We Feared Witches. We Hung Women

So the campaign is winding down and, barring what’s been described as a minor miracle in waiting, ultimately it will end up as a coronation of one degree of evil or another- be it Trump or Clinton. I hope that in its final days, Sanders’ supporters will allow the campaign to run its course without engaging in media vilification or trial by ambush. I do so not in the spirit of building a united front to challenge Trump in the general election- quite frankly, I could care less. More important, I raise the concern that to roll in the gutter can leave a stench that follows activists the rest of their political lives whether they continue the good fight or ultimately surrender to the mainstream body politic.

It’s no secret I don’t support Sanders; in point of fact, I’ve challenged him for years over what I view to be his well documented record of poor priorities and failed policies and votes. Before you turn away, this is not an attack on him but a bow to you. Since leaving prison, I’ve said time and time again that the involvement in this campaign of large numbers of experienced and newly minted activists has been inspirational indeed. I am sure that our collective future is that much the brighter because of your hard work, and drive for truth, justice and peace.

Yours is the next generation in a long and storied line of activists who have sacrificed much, often all, in speaking truth to power and confronting it in evolving creative ways in the streets and courts and now very much so in the world of cyber space. Though our community of resistance has been diverse in makeup and tactics, clearly we have been united in our determined refusal to embrace a strategy of disinformation or hate built on the back of character assassination, rumor and innuendo- each a proud trademark of the forces of greed and exploitation that we have challenged since the first days of the Republic.

Recently we’ve seen increasing almost desperate attacks on Clinton not just for her dreadful policies, but her alleged status of felon in waiting soon to be indicted for a host of crimes. In support of this public true bill, documentary “evidence” and boilerplate statutes are thrown about by lay litigators as little more than the tools of a modern day star chamber chaired not by jurists but the howl of a vindictive mob erecting the gallows long before the verdict.

“We Feared Witches.  We Hung Women”

I don’t like Clinton, nor do I trust her; not now, not twenty five years ago. If I were to vote, there is no chance that I would cast it for her. But to see her tried in public without the benefit of her entitled full day in court with an opportunity to confront and challenge her accusers is so much the core hallmark of the power brokers that have sold our collective past, and would our future, to the winds of the highest bidder. Several days ago I saw two posts by Sanders’ supporters about Clinton that are false –namely that a top Clinton “advisor” and super delegate – former NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had been sentenced to prison for twelve years for corruption related charges. Although reports of the sentence are correct-the claims about his current alleged relationship with Clinton or her campaign are patently desperate and false. In any event, even if they were true- so what? Indeed millions still adore Obama despite nagging allegations of a one-time close relationship with former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich now serving fourteen years in federal prison for corruption charges himself.

And what of the allegations in the Free Beacon, that Sanders has, on multiple occasions, steered campaign and nonprofit money to friends and family. Thus, the conservative news service claimed that Sanders’ wife—Jane O’Meara Sanders—and his stepdaughter, Carina Driscoll, both received salaries from his early political campaigns. (Sanders’ House campaign reportedly paid O’Meara Sanders $90,000 for “consulting and ad placement services from 2002 to 2004.”) Driscoll, too, got paid $65,000 between 2000 and 2004. And at Burlington College, where O’Meara Sanders served as president until 2011, at least two contracts yielded six-figure payouts for companies run by Driscoll and a close friend of the Sanders family.

Given the source of the story I have great questions about its accuracy or reliability. Nevertheless it is a classic example of the manipulative cross examination in which the witness is asked “so when did you stop beating your wife.” The denial is meaningless once the allegation is published to the jury, as it takes on a life of its own whether true or not.

Several days ago another Sander’s fan announced on twitter that a top advisor to Clinton had been “taken in” by the FBI assumedly to be questioned with regard to what he may have known about what’s now simply called the server “case”. Not only did the post do a great disservice to the advisor by implying that he himself had broken the law, but it showed a complete ignorance about federal procedure. It’s well settled that the FBI cannot “take someone in” unless there is a warrant or probable cause for his or her arrest. Only in the world of movies can law enforcement take someone in to be questioned. So grab your seat and get your popcorn – “Kool-Aid” is now showing in your favorite theater.

Yesterday I was accused of “splitting hairs” by the author of one of these patently false posts who went on to justify his campaign “hyperbole” by simply saying that Clinton and Silver were “two peas in the pod . . . on the same pay league.” Joe McCarthy would have smiled in agreement. Indeed, collective and class guilt has a long and sordid history in this country. Thousands were rounded up and jailed early in the twentieth century, many deported, including our icon Emma Goldman during the Palmer Raids; their crime- speech and association.

Most shocking of all, for months now we’ve seen Clinton convicted by more than a few journalists on the left and their adoring readers because the vaunted FBI is investigating her under the lead of the Department of Justice- who, we know, always get their “man” or, in this case, their woman.

DOJ and the FBI have been at war with political opponents and dissidents, truth tellers and whistle blowers since literally the first day that their doors opened. While we know all about their collective efforts in COINTELPRO to destroy the Black Panther Party, it was but one of many federal law enforcement campaigns in which they spared no effort to vilify, or even murder, those perceived as enemies of the status quo, indeed the state.

I’ve spent decades unraveling political and criminal cases put together by DOJ and the FBI in their insatiable drive to destroy lives, and to bury the truth. Legion are the cases in which helpful witnesses or documents arguably under the reach, if not control, of the government have simply disappeared, unavailable to testify or to be used at trials. At other times critical forensic evidence was prepared with negligence or falsified to support overarching theories of guilt. So, too exculpatory scientific evidence has been suppressed by those who see convictions no matter what the evidence, or lack thereof, as desired justice, and acquittals as impediments to the security of the state, and personal failures.

In a series of recent explosive admissions the FBI conceded:
• That it has discovered errors in data used by forensic scientists in thousands of cases to calculate the chances that DNA found at a crime scene matches a particular person;
• Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far;
• That nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000;
• That nearly every criminal case reviewed by it and the Justice Department has included flawed forensic testimony from the agency;
• That “errors” in evidence provided by its forensics laboratory to US courts to help secure convictions, including in death penalty cases, over more than 20 years;

Indeed in a damning highly detailed report issued by the FBI Inspector General numerous instances were cited of critical forensic errors even in some of its most high profile cases of the day including:
• Scientifically Flawed Testimony in the Psinakis, World Trade Center 1, Avianca, and Trepal cases;
• Inaccurate testimony by an EU examiner in the World Trade Center case, by a former Laboratory examiner (who is still an FBI agent) in a hearing conducted by the judicial committee of the Judicial Council of the Eleventh Circuit regarding then-Judge Alcee Hastings, and by the CTU Chief in the Trepal case;
• Testimony beyond the examiner’s expertise in the World Trade Center, Avianca, and Hastings cases;
• Improper preparation of laboratory reports by three EU examiners who altered, omitted, or improperly supplemented some internal scientific findings (dictations) as they were being compiled into an official report of the Laboratory. A former EU Chief failed to substantively review all of the reports in his unit, authorized EU examiners to modify forensic dictations when incorporating them into EU reports, and fostered a permissive attitude toward changes to such dictations;
• Insufficient documentation of test results by the examiner who had performed work on hundreds of cases, including Psinakis and the UNABOM investigation, and by the CTU Chief;
• Scientifically flawed reports in the VANPAC and Oklahoma City cases, and in numerous cases by the former MAU examiner who worked on Psinakis, and in a few instances by an EU examiner who altered science reports;
• Inadequate record management and retention system by the laboratory;
• Failures by management to resolve serious and credible allegations of incompetence lodged against the examiner who worked on the Psinakis case; to review properly the EU report in the Oklahoma City case; to resolve scientific disagreements among Laboratory examiners in three cases, including Avianca; to establish and enforce validated procedures and protocols that might have avoided problems in examiner reports in the Psinakis and VANPAC cases; and to making a commitment to pursuing accreditation by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board before 1994;
• A flawed staffing structure of the explosives unit that should be reconfigured so that examiners possess requisite scientific qualifications.

The list of intentional or negligent government missteps is literally endless by some federal prosecutors and many agents who see themselves as very much the sole repositories of truth and justice involved in a war with those who refuse to bend to their political will.

Yet the dark often evil history of these agencies is conveniently overlooked today by some Clinton opponents who in their thirst to get her, and at all costs, appear to embrace federal agencies and their tactics that have terrorized our community for time immemorial. This is particularly ironic since many who suggest law enforcement perfection here, are the same who quickly reject it when it comes to the events of 9/11.

In this country the howl of the mob has a dark and dangerous history. It has brought us the execution of hundreds of not guilty women and men, thrown a noose around the neck of thousands because of race or rumor or innuendo, and destroyed the lives of countless artists, musician and dissidents because their beliefs or association were suspect. Now it seems to target political opponents in an unbecoming effort to obtain a “victory” that it apparently could not acquire at the polls.

In the law of libel one who acquires a public persona has a diminished expectation of privacy- it comes with the turf, I get it. Nevertheless, lots of things that are lawful are still tasteless or unprincipled. Many of us know the sting of false public accusation and ridicule as so much the shrill cry of the desperate that cannot compete fairly in the open and robust market place of debate. It says less about the target than it does those who stoop so low.

Clinton represents much that is wrong and unhealthy about our society, indeed our world. However, activists should not lower themselves or our movement and its traditions to that level. Sadly, the next time you read of someone charged and convicted in the media it may just be you.  “We Feared Witches. We Hung Women”


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