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Posts Tagged ‘U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE’

DE-REGULATION: LET CRIMINALS BE CRIMINALS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 29, 2018 at 12:05 am

A forgotten anniversary is fast approaching: This December 2 will mark the 17th anniversary of the collapse of Enron Corporation.

Based in Houston, Texas, Enron had employed 22,000 staffers and was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, communications and paper companies.

In 2000, it claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion. Fortune had named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years.

But then the truth emerged in 2001: Enron’s reported profitability was based not on brilliance and innovation but on systematic and creative accounting fraud.

And, on December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy  Code.

Enron’s $63.4 billion in assets made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history—until WorldCom’s bankruptcy in 2002.

The California electricity crisis (2000-2001) was caused by market manipulations and illegal shutdowns of pipelines by Texas energy companies.

The state suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts. Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the state’s largest energy companies, collapsed, and the economic fall-out greatly harmed Governor Gray Davis’ standing.

The crisis was made possible by Governor Pete Wilson, who had forced the passage of partial de-regulation legislation in 1996. 

Enron seized its opportunity to inflate prices and manipulate energy output in California’s spot markets. The crisis cost the state $40 to $45 billion.

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The true scandal of Enron was not that it was eventually destroyed by its own greed.

The true scandal was that its leaders were never Federally prosecuted for almost driving California—and the entire Western United States—into bankruptcy.

Under the pro-oil company administration of George W. Bush, no such prosecutions ever occurred. But Americans had a right to expect such redress under “liberal” President Bill Clinton.

Once the news broke that Enron had filed for bankruptcy, commentators almost universally oozed compassion for its thousands of employees who would lose their salaries and pensions.

No one, however, condemned the “profits at any cost” dedication of those same employees for pushing California to the brink of ruin.

To put this in historical perspective:

  • Imagine a historian writing about the destruction of Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (Guard Detachment), or SS, as a human interest tragedy.
  • Imagine its Reichsfuehrer, Heinrich Himmler, being blamed for failing to prevent its collapse—as CEO Kenneth Lay was blamed for Enron’s demise.
  • Imagine that same historian completely ignoring the horrific role the SS had played throughout Nazi-occupied countries—and its primary role in slaughtering six million Jews in the Holocaust.  

Nor did anyone in the media or government declare that the solution to such extortionate activity lay within the United States Department of Justice via RICO—the Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

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Passed by Congress in 1970, this was originally aimed at the kingpins of the Mafia. Since the mid-1980s, however, RICO has been successfully applied against both terrorist groups and legitimate businesses engaged in criminal activity.

Under RICO, people financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity can bring a claim in State or Federal court, and obtain damages at three times the amount of their actual claim, plus reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees and costs.

Such prosecutions would have pitted energy-extortionists against the full investigative might of the FBI and the sweeping legal  authority of the Justice Department.

Consider this selection from the opening of the Act:

(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving…extortion; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: sections 891-894 (relating to extortionate credit transactions), section 1343 (relating to wire fraud)Section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud), section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce, robbery, or extortion), section 1952 (relating to racketeering)….

With the 17th anniversary of Enron’s demise coming up, the mantra of “de-regulation” should be ruthlessly turned against those who have most ardently championed it.

Republicans have ingeniously dubbed the estate tax—which affects only a tiny minority of ultra-rich—“the death tax.” This makes it appear to affect everyone.

Democrats should thus recast de-regulation in terms that will prove equally popular.  For example:

“Greed Relief” 

“Greed Protection” 

“Legalized Extortion” 

And here are some possible slogans: 

“The Energy Industry: Giving You the Best Congress Money Can Buy.” 

“De-regulation: Let Criminals Be Criminals.”

Today the coal industry is pumping millions into TV ads touting the non-existent wonders of “clean coal.” And Chevron spends millions assuring us that “all those profits” go strictly toward making the world a better place for others. (Presumably not a penny is left for its altruistic executives.)

When faced with such outright lying by the most vested of financial interests, it’s well to recall the warning given by Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.  

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

TRUMP’S TWO OPTIONS–BOTH BAD

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 11, 2018 at 12:08 am

Donald Trump is on the prowl. He’s looking for a traitor—or at least his version of one.

On September 5, Trump was rocked by an unprecedented scandal: The New York Times published an anonymous Op-Ed essay by “a senior official in the Trump administration.”

The writer called himself as a member of “The Resistance.” And he claimed that “many of the senior officials” in the Trump administration “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of [Trump’s] agenda and his worst inclinations.”

Among his revelations:

  • “From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.”
  • “Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.”
  • “Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until—one way or another—it’s over.”
  • Trump had opposed expelling “so many of Mr. [Vladimir] Putin’s spies” in retaliation for the poisoning of a former Russian spy living in Britain. He also opposed putting further sanctions on Russia “for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better—such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.”

The Op-Ed ignited a furious guessing game among Washington reporters and ordinary citizens. Not since Watergate and Deep Throat had so many reporters and high-level government officials  tried to identify a news source.

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Donald Trump

For many, it’s simply an enjoyable mystery.

For Trump, it’s a personal affront. Someone has dared reveal that he is not in total command of the government that he heads. And, even worse, that a shadow government exists to thwart his often reckless and even dangerous ambitions.

Two days after the editorial appeared, on September 7, Trump told reporters on Air Force One: “Yeah, I would say [Attorney General] Jeff [Sessions] should be investigating who the author of this piece was because I really believe it’s national security,”

This despite the fact that:

  • No State secrets had been revealed, and
  • “Leaking” is a routine occurrence among officials at every government agency.

So will the Justice Department investigate a case under such circumstances? 

No one knows.

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Jeff Sessions

Trump has locked himself into a no-win contest—to which there can be only two outcomes. And both of them will prove destructive to him.

Outcome #1: Trump doesn’t find the writer. Trump has always believed in conspiracy theories. and seen disagreement as betrayal. He will become increasingly paranoid and self-destructive, and the White House will become increasingly a place where few want to work.

Even under the best circumstances, any job at the Executive Mansion is tremendously stressful—filled with constant deadlines, turf battles between egotistical staffers, the threat of embarrassing exposure in the national media. 

If Trump insists that everyone now working for him be strapped into lie detectors, at least some people will refuse and leave. And getting well-screened and experienced replacements for such positions won’t be easy.

Outcome #2: Trump does find the writer. In that case, Trump’s Mount Rushmore-sized ego will demand the writer’s prosecution and imprisonment—if not execution.

Since the writer didn’t leak State secrets, there won’t be any legal basis for such a prosecution. So this will be seen as a vendetta driven by an authoritarian man’s ego. 

Moreover, Trump will run headlong into the danger of unleashing a Constitutional crisis.

His hatred of the “fake news” has long been known. The only media he watches and considers reliable is Right-wing Fox News Network, which acts as his personal cheering squad.

The rest of the media will see this—correctly—as an outright attack on their Constitutionally-protected freedom to discover the news and report it. And they will depict it as such.

Picking a fight with the national news media is a no-win situation for Presidents: The media have the resources to “dig up the dirt” on their enemies—and a unique megaphone to give voice to it.

Donald Trump has earned the hatred of many of the reporters covering him. And they will relish doing all they can to bring him down.  

And while Republicans have marched in lockstep with Trump from Day One, even they may well hesitate to support him in an all-out war on the press. After all, they have to run for office every two years (for the House of Representatives) or six (for the Senate). 

And they know how dangerous it is to antagonize the reporters and editors who cover them. 

For Trump, there will be the very real danger that, this time, they won’t back him.

Richard Nixon learned the hard way how dangerous it is to go to war against a free press.  

Donald Trump may be about to do the same.

UPDATING MURROW FOR OUR TIME: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 21, 2018 at 12:23 am

On March 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow, the most respected broadcast journalist in America, outlined the career and demagogic tactics of Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.

He did so on his CBS news show, “See It Now,” at the height of the “Red Scare” hysteria that McCarthy had whipped up four years earlier.

Virtually any American could find himself accused of being a Communist, or a “Comsymp,” or a “fellow traveler.  Such an act could rob him/her of friends, career—or even liberty on the flimsiest of evidence. 

Meanwhile, Republicans cowered before McCarthy’s attacks on the press, the military, the judiciary and law enforcement—or joined hid chorus. Protecting the nation’s social and political institutions took a distant second place to attacking Democrats as Communist traitors.

Today, 64 years later, another demagogue—Donald Trump—casts an even darker shadow across the land. As the President of the United States, he commands far more power than McCarthy ever did. 

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Donald Trump

  • He freely slanders anyone—famous or anonymous, athlete or disabled, politician or philosopher—who dares contradict him. Or for whom he simply takes a disliking to.
  • He fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to pledge his personal loyalty—the way Joseph Stalin expected his secret police chiefs to operate.
  • He hounded Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe into resigning, and then fired him 24 hours before he was to receive his pension after 21 years of sterling service.
  • He fired his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson—by tweet—while Tillerson was still on an official visit to Africa.
  • He has, in short, forced most Americans to re-think their longtime assumption that a dictatorship can’t happen here.

Today, only those Republicans who have decided to retire from Congress dare to criticize Trump. The rest fear he will aim a nasty tweet at them—and cost them Fascistic voters,  perhaps even their offices.

Meanwhile, Robert Mueller—a career prosecutor with the highest reputation for integrity—struggles to discover the truth about Russian electoral subversion and the Trump campaign’s collusion in it.

Every day he faces the danger of being fired by the very man whose criminal associates he’s investigating. And yet Republicans refuse to enact a law that would protect him against such abuse of power.

At this time, Murrow’s warnings about Joseph McCarthy need to be seriously reconsidered. Just substitute “President” for “Junior Senator” and “Trump” for “McCarthy,” and Murrow’s text could have been written yesterday.

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 Edward R. Murrow

On one thing the [President] has been consistent. Often operating as a one-man committee, he has traveled far, [defamed] many, terrorized some, accused civilian and military leaders of the past administration of a great conspiracy to turn over the country to [terrorism], [slamdered] and substantially demoralized the present State Department….

He has [slandered] a varied assortment of what he calls [“the enemy of the American people.”]

Republican Senator Flanders of Vermont said of [Trump] today: “He dons war paint; he goes into his war dance; he emits his war whoops; he goes forth to battle and proudly returns with the scalp of a pink army dentist.”

It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one and the [President of the United States] has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of [terrorism].

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another.

We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men—not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular.

This is no time for men who oppose [President Trump’s] methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result.

There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

The actions of the [President of the United States] have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his.

He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it—and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

UPDATING MURROW FOR OUR TIME: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 20, 2018 at 12:04 am

During the 1950s, Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence–by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with him.

Joseph McCarthy

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan;
  • President Harry S. Truman;
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller;
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield;
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein;
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb;
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball;
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany;
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger;
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett.

Even “untouchable” Republicans became targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these was President Dwight D. Eisenhower–labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, who founded the John Birch Society in 1958.

On March 9, 1954, at the height of the McCarthy hysteria, Edward R. Murrow, the most respected broadcast journalist in America, delivered a powerful blow against the Senator’s dictatorial tactics and agenda. He did so on his high-rated CBS program, “See It Now.”

Edward R. Murrow

Today, 64 years later, Murrow’s eloquent appeal for moral courage in the face of tyranny still stands, and is still worth remembering.

This is especially true since the United States finds itself once again endangered by a fearful demagogue. But this one is even more dangerous than McCarthy.

For, unlike McCarthy, he commands the Justice Department to bludgeon his “enemies” at home and the Defense Department to literally destroy any country he dislikes abroad.

He is the President of the United States: Donald J. Trump.

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Donald Trump

Even before taking office on January 20, 2017, he was dogged by charges that Russian Intelligence agents had aided his 2016 Presidential campaign. And that members of his campaign had actively colluded with them.

The FBI, headed by James Comey, was then investigating that alleged collusion. Then, on May 8, 2017, Trump abruptly fired Comey from his position as FBI director.

A national firestorm erupted—unprecedented since President Richard M. Nixon had fired Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox on October 20, 1973.

To squelch it, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein moved quickly.

On May 17, 2017, he appointed Robert Mueller to serve as Special Counsel for the United States Department of Justice.

Mueller had dedicated almost his entire adult life to serving the Justice Department:

  • United States Attorney for Massachusetts (1986–1987);
  • United States Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division (1990–1993);
  • United States Attorney for the Northern District of California (1998–2001);
  • United States Deputy Attorney General (January 20, 2001 – May 10, 2001) and
  • Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2001-2013);

Mueller had amassed a solid reputation for integrity and efficiency. So highly respected was he that when he planned to retire after serving out the mandatory 10-year term as FBI director, both Democrats and Republicans prevailed on him to stay on until President Barack Obama could find a suitable replacement for him.

That replacement turned out to be James Comey, Mueller’s former deputy director at the FBI.

Rosenstein now charged Mueller to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, and any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

Trump has claimed from the outset that there was “no collusion” between him and members of Russia’s Intelligence community.

But he has acted like a guilty man desperate to stop the investigation before it uncovers the full extent of his criminality.

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

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

Those fears increased over the weekend of Marcy 17-18, when Trump spewed a series of angry tweets on Twitter:

“The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!”

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added…does anyone think this is fair? And yet, there is NO COLLUSION!”

“A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!”

A “WALL” WON’T WORK, BUT THESE METHODS WILL

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 11, 2016 at 12:38 pm

According to Donald Trump, stopping illegal immigration is easy.

Just build a massive, impenetrable wall along the U.S./Mexican border to keep out Mexican immigrants.

“Building a wall is easy, and it can be done inexpensively,” Trump said in an interview. “It’s not even a difficult project if you know what you’re doing.”

Really?

Among the obstacles to erecting such a barrier:

  • The United States/Mexican border stretches for 1,954 miles–and encompasses rivers, deserts and mountains.
  • Environmental and engineering problems.
  • Squabbles with ranchers who don’t want to give up any of their land.
  • Building such a wall would cost untold billions of dollars.
  • Drug traffickers and human smugglers could easily tunnel under it into the United States–as they are now doing.

Click here: Trump says building a U.S.-Mexico wall is ‘easy.’ But is it really? – The Washington Post

There are, in fact, cheaper and more effective remedies for combating illegal immigration.

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Illegal aliens crossing into the United States

(1) The Justice Department should vigorously attack the “sanctuary movement” that officially thwarts the immigration laws of the United States.

Among the 31 “sanctuary cities” of this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have adopted “sanctuary” ordinances that do not allow municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.

(2)  The most effective way to combat this movement: Indict the highest-ranking officials of those cities who have actively violated Federal immigration laws.

As District Attorney for San Francisco (2004-2011 Kamala Harris created a secret program called Back on Track, which provided training for jobs that illegal aliens could not legally hold.

She also prevented Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from deporting even those illegal aliens convicted of a felony. It is not the duty of local law enforcement, she said, to enforce Federal immigration laws.

Harris is now California’s Attorney General and will soon be its U.S. Senator.

(3) Even if some indicted officials escaped conviction, the results would prove worthwhile.  

City officials would be forced to spend huge sums of their own money for attorneys and face months or even years of prosecution.

And this, in turn, would send a devastating warning to officials in other “sanctuary cities” that the same fate lies in store for them.

(4)  CEOs whose companies–like Wal-Mart–systematically employ illegal aliens should be held directly accountable for the actions of their subordinates.

They should be indicted by the Justice Department under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the way Mafia bosses are prosecuted for ordering their own subordinates to commit crimes.

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Upon conviction, the CEO should be sentenced to a mandatory prison term of at least 20 years.  

This would prove a more effective remedy for combating illegal immigration than stationing tens of thousands of soldiers on the U.S.-Mexican border. CEOs forced to account for their subordinates’ actions would take drastic steps to ensure that their companies strictly complied with Federal immigration laws.  

Without employers’ luring illegal aliens at a fraction of the money paid to American workers, the flood of such illegal job-seekers would quickly dry up.

(5)  The Government should stop granting automatic citizenship to “anchor babies” born to illegal aliens in the United States.

A comparable practice would be allowing bank robbers who had eluded the FBI to keep their illegally-obtained loot.

A person who violates the bank robbery laws of the United States is legally prosecutable for bank robbery, whether he’s immediately arrested or remains uncaught for years. The same should be true for those born illegally within this country.  

If they’re not here legally at the time of their birth, they should not be considered citizens and should–like their parents–be subject to deportation.

(6) The United States Government–from the President on down–should scrap its apologetic tone on the right to control its national borders.

The Mexican Government doesn’t hesitate to apply strict laws to those immigrating to Mexico. And it feels no need to apologize for this.

Neither should Americans.

(7)  Voting materials and ballots should be published in one language–English 

Throughout the United States, millions of Mexican illegals refuse to learn English and yet demand that voting materials and ballots be made available to them in Spanish. There is no reason to cater to their hypocrisy.  

(8) The United States should vigorously counter the argument that deporting illegal aliens “separates families.” There is absolutely no reason why this should happen. Those American citizens who wish to do so are perfectly free to accompany their illegal relatives to their home countries.

(9) The United States should impose severe economic and even military sanctions against countries–such as China and Mexico–whose citizens make up the bulk of illegal aliens.

Mexico, for example, uses its American border to rid itself of those who might demand major reforms in the country’s political and economic institutions.

Such nations must learn that dumping their unwanteds on the United States now comes at an unaffordably high price. Otherwise those dumpings will continue.

COPS AND DRUGS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on February 26, 2016 at 12:05 am

It’s a movie that appeared in 1981–making it, for those born in 2000, an oldie. 

And it wasn’t a blockbuster, being yanked out of theaters almost as soon as it arrived. 

Yet “Prince of the City” remains that rarity–a movie about big-city police that:

  • Tells a dramatic (and true) story; and
  • Offers serious truths about how police and prosecutors really operate. 

It’s based on the real-life case of NYPD Detective Robert Leuci (“Danny Ciello” in the film). 

Robert Leuci (“Danny Ciello” in “Prince of the City”)

A member of the elite Special Investigating Unit (SIU) Ciello (played by Treat Williams) volunteers to work undercover against rampant corruption among narcotics agents, attorneys and bail bondsmen. 

His motive appears simple: To redeem himself and the NYPD from the corruption he sees everywhere: “These people we take from own us.” 

His only condition: “I will never betray cops who’ve been my partners.” 

And Assistant US Attorney Rick Cappalino assures Ciello: “We’ll never make you do something you can’t live with.” 

As the almost three-hour movie unfolds, Ciello finds–to his growing dismay–that there are a great many things he will have to learn to live with. 

Treat Williams as “Danny Ciello”

Although he doesn’t have a hand in it, he’s appalled to learn that Gino Moscone, a former buddy, is going to be arrested for taking bribes from drug dealers. 

Confronted by a high-ranking agent for the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Moscone refuses to “rat out” his buddies. Instead, he puts his service revolver to his head and blows out his brains.  

Ciello is devastated, but the investigation–and film–must go on. 

Along the way, he’s suspected by a corrupt cop and bail bondsman of being a “rat” and threatened with death. 

He’s about to be wasted in a back alley when his cousin–a Mafia member–suddenly intervenes. The Mafioso tells Ciello’s would-be killers: “You’d better be sure he’s a rat, because people like him.”

At which point, the grotesquely fat bail bondsman–who has been demanding Ciello’s execution–pats Danny on the arm and says, “No hard feelings.”

It is director Sidney Lumet’s way of graphically saying: “Sometimes the bad guys can be good guys–and the good guys can be bad guys.”

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Lumet makes it clear that police don’t always operate with the Godlike perfection of cops in TV and films. It’s precisely because his Federal backup agents lost him that Ciello almost became a casualty.  

In the end, Ciello becomes a victim of the prosecutorial forces he has unleashed.  Although he’s vowed to never testify against his former partners, Ciello finds this is a promise he can’t keep.

Too many of the cops he’s responsible for indicting have implicated him of similar–if not worse–behavior. He’s even suspected of being involved in the theft of 450 pounds of heroin (“the French Connection”) from the police property room.

A sympathetic prosecutor–Mario Vincente in the movie, Rudolph Giuliani in real-life–convinces Ciello that he must finally reveal everything he knows.

Ciello’s had originally claimed to have done “three things” as a corrupt narcotics agent. By the time his true confessions are over, he’s admitted to scores of felonies.

Ciello then tries to convince his longtime SIU partners to do the same. One of them commits suicide.  Another tells Ciello to screw himself:  “I’m not going to shoot myself and I’m not going to rat out my friends.”

To his surprise, Ciello finds himself admiring his corrupt former partner for being willing to stand up to the Federal case-agents and prosecutors demanding his head.

The movie ends with a double dose of irony.

First: Armed with Ciello’s confessions, an attorney whom Ciello had successfully testified against appeals his conviction. But the judge rules Ciello’s admitted misdeeds to be “collateral,” apart from the main evidence in the case, and affirms the conviction.

Second: Ciello is himself placed on trial–of a sort. A large group of assistant U.S. attorneys gathers to debate whether their prize “canary” should be indicted. If he is, his confessions will ensure his conviction.

Some prosecutors argue forcefully that Ciello is a corrupt law enforcement officer who has admitted to more than 40 cases of perjury–among other crimes. How can the government use him to convict others and not address the criminality in his own past?

Other prosecutors argue that Ciello voluntarily risked his life–physically and professionally–to expose rampant police corruption. He deserves a better deal than to be cast aside by those who have made so many cases through his testimony.

Eventually, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York makes his decision: “The government declines to prosecute Detective Daniel Ciello.”

It is Lumet’s way of showing that the decision to prosecute is not always an easy or objective one.

The movie ends with Ciello now teaching surveillance classes at the NYPD Academy. 

A student asks: “Are you the Detective Ciello?”

“I’m Detective Ciello.”

“I don’t think I have anything to learn from you.”  And he walks out.

Is Danny Ciello–again, Robert Leuci in real-life–a hero, a villain, or some combination of the two? It is with this ambiguity that the film ends–an ambiguity that each viewer must resolve for himself.

MEXICO: WHERE CORRUPTION IS KING

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 5, 2014 at 12:00 am

The photo says it all.

Taken on February 22, it shows Joaquin Guzman, the widely-feared kingpin of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel, in the custody of Mexican Marines.

The Marines had launched a surprise, early-morning raid on the condominium where he was staying in Mazatlan, Sinaloa.

Taken without a shot being fired, Guzman was paraded before photographers.  Yet, even with his hands cuffed behind his back, the fear generated by his name was such that all the Marines in the photo wore black masks over their faces.

His nickname might be “El Chapo”, or “Shorty,” owing to his 5’6″ height.  But there is nothing aborted about the extent of his power.

Guzman became Mexico’s top drug kingpin in 2003 after the arrest of his rival, Osiel Cardenas, head of the Gulf Cartel.  Since then, he has been considered the “most powerful drug trafficker in the world” by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

High-ranking officials in the U.S. Department of Justice hailed the arrest and announced they would seek Guzman’s extradition to the United States for trial.

There were two solid reasons for doing this:

  1. Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel smuggles multi-ton cocaine shipments from Columbia through Mexico to the United States–the world’s top consumer.
  2. Arrested in 1993 and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, Guzman lived like a king in prison–until he bribed his guards to smuggle him out in a laundry cart.  In Mexico, such treatment for drug kingpins is typical.

But even if Guzman spends the rest of his life in prison, his drug empire will go profitably rolling on.

Anyone who doubts this need only read Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields.

Written by Investigative Reporter Charles Bowden and published in 2010, Murder City offers a terrifying, and almost lethally depressing, portrait of what happens when a city–and a country–disintegrates.

Ciudad Juárez lies just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. A once-thriving border town, it now resembles a failed state. Notorious as the place where women disappear, its murder rate exceeds that of Baghdad or Mogadishu.

It’s so overwhelmed with the violence of drug trafficking that its leading citizens—police, politicians, even the drug lords—find it safer to live in El Paso.

Hundreds of millions of narco-dollars flow into Juárez each week, and the violence and corruption that follow yield 200 to 300 murders each year.

Among the casualties of that violence:

  • A reporter–who has dared to expose cartel-corrupted members of the Mexican Army–is forced to flee to the United States with his young son.
  • A beautiful woman who became the mistress of one drug cartel leader is gang-raped by members of a rival cartel.
  • A teenage killer for the cartels is now being hunted for having run afoul of his murderous bosses.

This is a city–and a country–where virtually no one is safe.

  • Mexican police pay big bribes to be assigned to narcotics enforcement squads.  The reason: Not to suppress the rampant drug trafficking but to enrich themselves by seizing and selling those narcotics.
  • Residents awaken at dawn to find bodies of the drug cartels’ latest victims dumped on streets–their hands, feet and mouths bound with silver and gray duct tape.
  • Mexican policewomen are often snatched off the streets and raped–by members of the Mexican Army.
  • Honest policemen–and even police chiefs–are routinely gunned down by cartel members.

If there is any one story in Murder City that symbolizes the total corruption of a society awash with drugs and the profits they produce, it is this:

A Mexican priest serves as confessor to drug lords.  They, in turn, believe their confessions to be safe, as they are supposed to be heard only by the priest and God.

But one of the drug lords wears a large gold crucifix, which the priest secretly covets.

So he turns from drug lord confessor to police informer–and the Mexican police raid the next drug lord gathering and confiscate a large quantity of narcotics.

The police don’t intend to turn in the seized narcotics.  Instead, they will sell these for their own profit.

And as a reward for his cooperation, the priest is given the large gold crucifix–which he blesses and consecrates to his God.

Who, exactly, is behind all these killings?

And why?

And who, if anyone, is in charge of Juárez–or Mexico?

Bowden states it is difficult to answer such questions because the Mexican press has been thoroughly corrupted by drug cartel monies or terrorized by drug cartel hit squads.  Reporters have been murdered–by the cartels and the army–for writing anything about killings, the army or the cartels.

The world of Murder City is a nightmarish one:

  • Members of drug cartels live like kings.
  • Their bribes and violence have corrupted all branches of the Mexican government, military and police forces.
  • Ordinary Mexicans live in grinding poverty, thanks to American factories paying starvation wages

When you leave its pages, you are grateful that you can safely put its evil behind you–unlike the residents of Juarez who remain trapped in its web.

For residents of this failed nation-state called Mexico, it’s too late.  Such endemic corruption can never be fought successfully.

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