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Truth, Lies, and Leadership
by James Comey
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
Question: Where in the Constitution are the powers of the FBI defined?
Answer: Nowhere the FBI is not in the Constitution at all.
The Constitution never mentions the FBI because constitutional principles dictate that police functions should be run by state and local authorities. The Founding Fathers would be turning in their graves if they knew that the United States of America had "national police." This book demonstrates why.
James Comey wrote this book to demonstrate how he "did the right thing," in his view, with regards to handling investigations of Hillary Clinton's emails during the 2016 election. Many credit Comey's "October surprise" re-opening of the email investigation with Hillary losing the election the book spends dozens of pages justifying that event. We agree that Comey's actions contributed heavily to Hillary's loss and that the FBI should be abolished because no federal agency should ever have the power to contribute heavily to any candidate's electoral loss.
Donald Trump fired Comey for investigating Trump with regards to Russian interference in that same election. In other words, Trump claims that Comey was acting politically and using the FBI for political purposes. We agree Trump did the right thing in firing Comey. But Comey was not unique every FBI director always acts politically, because it is a political position, with directors appointed by political decisions, with high-level positions sought by political people. Mixing politics with police power has proven historically dangerous. Trump got it right by firing Comey for playing politics but the real problem is that the institution of the FBI itself plays politics.
Look at a little history of the FBI. It was founded in the 1920s and 1930s to enforce Prohibition (prior to that, the Department of Justice had investigation power, but not police power). But when Prohibition ended, the FBI did not. The wiretapping techniques invented by the FBI to fight alcohol possession were controversial at the time several cases about unconstitutional search and seizure reached the Supreme Court and those same invasion-of-privacy issues plague the FBI today, including in the cases of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Unconstitutional police power is intertwined with the history of the FBI any police agency with national power has always used inappropriate methods to spy on its own citizens. Controversies about the unconstitutionality of FBI actions have followed the FBI for over 80 years now, and will not and cannot be resolved, because that is how agencies like the FBI operate and is the reason agencies like the FBI should not exist.
The FBI's founding director, J. Edgar Hoover, used the same justifications that Comey did Hoover always thought he was "doing the right thing" and thought he was helping America. Hoover's FBI was instrumental in fighting the Communist infiltration of America so feared by the 1950s McCarthy hearings which is where the term "witch hunt" originated (read The Crucible on that topic that book uses the Salem Witch Trials as a metaphor for the McCarthy anti-Communism hearings). Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump routinely used "witch hunt" to describe the FBI's "investigations" of themselves and they are both right the FBI has been hunting fictional witches of the FBI's own making since its beginnings.
In retrospect, most people believe now believe that J. Edgar Hoover abused his power to investigate people he disagreed with politically he famously "investigated" Martin Luther King, as well as Elvis Presley, Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, Jane Fonda, and Mickey Mantle because they were considered "subversive." The problem is that by the FBI's definition, "subversive" really meant "African-American or Jewish or homosexual or otherwise disagreeable to the FBI." But the bigger problem is that the FBI's headquarters is still named "The J. Edgar Hoover Building" and Hoover's anti-gay anti-Semitic anti-minority attitudes still permeate the agency.
There are good people who work for the FBI, who are not racist nor anti-Semitic nor homophobic. And those good people do some good things. But the institution they work for is inherently racist and anti-Semitic and homophobic it is hard-wired into the structure of the FBI. Having a national police agency at all THAT is the problem. Prior to the founding of the FBI, America had no national police the Department of Justice investigated but had no power to arrest people. That's what the rest of the Department of Justice does today and the CIA and other federal agencies with appropriate federal power. And that's what the Founding Fathers thought was right because they had long experience with political police power exercised against them by the King of England. We agree that political police power is inherently opposed to democracy and Comey demonstrates the exercise of political police power exactly like the Founding Fathers feared.
James Comey intended this book to demonstrate how he answered to a "higher loyalty" than politics. But we think he accomplished exactly the opposite he demonstrated how the FBI can ONLY act politically, while pretending to be a neutral police agency. National police agencies like the FBI are dangerous for democracy not just for their inappropriate intervention in the 2016 election, but for their decades-long history of attacking minorities in the name of "national security." Those attacks against minorities continue today, from "The War on Terror" spying on Muslims and detaining Arabs, to the "War on Drugs" focusing enforcement against African-Americans to such a large extent that black men make up the majority of federal prisons. Comey pretends that "national security" is the target of his "higher loyalty" but all that really means is an official justification for racism and other politically-motivated evils.
Comey's claims of serving a "higher loyalty" to "national security" echo those of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany, the KGB in the Soviet Union, and SAVAK in the Shah's Iran all famous for their abundance of political prisoners. The FBI should join that rogue's gallery on the scrap heap of history.
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, August 2018
Truth, Lies, and Leadership
by James Comey.
Page last edited: Dec 20, 2018