy.

Anwar al-Awlaki

Imagine how Republicans would depict Paul—or any Democratic Senator—who did the same with a Republican President: “Rand Paul: A traitor who supports terrorists. He sides with America’s sworn enemies against its own lawfully elected President.”

But Obama did nothing of the kind.

(On May 22, 2014, the Senate voted 53–45 to confirm Barron to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.)

But Presidents who seek to rule primarily by fear can encounter their own limitations. Which immediately brings to mind Donald Trump.

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

As a Presidential candidate and President, he has shown outright hatred for President Obama. For five years, he slandered Obama as a Kenyan-born alien who had no right to hold the Presidency. 

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump falsely accused Obama of committing an impeachable offense: Tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election.

As President, Trump has refused to reach beyond the narrow base of white, racist, ignorant, hate-filled, largely rural voters who elected him.

And he has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers:

  • Trump has waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • Trump repeatedly humiliated Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, Priebus resigned.
  • Trump similarly tongue-lashed Priebus’ replacement, former Marine Corps General John Kelly. Trump has reportedly been angered by Kelly’s efforts to limit the number of advisers who have unrestricted access to him. Kelly told colleagues he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of military service—and would not tolerate it again.
  • After Trump gave sensitive Israeli intelligence to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, his national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, denied this had happened. Trump then contradicted McMaster in a tweet: “As president, I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled WH meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”

If Trump ever read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, he’s clearly forgotten this passage:

Cruelties ill committed are those which, although at first few, increase rather than diminish with time….Whoever acts otherwise….is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him. 

And this one:

Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred. 

Or, as Cambridge Professor of Divinity William Ralph Inge put it: “A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he can’t sit on it.”

THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND FEAR: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 20, 2017 at 12:30 am

Is it better to be loved or feared?

That was the question Florentine statesman Niccolo Machiavelli raised more than 500 years ago.

Presidents have struggled to answer this question—and have come to different conclusions.

LOVE ME, FEAR MY BROTHER

Most people felt irresistibly drawn to John F. Kennedy—even his political foes. Henry Luce, the conservative publisher of Time, once said, “He makes me feel like a whore.”

But JFK could afford to bask in the love of others—because his younger brother, Robert, was the one who inspired fear.

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

He had done so as Chief Counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee (1957-59), grilling Mafia bosses and corrupt union officials–most notably Teamsters President James Hoffa.

Appointed Attorney General by JFK, he unleashed the FBI on the Mafia. When the steel companies colluded in an inflationary rise in the price of steel in 1962, Bobby sicced the FBI on them.

In 1963, JFK’s cavorting with Ellen Rometsh threatened to destroy his Presidency. Rometsch, a Washington, D.C. call girl, was suspected by the FBI of being an East German spy.

With Republican Senators preparing to investigate the rumors, Bobby ordered Rometsch deported immediately (to which, as a German citizen, she was subject).

He also ordered FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to deliver a warning to the Majority and Minority leaders of the Senate: The Bureau was fully aware of the extramarital trysts of most of its members. And an investigation into the President’s sex life could easily lead into revelations of Senatorial sleaze.

Plans for a Senatorial investigation were shelved.

BEING LOVED AND FEARED

In the 1993 movie, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) asks his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri): “Is it better to be loved or feared?”

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Sonny gives advice to his adopted son, Calogero

Sonny says if he had to choose, he would rather be feared. But he adds a warning straight out of Machiavelli: “The trick is not being hated. That’s why I treat my men good, but not too good.

“I give too much, then they don’t need me. I give them just enough where they need me, but they don’t hate me.”

Machiavelli, writing in The Prince, went further:

“Still a Prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together. And [this] will always be attained by one who abstains from interfering with the property of his citizens and subjects or with their women.”

Many who quote Machiavelli in defense of being feared overlook this vital point: It’s essential to avoid becoming hated.

To establish a fearful reputation, a leader must act decisively and ruthlessly when the interests of the organization are threatened. Punitive action must be taken promptly and confidently.

One or two harsh actions of this kind can make a leader more feared than a reign of terror.

In fact, it’s actually dangerous to constantly employ cruelties or punishments. Whoever does so, warns Machiavelli, “is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

The 20th century President who came closest to realizing Machiavelli’s “loved and feared” prince in himself was Ronald Reagan.

Always smiling, quick with a one-liner (especially at press conferences), seemingly unflappable, he projected a constantly optimistic view of his country and its citizens.

Ronald Reagan

In his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention he declared: “[The Democrats] say that the United States has had its days in the sun, that our nation has passed its zenith.… My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view.”

And Americans enthusiastically responded to that view, twice electing him President (1980 and 1984).

But there was a steely, ruthless side to Reagan that appeared when he felt crossed.

On August 3, 1981, nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers walked out after contract talks with the Federal Aviation Administration collapsed. As a result, some 7,000 flights across the country were canceled on that day at the peak of the summer travel season.

Reagan branded the strike illegal. He threatened to fire any controller who failed to return to work within 48 hours.

On August 5, Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who hadn’t returned to work. The mass firing slowed commercial air travel, but it did not cripple the system as the strikers had forecast.

Reagan’s action stunned the American labor movement. Reagan was the only American President to have belonged to a union, the Screen Actors Guild. He had even been president of this–from 1947 to 1954.

There were no more strikes by Federal workers during Reagan’s tenure in office.

Similarly, Libya’s dictator, Moammar Kadaffi, learned that Reagan was not a man to cross.

On April 5, 1986, Libyan agents bombed a nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people, one a U.S. serviceman. The United States quickly learned that Libyan agents in East Germany were behind the attack.

On April 15, acting on Reagan’s orders, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps bombers struck at several sites in Tripoli and Benghazi. Reportedly, Kaddafi himself narrowly missed becoming a casualty.

There were no more acts of Libyan terrorism against Americans for the rest of Reagan’s term.

THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND FEAR: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary, Uncategorized on September 19, 2017 at 12:07 am

It’s probably the most-quoted passage of Niccolo Machiavelli’s infamous book, The Prince:

“From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt.

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose. But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

So—which is better: To be feared or loved?

In the 1993 film, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) poses that question to his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri).

“That’s a good question,” Sonny replies. “It’s nice to be both, but it’s very difficult. But if I had my choice, I would rather be feared.

“Fear lasts longer than love. Friendships that are bought with money mean nothing. You see how it is around here. I make a joke, everybody laughs. I know I’m funny, but I’m not that funny. It’s fear that keeps them loyal to me.”

Presidents face the same dilemma as Mafia capos—and resolve it in their own ways.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I NEED TO BE LOVED

Bill Clinton believed that he could win over his self-appointed Republican enemies through his sheer charm.

Part of this lay in self-confidence: He had won the 1992 and 1996 elections by convincing voters that “I feel your pain.”

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Bill Clinton

And part of it lay in his need to be loved. He once said that if he were in a room with 100 people and 99 of them liked him but one didn’t, he would spend all his time with that one person, trying to win him over.

But while he could charm voters, he could not bring himself to retaliate against his sworn Republican enemies.

On April 19, 1995, Right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh drove a truck–packed with 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane–to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 684 others.

Suddenly, Republicans were frightened. Since the end of World War II, they had vilified the very Federal Government they belonged to. They had deliberately courted the Right-wing militia groups responsible for the bombing.

So Republicans feared Clinton would now turn their decades of hate against them.

They need not have worried. On April 23, Clinton presided over a memorial service for the victims of the bombing. He gave a moving eulogy—without condemning the hate-filled Republican rhetoric that had at least indirectly led to the slaughter.

Clinton further sought to endear himself to Republicans by:

  • Adopting NAFTA—the Republican-sponsored North American Free Trade Act, which later proved so devastating to American workers;
  • Siding with Republicans against poor Americans on welfare; and
  • Championing the gutting of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which barred investment banks from commercial banking activities.

The result: Republicans believed Clinton was weak–and could be rolled.

In 1998, House Republicans moved to impeach him over a sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But his Presidency survived when the Senate refused to convict.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I’LL HURT YOU IF YOU DON’T

Lyndon Johnson wanted desperately to be loved.

Once, he complained to Dean Acheson, the former Secretary of State under Harry S. Truman, about the ingratitude of American voters. He had passed far more legislation than his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, and yet Kennedy remained beloved, while he, Johnson, was not.

Why was that? Johnson demanded.

“You are not a very likable man,” said Acheson truthfully.

Image result for Images of Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson tried to make his subordinates love him. He would humiliate a man, then give him an expensive gift—such a Cadillac. It was his way of binding the man to him.

He was on a first-name basis with J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the FBI. He didn’t hesitate to request—and get—raw FBI files on his political opponents.

On at least one occasion, he told members of his Cabinet: No one would dare walk out on his administration—because if they did, two men would follow their ass to the end of the earth: Mr. J. Edgar Hoover and the head of the Internal Revenue Service.

WHEN PEOPLE FIGHT THE KKK, NOT SUPPORT IT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 18, 2017 at 12:15 am

On August 11-12, white supremacists from across the country gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, for a  “Unite the Right” rally.  Among the organizations represented:

  • The Ku Klux Klan (KKK);
  • The Alt-Knights;
  • The “Militia Movement”;
  • The American Nazi Party;
  • The Confederate League of the South;

Like Nazis in 1930s Germany, they marched through the streets carrying flaming torches, screaming racial epithets and frightening the local citizenry.

On August 13, a Nazi sympathizer rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 other demonstrators.

President Donald Trump stated: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”

But he refused to specifically denounce the Fascistic demonstrators.

White supremacists were elated.

“He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us,” wrote Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer. 

“No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.” 

Another Trump admirer: Former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke. 

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” Duke tweeted after the news conference. 

Fascistic groups make up a pivotal constituency for Trump. Without their support, he might not have become President. He can’t afford to alienate them.

But others who aren’t beholden to the Fascistic Right have taken a stand against its hate-mongering.

On October 30, 2015, the hacker group Anonymous released a prepared statement:

“Ku Klux Klan, We never stopped watching you. We know who you are. We know the dangerous extent to which you will go to cover your asses….

“We will release, to the global public, the identities of up to 1000 klan members, Ghoul Squad affiliates and other close associates of various factions of the Ku Klux Klan.” This included ages, phone numbers, addresses and even credit card numbers.

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Anonymous mask

By November 5, Anonymous had released the names of about 1,000 alleged KKK members or sympathizers via a Twitter data dump.

Among those names released by Anonymous:

  • U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.);
  • U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX.);
  • U.S. Senator Dan Coats (R-IN.)
  • U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA.);
  • Mayor Madeline Rogero, Knoxville, TN.;
  • Mayor Jim Gray, Lexington, KY.;
  • Mayor Paul D. Fraim, Norfolk, VA.;
  • Mayor Kent Guinn, Ocala, FL.; and
  • Mayor Tom Henry, Fort Wayne, IN.

All of these officials denied any affiliation with the Klan.

“I got the information from several KKK websites when I [hacked] them and was able to dump their database,” Amped Attacks, who released the information, stated online.

This mass leak was easily the worst assault on the KKK since the Justice Department waged an all-out attack on the Klan during the Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. 

The reason: The murders of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi—Michael “Mickey” Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney—-on June 21, 1964.

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Poster for missing civil rights workers

Johnson ordered the FBI to find the missing activists. After their bodies were found buried near a dam, Johnson gave FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover a direct order: “I want you to have the same kind of intelligence [on the KKK] that you have on the communists.”

So the FBI launched a counterintelligence program—in Bureau-speak, a COINTELPRO—against the Ku Klux Klan.

Klansmen had shot, lynched and bombed their way across the Deep South, especially in Alabama and Mississippi. Many Southern sheriffs and police chiefs were Klan sympathizers, if not outright members and accomplices.

Ku Klux Klansmen in a meeting

The FBI’s covert action program aimed to “expose, disrupt and otherwise neutralize” KKK groups through a wide range of legal and extra-legal methods.

“My father fought the Klan in Massachusetts,” recalled William C. Sullivan, who headed the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division in the 1960s. “I always used to be frightened when I was a kid and I saw the fiery crosses burning in the hillside near our farm.

William C. Sullivan

“When the Klan reached 14,000 in the mid-sixties, I asked to take over the investigation of the Klan.  When I left the Bureau in 1971, the Klan was down to a completely disorganized 4,300.  It was broken.

“They were dirty, rough fellows. And we went after them with rough, tough methods.” 

Among those methods:

  • Planting electronic surveillance devices in Klan meeting places;
  • Carrying out “black bag jobs”—burglaries—to steal Klan membership lists;
  • Contacting the news media to publicize arrests and identify Klan leaders;
  • Informing the employers of known Klansmen of their employees’ criminal activity, resulting in the firing of untold numbers of them;
  • Developing informants within Klans and sewing a climate of distrust and fear among Klansmen;
  • Breaking up the marriages of Klansmen by circulating rumors of their infidelity among their wives; and
  • Beating and harassing Klansmen who threatened and harassed FBI agents.

The FBI’s counterintelligence war against the Klan ended in 1971.

Today, there are active Klan chapters in 41 states, with between 5,000 and 8,000 active members.

Only when America has a President who’s not beholden to the Fascistic Right can there be another COINTELPRO aimed at white hate groups.

COPING EFFECTIVELY WITH BLACKMAIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 3, 2017 at 12:10 am

J. Edgar Hoover, the legendary FBI director, was notorious in his own lifetime as a blackmailer.

“Boy, the dirt he has on those Senators,” President John F. Kennedy told his friend, Benjamin C. Bradlee, who was then head of Newsweek’s Washington bureau.

As President, Kennedy could call on Hoover to give him limited access to the private files the FBI director kept on real and potential enemies. But Kennedy had known about Hoover’s incriminating dossiers long before he reached the White House.

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J. Edgar Hoover

During 1941-42, he had enjoyed a delicious affair with Inga Arvad, a Danish journalist and notorious fan of Germany’s Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.

Suspected of being a Nazi spy, “Inga Binga,” as JFK jokingly referred to her, came under heavy FBI surveillance—including phone taps and room bugs. These picked up Kennedy’s trysts with her.

When the Kennedy patriarch, Joseph P., learned of the affair, he demanded that his son break it off. He had political ambitious for all his sons, and he didn’t want them spoiled by Jack’s owing to an uncontrollable libido.

Richard Nixon—Kennedy’s future rival for the White House—felt the same way about Hoover: “He’s got files on everybody.” 

And this was virtually true—even if those files didn’t hold secretly-obtained information. Nixon learned this as President when he wanted “dirt” on Senator Edward M. Kennedy. In this case, the “file” turned out to be nothing more than newspaper clippings.

As William C. Sullivan, the onetime director of the FBI’s Domestic Intelligence Division, revealed after Hoover’s death in 1972:

“The moment [Hoover] would get something on a senator, he’d send one of the errand boys up and advise the senator that ‘we’re in the course of an investigation, and we by chance happened to come up with this data on your daughter.

“‘But we wanted you to know this. We realize you’d want to know it.’ Well, Jesus, what does that tell the senator? From that time on, the senator’s right in his pocket.” 

There is a lesson to be learned here: Giving in to blackmail only empowers the blackmailer even more.

The only effective way to handle blackmail was demonstrated by Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” a weekday news and talk show.

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Mika Brzezinski

Both have been highly critical of President Donald Trump since he took office on January 20. And Trump—through his friendship with David Pecker, the publisher of the tabloid, The National Enquirer—thought he had the ideal way of shutting them up.

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Joe Scarborough

On the June 30 edition of “Morning Joe,” Scarborough and Brezezinski offered their version of events.

Scarborough: “We got a call: ‘Hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys, and Donald is friends with …the president is friends with the guy that runs National Enquirer.’ And they said: ‘If you call the president up and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike the story.’ 

“I had, I will just say, three people at the very top of the administration calling me. The calls kept coming, and kept coming, and they were like: ‘Come on, Joe, just pick up the phone and call him.’”

Donald Trump

One of the callers was reportedly Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. 

In short: Grovel before the dictator and he will bestow clemency on you. 

Trump denied being a party to blackmail, but he confirmed that there had been calls between the TV journalists and members of his staff.  In a June 30 tweet, Trump wrote: “He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show”.

Scarborough and Brzezinski provided further details in a June 30 Washington Post column: “This year, top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.” 

The story, which appeared on June 5, alleged that the two, previously married, had cheated on their former spouses. The story was entitled: “Joe & Mika: TV Couple’s Sleazy Cheating Scandal: ‘Morning’ lovebirds vow to make it legal. THE ENQUIRER asks questions!” 

By rejecting Trump’s blackmail threat, Scarborough and Brzezinski accomplished what they could not have by groveling: 

First, they put Trump on notice that they can’t be cowed. This can only encourage future targets of such blackmail to stand up against abuse. 

Second, they deprived him of a potent weapon. Had they caved in to his demand for an unearned apology, they would have made themselves targets for future blackmail. 

Third, they turned the tables by making Trump the target of ugly publicity. Blackmailers are universally reviled, and branding Trump as one detracts from his dignity and influence as President.

Fourth, they forced Trump and the Enquirer on the defensive—with both denying that they ever tried to blackmail Scarborough and Brzezinski.

Considering Trump’s well-earned reputation for lying and vindictiveness, Scarborough and Brzezinski are certain to be more widely believed than the President.

JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART TEN (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2017 at 12:22 am

Fifty-three years ago, on November 22, 1963, two bullets slammed into the neck and head of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It has been said that he left his country with three great legacies:

  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
  • The Apollo moon landing; and
  • The Vietnam war.

Of these, the following can be said with certainty:

  • The Test Ban Treaty has prevented atmosphereic testing–and poisoning–by almost all the world’s nuclear powers.
  • After reaching the moon–in 1969–Americans quickly lost interest in space and have today largely abandoned plans for manned exploration. For America, as for JFK, beating the Russians to the moon was the end-goal.
  • Under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam; 153,303 were wounded; and billions of dollars were squandered in a hopeless effort to intervene in what was essentially a Vietnamese civil war. From 1965 to 1972, the war angrily divided Americas as had no event since the Civil War.

But there was a fourth legacy–and perhaps the most important of all: The belief that mankind could overcome its greatest challenges through rationality and perseverance.

 White House painting of JFK

At American University on June 10, 1963, Kennedy called upon his fellow Americans to re-examine the events and attitudes that had led to the Cold War. And he declared that the search for peace was by no means absurd:

“Our problems are man-made; therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable, and we believe they can do it again.”

Today, politicians from both parties cannot agree on solutions to even the most vital national problems.

On November 21, 2011,  the 12 members of the “Super-Committee” of Congress, tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts in government spending, threw up their hands in defeat.

President Kennedy insisted on being well-informed. He speed-read several newspapers every morning and nourished personal relationships with the press-–and not for altruistic reasons. These journalistic contacts gave Kennedy additional sources of information and perspectives on national and international issues.

During the 2012 Presidential campaign, Republican Presidential candidates celebrated their ignorance of both.

Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain famously said, “We need a leader, not a reader.” Thus he excused his ignorance for why President Barack Obama had intervened in Libya.

Texas Governor Rick Perry (and now Secretary of Energy) showed similar pride in not knowing there are nine judges on the United States Supreme Court:

“Well, obviously, I know there are nine Supreme Court judges. I don’t know how eight came out my mouth. But the, uh, the fact is, I can tell you–I don’t have memorized all of those Supreme Court judges. And, uh, ah–

“Here’s what I do know. That when I put an individual on the Supreme Court, just like I done in Texas, ah, we got nine Supreme Court justices in Texas, ah, they will be strict constructionists….”

In short, it’s the media’s fault if they ask you a question and your answer reveals your own ignorance, stupidity or criminality. 

Sarah Palin rewrote history via “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”: “He warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms by ringing those bells and, um, making sure as he’s riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that, uh, we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.” 

In fact, Revere wasn’t warning the British about anything. Instead, he was warning his fellow  Americans about an impending British attack–as his celebrated catchphrase “The British are coming!” made clear.

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke with aides about a book he had just finished: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the events leading to World War 1.

He said that the book’s most important revelation was how European leaders had blindly rushed into war, without thought to the possible consequences. Kennedy told his aides he did not intend to make the same mistake–that, having read his history, he was determined to learn from it.

Republicans attacked President Obama for his Harvard education and articulate use of language. Among their taunts: “Hitler also gave good speeches.”

And they resented his having earned most of his income as a writer of two books: Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope.  As if being a writer is somehow subversive.

When knowledge and literacy are attacked as “highfalutin’” arrogance, and ignorance and incoherence are embraced as sincerity, national decline lies just around the corner.

Many Americans believe that decline arrived with the 2016 election of Donald Trump. In fact, they believe it was Trump who announced it after winning the Nevada Republican primary: “We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”

In retrospect, the funeral for President Kennedy marked the death of more than a rational and optimistic human being.

It marked the death of Americans’ pride in choosing reasoning and educated citizens for their leaders.

The Eternal Flame at the grave of President John F. Kennedy

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