All About Lying

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When James Comey, the U.S. Attorney for Southern New York announced his office’s indictment of Martha Stewart last May, he declared that the case was "all about lying." Of course, Comey was referring to Stewart’s actions after federal investigators announced that they were looking into whether or not she had committed the "crime" of insider trading.

(I have written about Stewart’s indictment in three other articles, one dealing with insider trading, one on the case itself, and another about the sorry mainstream media coverage of Stewart. For those not familiar with my position here, I simply will say that the Stewart case is a judicial abomination and she should never have been charged in the first place.)

My article here does not deal with Stewart, but rather with her nemesis Comey, whose very utterances at the announcement of the Stewart indictments has turned out to be quite prophetic. Indeed, those who understand modern federal criminal law also know that it truly is "all about lying." The only problem is that the bulk of the lying is done by the feds themselves, Comey included.

A recent case in New York City well illustrates my point. Last May, when his office was not obsessed with imprisoning Martha Stewart and destroying her company, Comey’s people were involved in a botched raid. Thinking they were about to discover a huge cache of arms and drugs, instead a "task force" of local and federal "law enforcement" agents burst into the apartment of an elderly man.

To counter the "threat" posed by the frail figure who used a walker to get around, the raiding party used stun grenades after breaking down the door, and threw the old man onto the floor before handcuffing him. It was the typical scene of bravado, arrogance, and swagger that those sickeningly familiar with these "law enforcement" raids have come to expect.

However, there was only one problem; it seems that Comey’s office had acted off a very bad tip and had burst into the wrong apartment. Since it was Comey’s staff that had obtained the search warrant, his office — and ultimately Comey — is responsible for the fiasco.

Fortunately, the elderly man survived the attack. In the investigation that has followed, however, we find that there is plenty of lying, covering up, and outright stonewalling, all of it coming from the U.S. attorney’s abode. According to a newspaper account, the finger pointing goes as such:

The federal agents from the Justice Department said that the mistake was entirely the product of police information, although the police say it was the federal agents who came up with Mr. Brockman’s apartment number at the last minute.

A spokesman for prosecutors in the office of United States Attorney James B. Comey said they were not allowed to discuss what, if anything, they knew about major discrepancies in the evidence when they asked a federal magistrate for permission to knock down the door to Mr. Brockman’s home.1

In other words, no one from the federal government — which was ultimately responsible for this terrible fiasco — will admit to any wrongdoing. Furthermore, no one from the U.S. attorney’s office will even discuss this case at all. To put it another way, the federal agents are given legal privileges that no private individual can ever have.

What Comey is doing would be called obstruction of justice if he were pursuing a case against someone else. When Comey does it, however, it is just a regular course of business with the feds.

Lying has become deeply engrained in the culture of federal law enforcement and prosecution. It is the rule, not the exception. In 1998, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a shocking 10-part series on the very dark side of federal law enforcement. Wrote series author Bill Moushey:

Hundreds of times during the past 10 years, federal agents and prosecutors have pursued justice by breaking the law.

They lied, hid evidence, distorted facts, engaged in cover-ups, paid for perjury and set up innocent people in a relentless effort to win indictments, guilty pleas and convictions, a two-year Post-Gazette investigation found.

What really was instructive about this series was not just the horribly depressing information that Moushey and his staff found during the investigation, but the government’s response. Eric Holder, who then was Janet Reno’s top assistant in the Clinton Department of Justice, had refused to answer any questions Moushey asked him during the investigation.

After the series was published, however, Holder wrote an angry letter to the paper. While accusing the reporter of committing errors and giving a false picture of federal prosecution and law enforcement, Holder then noted that in many of those cases, government agents investigated those involved and — Surprise, surprise! — found no evidence of wrongdoing. In other words, the government investigated the government and found that the government to be innocent of all charges.

Moushey had hard evidence and anyone who reads the series soon finds out this is not just another typical mainstream "investigative" report characterized by sloppiness, innuendo, and "anonymous" sources (usually from the government). Moreover, the federal courts all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court have ruled that it is quite legal for federal agents and prosecutors to lie as long as the courts don’t believe that the lies influenced the outcome of the cases.

For example, while hearsay evidence has long been excluded in state courts due to the fact that it opens the floodgates to perjury, hearsay is permissible (only for the prosecution) in federal cases if the prosecutors deem them to be "statements of interest." Thus, a defendant is forced to sit in the dock while hearing false testimony prejudicial to his or her case and can do absolutely nothing about it.

So, yes, Comey is correct. It truly is "all about lying." Lies by Comey, lies by his underlings, lies everywhere. He is a prophet in his own time, but does not realize that he prophesizes against himself. It is too bad that the system is set up so that he is invulnerable, not matter what he does or says. But, that is the state of federal law enforcement in the United States today and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that decent people can do about it except to tell others.

The destruction of genuine law — in the sense of the law being a shield to protect innocent people — is almost complete in the federal system. When one finds himself in the crosshairs of federal investigators, it becomes almost impossible to get out without serious harm, either to his family, finances, or health. The "shield" that great men like William Blackstone painstakingly helped erect to protect the people has become a weapon that is used against the innocent. Thus, in the end, the law itself becomes the biggest lie of all.

  1. "Police Raid Gone Awry: A Muddled Path to the Wrong Door," by Jim Dwyer, The New York Times, June 29, 2003.

June 27, 2003

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

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