No Comment — January 8, 2008, 12:13 am

Department of Orwellian Excesses

A few weeks ago, I testified before the Judiciary Committee in connection with their examination of crimes committed among contractors in Iraq. This was a matter within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. The crimes described, and well documented, notably the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, were horrendous. She had been gang-raped, brutally assaulted, and then imprisoned for fear that she would tell her story to the outside world. In the end, Ms. Jones said she was barely able to escape Baghdad with her life. And where was the Justice Department in all of this? As I noted, it has adopted an attitude of official indifference—thousands of cases of violent crime, zero prosecutions. The Jones case was no different. They responded to inquiry after inquiry with the same line: gang rape? Assault? False imprisonment? Don’t bother us. We have more important things to deal with. And why? Such is the arrogance of this Justice Department, that they sent the Judiciary Committee a brush-off letter announcing they couldn’t find a warm body to sit in the chair to represent them for the hearing. “It was an absolute disgrace,” said Chairman Conyers, as members from both parties nodded in agreement.

Moving forward now three weeks, the Bush Administration was asked to make up for its default at the hearings by providing some explanations for its inaction. The deadline provided was year’s end. And, typically, the deadline came and went, and the Bush Administration could not find the time or energy even to have a low-level clerk write a letter.

So what, you may wonder, is the ultra-important business that precludes the Justice Department from responding to Congressional inquiries into its failure to discharge its principal mission, which is—or at least used to be—law enforcement?

Well, here’s an example. At just this time, out in Michigan, in a criminal case we have chronicled previously in which the Justice Department seeks to protect the nation from that horrendous scourge—trial lawyers raising money for Democratic candidates—a young Justice apparatchik was busily issuing criminal subpoenas to a media company named Sussman Sikes. The subpoenas require the company to produce all materials related to a television advertisement that the company had prepared for the Fieger law firm.

And what had prompted this? The PR company had done an advertisement which showed President George W. Bush speaking disparagingly about the Fieger law firm, and it sought to turn this around to the law firm’s benefit. The ad is actually quite clever. Take a gander:

So to defend the dignity of his commander-in-chief (I use this term advisedly, since it’s clear that this man is, contrary to his oath of office, not taking direction from the laws or the Constitution), the young assistant U.S. attorney has launched out to harass and intimidate the PR firm that made the commercial. Next no doubt he will be sending FBI agents into TV stations to serve subpoenas and seize copies of the advertisement.

You may have thought that you enjoyed freedom of speech and that the Department of Justice existed to protect your rights. That might even have been true of prior embodiments of the Department of Justice. But it’s not true for the Bush Department of Justice, which is intent on simultaneously demonstrating its arrogant abuse of power and its contempt for the nation’s Constitution and laws.

And as for priorities, the record couldn’t be clearer: deal with a brutal gang rape? No, we don’t have any resources for that. Or deal with a commercial that portrays the commander-in-chief in a negative light (i.e., by showing his natural self)–now that gets lavish attention and resources. Far more, in fact, than would have been needed to comply with Congress’s demand for a report and explanation.

If you’re not outraged by these disgraceful antics, you’re not paying attention.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2016

Land of Sod

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Only an Apocalypse Can Save Us Now

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Watchmen

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Acceptable Losses

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Home

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tennis Lessons

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
 
Andrew Cockburn on the Saudi slaughter in Yemen, Alan Jacobs on the disappearance of Christian intellectuals, a forum on a post-Obama foreign policy, a story by Alice McDermott, and more
Artwork by Ingo Günther
Article
Land of Sod·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

Photograph by Mike Slack
Article
The Watchmen·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

Illustration by John Ritter
Article
The Origins of Speech·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News
Article
Acceptable Losses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

Photograph by Alex Potter

Chances that college students select as “most desirable‚” the same face chosen by the chickens:

49 in 50

Most of the United States’ 36,000 yearly bunk-bed injuries involve male victims.

In Italy, a legislator called for parents who feed their children vegan diets to be sentenced to up to six years in prison, and in Sweden, a woman attempted to vindicate her theft of six pairs of underwear by claiming she had severe diarrhea.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today