J. Edgar Holder and His Misplaced Priorities

The recent "mob roundup" in New York is emblematic of the disconnect on multiple levels between Eric Holder's Justice Department and the real world problems facing law enforcement . 

One of the most frequent criticisms of the late J. Edgar Hoover was his apparent unwillingness to pursue organized crime until relatively late in his career as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  This was frequently ascribed to ignorance and/or incompetence.  In fact, it was neither.

Hoover was a consummate politician whose first priority was the preservation of his power.  Appointed to head the Bureau of Investigation in 1924, he found himself competing for both funds and authority with other government and law enforcement agencies.  Realizing that the path to power was dependant upon his successes, he chose to pursue the highly publicized bank robbers, thugs and gangs then terrorizing the Middle West.  Such criminals were uneducated and unsophisticated and the most likely to eventually make mistakes.  Furthermore, they garnered the greatest amount of publicity.  Following the successful pursuit and killing of John Dillinger and the arrests of Alvin Karpis, Machine Gun Kelly, and others, the Bureau received massive publicity and was ultimately reorganized as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Hoover parlayed the success into an ongoing media presence in books, newspapers, radio and TV. 

Eric Holder's recent high profile announcement that the FBI had, to coin a phrase, "taken down" over 124 Mafia figures, including leaders of New York's Five Families, is a prime example of the Hoover strategy of going after the easy catches.  Since its establishment in the United States in the late 19th century, the Mafia, under a variety of identities, blazed a scarlet trail over the fabric of American history.  What began as several family-controlled gangs terrorizing recent Italian immigrants, bloomed thanks to Prohibition into an extremely wealthy organization whose tentacles reached into multiple aspects of American life.

In recent years, however, the organization has fallen upon hard times.  Many of the old venues no longer exist or have been severely curtailed.  The labor unions, once a plentiful source of funds and muscle, have suffered huge declines.  With the advent of multiple forms of legalized gambling, the gaming racket has withered.  The narcotics trade has, for the most part, been seized by the drug cartels and their related gangs. 

In reporting the story, The New York Times stated, "There were murders, including a double homicide over a spilled drink in a Queens bar."  Such a situation, which sounds more like an anger management problem than a criminal enterprise, pales beside the St. Valentine's Day massacre.  Likewise, the arrest of Liugi Manocchio, 83, accused of shaking down strip clubs in Rhode Island, did little to make the body politic rest easier.

It is obvious to most people, except Eric Holder, that the high and palmy days of the Cosa Nostra are long gone.  Even in Sicily, the ancestral home of organized crime, police agencies and the populace at large have decimated their ranks with arrests and prosecutions.

Within a week of Mr. Holder's appearance behind a forest of microphones in Brooklyn, an Arabic book glorifying homicide bombers and encouraging radical Islam was found near the Mexican border in Arizona.  Several days later, a radical Muslim cleric was arrested when he attempted to cross the Mexican border in the trunk of an automobile.  The violence in Mexico claimed the life of an American missionary, as it has other American visitors, and has increased to the point that there is a very real danger of it spilling into the United States. 

The border violence aside, our cities and communities continually must deal with the problems created by gangs composed of illegals and others who support themselves by acting as the distribution network and enforcement arm for the drug cartels.  The administration's and Mr. Holder's response to this is to bring suit against Arizona for attempting to enforce laws that the Justice Department chooses to ignore for political reasons.

Nor is the border problem the only one.  Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the so-called Russian Mafiya has gained a large foothold in the United States and internationally.  Their activities range from involvement in the export of natural resources including aluminum and oil to money laundering (often using real estate investment as a cover) to arms dealing and human trafficking for the purpose of prostitution.  Although the Brighton Beach area of New York, heavily populated by Russian émigrés, is said to be their largest base outside Russia, their global reach has made them extremely powerful and dangerous.  In the opinion of journalist Robert I. Friedman, author of Red Mafiya (Little, Brown and Company, 2000), "the Russian mob has become the FBI's most formidable criminal adversary,..." 

The fight against organized crime is not the only instance in which the Attorney General has failed the people.  Mr. Holder's inability to reach a decision regarding the trial and/or disposition of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, his refusal in the face of overwhelming evidence to prosecute members of the new Black Panther organization for intimidating voters, and his comments defining hate crimes legislation as applicable to "protected groups" all contribute to the image of an Attorney General who will not or cannot prosecute the elements most dangerous to our country and our society.

If there is any single governmental department that should be independent of use for political purposes, it is the Justice Department.  The Mission Statement of the DOJ reads as follows: 

To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

It is unfortunate that there has been for too long a history of presidents, both Republican and Democrat, subverting the FBI for political and personal purposes.  Dossiers on presumed enemies, wire taps, and illegal surveillance are the tools of the KGB and an affront to the courageous and dedicated men and women who serve a law enforcement organization that is the standard of the world.  It is long past time to build a legislative firewall that would preclude the present and any future administration from such misuse of power.

If the United States is a government of laws and not of men, then the administration, Mr. Holder, and his associates must take the Mission Statement seriously.  Americans are entitled to protection from the criminals and terrorists, both foreign and domestic, that pose an immediate threat to our way of life.  While no one would argue that the old Cosa Nostra families are engaged in illegal enterprises, the resources spent in apprehending geriatric lawbreakers from another day might be better prioritized in favor of more current and deadly enemies.