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The raid on Donald Trump’s house didn’t convince me of anything. Rather, it was a raid several years ago, a raid on the house of someone 99% of Americans have never heard of, that convinced me.
The incident was more than 5 years ago. A fellow I know, I’ll call him “General Smith,” had been named in a federal investigation of a series of illegal activities. To clarify: there was an investigation of some actions taken by various folks over the years that led to the US government being defrauded of some fairy significant amounts of money. As the investigation proceeded a number of people in the relevant commands ended up on the list of names that were being investigated. They were all informed. “Smith” was one of those so informed. He hired a lawyer, but he was cooperating within what his lawyer thought was advisable, and he remained on active duty in the service. This was how the situation continued for several years. The “General” retired. The legal grind continued. The “General,” who was living and working in a major US city, with a lawyer in regular contact with the federal courts, was finally indicted.
And then it got strange. The General had served quite honorably - with distinction - for almost 30 years. He was certainly no threat to anyone, he was not and is not a violent man. And yet, his house was raided in the middle of the night by a federal SWAT team, his wife left to stand outside in her bathrobe while the house was searched and the “General” taken in handcuffs to the federal courthouse where he got to spend a day or two in lock-up over the weekend.
I asked a lawyer about that, why would they do that rather than simply inform the lawyer to have his client at the Federal Courthouse at 9AM on Monday where he is going to be formally charged? The answer was: they did this to intimidate him, and to intimidate others who might know something, into cooperating with the investigation.
It’s worth pointing out that the “General” was - several painful years later - acquitted of all charges. And a later DOJ Inspector General review found there to be prosecutorial misconduct.
But still, an innocent man treated as if he were some sort of violent bomb-thrower.
Certainly the answer from the lawyer seems to be partly right: intimidation.
Where in the Constitution are the courts and police provided the authority to intimidate? Is due process of law a concept that includes intimidation and being treated like a rabid dog? Are you innocent until proven guilty, or until the district attorney decides you need to be made an example of? Whichever the prosecutor chooses?
Of course, when you look into it you will see this sort of thing happens regularly. Perhaps not frequently, but then again, it should never happen.
Let me be clear: if you are wanted for a violent crime, if you are a known felon, if there is what might be called a “reasonable man’s” assumption that things could get dicey, then, yes, bring in the SWAT team to make sure the arrest goes smoothly.
But that is not what is happening here.
In the case of the “General Smith” he was in legal and psychological limbo for the better part of a decade. How does that dovetail with a right to a speedy trial? He has had to spend a small fortune in legal fees. I know of one individual who literally is homeless after a fairly distinguished career in the military, all he had bought and saved sold off to pay for legal fees, bled dry by prosecutors who have bottomless (taxpayer funded) budgets.
Is this due process?
Is this equal protection?
In Bern, Switzerland there is a statue of Lady Justice, erected on 1543, made by Hans Gieng. It’s of particular note in that it’s the first statue in which Lady Justice is portrayed wearing a blind fold. The point then, and the point now, is that in the administration of the law, the courts, the entire system, must be blind to everything but the facts of the case and the law itself. Who you are, how rich you are, the color of your skin, how much money you have, what political party you belong to; these things have no place in how the courts and the police treat you.
But now something is amiss. District Attorneys let violent criminals walk free on no bail, but order SWAT teams to raid the houses of citizens who are known to be both non-violent and cooperative. Police are defunded, violent criminals aren’t charged, but rights and due process are seemingly denied when you irritate those in power. The rights of many are denied so that those in power can grant privileges to a few. This is the gross abuse of power.
And if government can treat notable people this way, how will they treat you when someone decides you are an irritant?
Government is the servant, it works for the citizens. It has no rights, and only specific authorities. But it has gone astray. It has grabbed more power to itself, powers not granted to it by the Constitution. And in doing so has denied rights to the citizens. The bureaucracy has to be reined in. It’s not simply the FBI or any other single agency. The system is running amok.
Congress needs to act, funding needs to be pulled, some organizations need to go away. Others need to be broken down and built back up. And the rights explicitly stated in the Constitution and Bill of Rights need to treated as sacrosanct by government at every echelon. There must be no exceptions.
About Pete O'Brien
Peter O’Brien has more than 30 years of successful leadership and planning experience in a wide range of organizations afloat and ashore on three continents. Mr. O’Brien’s Navy career included ten years at sea, more than a dozen years stationed overseas and multiple ...