When I was a lad, my father, recently returned from WWII, tried to make up for lost time by reading stories to me almost every night. Among those we visited time and again was Aesop’s Fables. I learned a lot about right and wrong from those sessions, to the extent that I followed the same practice with our three children.
One of my favorite fables was, The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf. It is the story of a shepherd boy who, while tending sheep from a hill overlooking a village, got lonely and decided to play a trick to attract company by calling out an alarm, “wolf,” to the villagers below. He did so and got the expected reaction; the villagers came running to his aid. When they did not see any signs of a wolf, they returned to the village.
Again, the shepherd boy played the trick and got the same reaction. The villagers came to what they thought was his rescue, only to find there was no wolf. This time, the villagers confronted the little shepherd boy and he confessed that he was playing tricks because he was lonely.
Sometime later, the little shepherd boy actually saw a wolf prowling close to his flock. He was frightened and called to the village below for help. “Wolf, wolf!,” he yelled. But no one came.
The fable illustrates a moral: Liars will not be believed, even if they are telling the truth.
DOJ And FBI Forgot This Moral
Whoever is calling the shots in the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its wholly owned subsidiary, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), either didn’t learn the moral of the little boy who cried wolf, or has forgotten it. Consider Just a few of the currently known prevarications and evasions of the girls and boys in the Washington D.C. offices of the DOJ and the FBI (aided by some of their like-minded journalist friends):
Trump has a secret server in Trump Tower that is in communication with Russia’s Alpha Bank.
Page and Papadopoulos are working with the Russians on behalf of Trump. “Wolf!”
FBI lawyer Clinesmith alters evidentiary documents, misleading the secret FISA Court in order to obtain a warrant to spy on Trump. “Wolf!”
Trump is colluding with the Russians to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. “Wolf!”
The FBI suppresses Information about Hunter Biden’s laptop on the eve of the 2020 election in order that it be kept from voters. “Wolf!”
FBI Director Wray says he must cut short his Congressional testimony to catch a plane for an important meeting. The [FBI] jet actually takes him to his vacation spot in the Adirondacks].
On August 8th, the Biden FBI, with the approval of the DOJ, “raided” the Florida home of a former President, ostensibly in search of classified documents wanted by the National Archives. They searched every nook and cranny for nine hours, including the former First Lady’s clothes closet. They cracked a safe on the premises.
FBI agents seized a myriad of items including passports, momentos, and photos, as well as attorney- client and executive privileged documents.
Some say the raid was a pretext for a ‘fishing expedition,” a desperate attempt to find something, anything, upon which an accusation against Trump could be made.
Others opined that the raid was in search of damming documents showing FBI political bias in the earlier Russia hoax, documents ordered released by President Trump before he left office but instead buried deep in the bureaucracy.
Still others hypothesized that the raid was a cynical political move to change the subject to Trump, the preferred opponent of the Democrats, and away from Biden whose approval rating was dropping like a stone.
These “theories ,” which may or may not be true in whole or in part, are the direct result of previous deceits and deceptions by the FBI and DOJ regarding Trump.
Is it any wonder that many Americans are dubious of the various rationales leaked as justification for the raid? Might this be a repeat of the political interference we have recently witnessed from the DOJ and FBI? Upon hearing the news of the raid, roughly half our population sighed and seemed to collectively say, “here we go again. Wolf!”
You don’t have to be a lawyer to know the United States has a Constitution and it contains a “Bill of Rights,” one of which is a prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. What happened at the home of former President Trump on August 8th seemed to fit at least the common-sense definition of “unreasonable”.
And, when the former President called for “transparency” and release of the affidavit of probable cause, the DOJ resisted. Responding to the furor, Attorney General Garland went on national television and provided a four-minute explanation which said little but raised more questions than it answered.
For all my youth and most of my adult life, the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been iconic examples of excellence. These institutions were celebrated, in fact and in fiction. They were sources of pride for most Americans.
The reputation of the DOJ began to change with “Fast and Furious,” the government gun running scheme (2009-2012) that delivered firearms to the Mexican cartels, and resulted in the murder of a Border Patrol Agent, Brian A. Terry, on December 14, 2010.
Then Attorney General Eric Holder, characterizing the scheme in Congressional testimony, said the DOJ -ATF program was, “flawed in its concept and flawed in its execution.” Holder would later be held in contempt of Congress for failing to cooperate in the Congressional investigation of Fast and Furious, the only Attorney General ever to be so dishonored.
Fast And Furious Was Undoing
Since Fast and Furious, the FBI has been the subject of scathing Inspector General Reports and the focus of scandal, especially during the four years of the Trump Administration. With increasing frequency judges have been critical of the techniques and performance of the FBI.
The FISA Court, in 2019 and 2020 especially, repeatedly criticized the lack of accuracy and mis-information provided by the DOJ and FBI in their filings and appearances before that Court.
FBI Directors Comey, followed by McCabe, have left their positions under clouds of scandal. Director Wray’s administration has been a disappointment to those who expected his appointment would result in needed FBI reform.
Lady Justice is supposed to be blindfolded, meaning that in the dispensation of justice there should be neither fear nor favor.
“Equal treatment under the law” Is a foundational principal of the rule of law and our system of government. However, in the last six years, many have complained of the DOJ and FBI’s political bias, resulting in unequal treatment under the law. The complaints transcend party affiliation and ideology.
The DOJ and the FBI, have destroyed their reputations and their credibility with a good number of Americans. In short, they have earned the people’s distrust. This is a tragedy. These fabled institutions of government were enshrined, in fact and in fiction, in the minds of the American people. In a few short years their elevated reputations have been largely shredded.
The tragedy of the DOJ and FBI’s fall from grace goes beyond politics, Biden vs. Trump, ineptitude, or even maladministration and/or dishonesty. It is a tragedy because the bad conduct of a few, adversely affects the reputation of many. And, there are many good and conscientious patriots who work in both the DOJ and the FBI.
It is also a tragedy for this reason: Ask any law enforcement officer about the importance of public cooperation in investigations of criminal/counterintelligence/national security matters. A response will usually contain the word, “essential.” When the public loses confidence in law enforcement, it loses its interest in cooperation. Investigations become more difficult and many fail. That has an adverse effect on the public’s confidence in government, as well as on public safety.
A current priority of “good” government should be to restore the reputation, credibility and trust of the DOJ and the FBI. This will not be easy and may not be possible without serious introspection and self-analysis of those who hold the reigns of power. It most certainly will require a review of the lesson inherent in “The Little Boy Who Cried “Wolf,” that liars are never trusted. Trust is earned not bestowed, and it is fragile. Lying is a sure road to distrust.
Necessary reform will require removing the bad apples from the barrel of both agencies. It might even require putting the good of the country before politics.
Note: Ray Hunkins retired after 50 years as a member of the Wyoming State Bar. Before that he was a law enforcement officer in both state and federal agencies and taught at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy for 15 years.