It’s easy to see that, as far as Democrats are concerned, Attorney General William Barr has a target on his back. They are desperate to get rid of him, simply because he stated the obvious --- that there was SPYING going on against the Trump campaign --- and had the gall to say he wants to look into it. (They are shocked –- shocked! –- to find that gambling was going on at Rick’s!) Some people with a lot to lose are scared out of their minds right now, which explains a lot of what they’re babbling.
Of course, now that Barr has dared to tell the truth about this, Democrats have had to admit that they were wrong in thinking Trump “colluded” with Russia, express the relief all Americans should share now that we know the President of the United States is not a Russian agent, and work towards solving the nation’s problems, like border security and aggression from Iran and North Korea.
Ha, I made that last paragraph up. They’d much rather grandstand or munch on chicken in the congressional hearing room than get serious about real issues. It’s hard to even remember such juvenile behavior. These people have no intention of acknowledging the truth, and they will take down Barr any way they can. If they have to ruin his life, they will focus like a laser beam on doing so. But Barr appears to know exactly what he’s up against, and it may well be that he’s not nearly as vulnerable as many potential whistleblowers are. (I would describe the attorney general at this point as a very high-level whistleblower.)
Every would-be whistleblower in government or corporate work has to do a personal risk assessment before deciding to blow that whistle: What’s the worst they could do to me? Blackmail me? Steal my computer files? Destroy my reputation? Ruin my marriage? Hurt my family? Get me fired? End my career? Put me in prison? Make me dead? Then the whistleblower has to weigh that possible harm against the level of corruption and the importance of exposing it. That’s why so many people with stories to tell simply decide to stay quiet.
Investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson has written about this, sadly observing after 30 years of covering national news that in the culture of Washington, DC, truth-telling is frowned upon while cover-ups are rewarded and encouraged. That’s why it’s so challenging and drawn-out to learn what’s been going on, apparently for years, in the intelligence community. It occurs to me that those career intel people are so practiced at keeping secrets –- it’s an integral part of their job as undercover agents –- that it might start seeming routine to lie and hide information even from the officials who are supposed to oversee their work. These are people who’ve been trained to be discreet. Better just to hold on to those secrets.
Attkisson describes how “word on the street” can have a chilling effect on those who would otherwise come forward. She has heard from an FBI source that when numerous whistleblowers went to congressional leaders with information about the FBI and the Trump/Russia scandal, THOSE LEADERS TURNED THEIR NAMES OVER TO THE DOJ. I am not kidding. Attkisson doesn’t say, but I’m guessing these were the Democrats who run the committees, as the Republicans are all for getting the information out.
Another factor is that so often, after whistleblowers risk everything to come forward and tell the truth, they find that nothing changes. People who should be rotting in prison as a result of whistleblower testimony might be getting cushy jobs with CNN or MSNBC instead, or making millions on a sensational book, or just quietly retiring with full benefits at taxpayer expense. Why be a hero and ruin your own life if it’s not going to do any good?
But Attkisson has come up with an interesting idea. She calls it “the whistleblower amnesty period.” AG Barr could start one within the Department of Justice, but she advises him to act quickly, before too many lobbying forces try to stop him.
Imagine if there were period --- say, 60 days --- in which whistleblowers could come forward under a promise of anonymity, job security and legal representation. These people would be part of a group that’s legally protected against retaliation, with independent overseers to enforce it. If an individual wanted a mutually beneficial separation instead, that could be negotiated. If coming forward involved a confession of wrongdoing by the whistleblower, an immunity agreement might be negotiated as well.
They’d also need to establish trusted intermediaries, because, according to Attkisson, the inspectors general are often seen as insiders and are not always trusted by the rank-and-file.
As I was reading her suggestions, it seemed like a good policy to have all the time, but Attkisson presents it as a limited, one-time-only amnesty period, a way to clean house (or, to use another phrase I’ve heard somewhere, “drain the swamp”), and that probably makes better sense. After it’s over, if someone hasn’t come forward but is later implicated in wrongdoing, that person will be punished and/or prosecuted to the full extent of the law or existing regulations.
It sure would be interesting to see what might come out of this. Who can tell what sort of outpouring there would be? (The DOJ might need a lot more intermediaries, the bureaucratic equivalent of actual “shovel-ready jobs.”) Attkisson suggests that if it works for the Department of Justice and the intelligence community and helps change a culture that currently looks the other way at corruption, it could serve as a model for other government agencies as well.
But she doubts seriously that anything like this will be done. On the other hand, with Bill Barr running the Justice Department, maybe it’ll happen. Or maybe he’s got his own way of cleaning up the mess.
Right now, Barr is kind of busy, though, dealing with what’s being presented as a “showdown” with House Judiciary Committee Democrats, with Jerry Nadler giving him till Wednesday to turn over the completely unredacted Mueller report AND all the underlying evidence, including the grand jury material, which would be against the law for Barr to share on his own. He could go to a judge and ask for the grand jury material to be released, and he might get permission in time, but doing that undercuts the whole idea of grand jury secrecy. Dems don’t care.
Committee Democrats can already view an almost totally unredacted version of Mueller’s report but not one of them has even bothered to go look at it. It seems they’re just looking for an opportunity to hold Barr in contempt. Some of them are even talking about having him arrested and tossed into jail. But Barr has obviously conducted that personal risk assessment and decided to stand up against this idiocy. As U.S. Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd put it, “You have yet to take advantage of the Department’s offer to review the less-redacted version of the Special Counsel’s report, which naturally raises questions about the sincerity of the Committee’s interest in and purported need for the redacted material.”