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Martin Preib: DOJ Corruption Has Roots in Chicago

Many find it shocking the Department of Justice (DOJ) could be capable of ginning up false allegations against a former president in a previous election and would again do the same prior to the 2024 election.

This shock, however, is a mark of just how drastically conservatives have failed to recognize the long decline of the DOJ and its ultimate transformation into a political subsidiary of a radicalized Democratic Party. Conservatives would do well to observe seminal moments that have led the country’s top law enforcement entity to its present dire state. In that review, all roads ultimately lead back to Chicago.

One key moment took place in 1979 when some 700 current and retired FBI agents gathered on the plaza steps outside the federal courthouse in Washington to protest the trial of former top FBI official Mark Felt, who come close to being appointed head of the FBI after the death of long-time director J. Edgar Hoover in 1972.

Placing Mark Felt on trial was one of the most significant achievements of the radical left. A movement of violent Marxists radicals who had spent much of the late 1960s and 70s blowing up federal buildings, robbing people and plotting the overthrow of the U.S. government, these revolutionaries believed the creation of a socialist utopia was not only feasible but necessary for a country with such an appalling history of racism as America.

Felt’s crimes? While he served at the FBI, Felt oversaw a counter intelligence operation, COINTELPRO, that carried out “Black Bag” jobs. Under COINTELPRO, the FBI used subversive tactics that often ignored the constitutional rights of their targets. Alarmed at the growing violence of radical left groups such as the Weather Underground and the Black Panther Movement, and their allegiance with Marxist leaders like Cuba’s Fidel Castro and North Vietnam’s Ho Ch Minh, the FBI had initiated these investigations that included wiretaps and opening mail without warrants.

The FBI clearly overstepped their boundaries in some cases. Under the COINTELPRO program, for example, FBI agents illegally wiretapped the phone and listened in to the conversations of Martin Luther King.

Though many agents involved with COINTELPRO clearly advocated the use of these methods for other groups, one incident compelled many at the FBI to support the black bag jobs.

In 1970, a group of Weather Underground terrorists were gathered at a townhouse in New York City making bombs to attack an officers’ dance at Fort Dix in New Jersey, as well as the administration building at Columbia University. As the Weather Underground terrorists assembled an explosive device, a shoddy contraption accidentally detonated. The explosion killed three Weather Underground members. Nonetheless, two escaped. In the aftermath of the explosion, investigators discovered an amount of unexploded dynamite that, had it detonated, could have destroyed the entire city block.

The FBI’s investigation of the crime scene sent chills up and down the spine of investigators. If the bomb-makers had not blown themselves up, how many would they have killed in their bombings? How many more bomb plots were the group planning? The investigators also found evidence that was disturbing for another reason: The terrorists had propaganda calling for violent revolution and expressing sympathy for communist countries like Cuba and China.

In the minds of many agents, and certainly Mark Felt, these offenders were engaged in espionage in addition to the exigent threat to safety of the public and government officials. They were, the investigators believed, therefore not entitled to constitutional privileges and “black bag jobs were therefore entirely appropriate.

Felt had an ally in utilizing the black bag tactics: President Nixon. For much of his term as president, Nixon had been warning Congress and then-FBI head J. Edgar Hoover that domestic terrorists, particularly groups like the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground, posed a grave threat to the country. Nixon argued that other presidents had approved such tactics as well, going back to FDR.

In March 1971, a group broke into FBI offices in Pennsylvania and seized the files on COINTELPRO Program, revealing them to the public. An investigation was launched, headed by Senator Frank Church, who assailed the FBI and its tactics. As a result of the Church Commission findings, the evidence gathered from these FBI covert tactics was tossed.

“Guilty as hell, free as a bird — America is a great country,” founding Weather Underground member Bill Ayers said when he learned he would not be prosecuted.

Not only was the evidence against the domestic terrorists dropped, but criminal charges were ultimately made against Felt and other top FBI officials. Felt could not fund his own defense, but agents throughout the country passed the hat. Felt’s trial took place at the same time as the election pitting Ronald Reagan against incumbent Jimmy Carter. During his campaign Reagan promised to pardon Felt and the other defendants.

In one of the great ironies from the domestic violence that emerged in the 1960s and 70s, Mark Felt was a significant figure in another political scandal: Watergate. Recordings from Nixon’s tenure as president revealed Nixon was informed by White House assistant H.R. Haldeman that the likely leak from the FBI to the Washington Post that led to the Watergate scandal and ultimately Nixon’s resignation came from Felt. It has long been suspected Felt informed the media on Nixon’s involvement in Watergate over his fury at being passed over for the directorship of the FBI after Hoover’s death.

Despite knowing that Felt was the key figure behind Nixon’s downfall, Nixon nevertheless volunteered to testify on Felt’s behalf in Felt’s criminal trial, at which he was convicted and sentenced to probation. Shortly after being elected in a landslide over Carter, Reagan fulfilled his promise and pardoned Felt. Nixon sent a gift to Felt offering him congratulations.

In the Felt trial, the forces that would begin to spell the decline of the Department of Justice were already forming. One was the tactic by the radical left of criminalizing law enforcement and using Democratic Party politicians to do so. The second was a fundamental transformation of the media that developed in the Felt trial and Watergate scandal. No longer did much of the media see itself as the guardian of the republic but rather as an antagonist to what they increasingly believed was a hopelessly corrupt and racist nation.

In doing so, the media turned its back on the threat maniacal groups such as the Black Panthers and Weather Underground posed to the country and quietly aided them by transforming urban anarchists into celebrated members of society. Many of these revolutionaries would later achieve prestigious positions in law, education, and government.

Another stage in the corruption of the DOJ surfaced with Eric Holder, who would later serve as attorney general under Barack Obama. Holder held an impressive resume for a leftist politician trained in the Machiavellian art of Chicago politics, similar to Mr. Obama. One line of Holder’s resume stands out in particular: The sordid chapter in the Democratic Party’s evolution into a radical stronghold.

While serving as deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, Holder repeatedly pushed subordinates at DOJ to drop their opposition to Bill Clinton’s controversial 1999 grant of clemency to 16 members of two violent Puerto Rican separatist groups, the FLAN and Los Macheteros. Both groups had carried out numerous criminal acts, including bank robbery and possession of explosive material. Both groups were also accused of involvement in a seditious conspiracy. According to the FBI, the two factions were considered among the most violent groups in the U.S., worse than the Weather Underground.

President Clinton’s decision to commute prison terms caused an uproar at the time. Holder was questioned in front of Congress about why Holder’s DOJ ignored the arguments by the FBI that the terrorists should not be granted clemency. Holder declined to answer most of the congressional inquiries.

One of the most notorious of the 130 bombings — you read this correctly, 130 bombings — attributed to the FALN took place in 1975 when members of the group set off a bomb at the Fraunces Tavern in New York during a crowded lunchtime. A son of one of the victims, Joe Connor, wrote several articles claiming that one reason President Clinton granted clemency to the FALN was simply making a “political gesture” orchestrated by Holder on behalf of Clinton’s wife, Hillary, who was seeking Hispanic support in her bid to become a New York senator.

Why would Obama choose a man like Holder to be the attorney general? The answer to that question might best be answered by yet another key stage in the devolution of the DOJ: the crucial period when Illinois Senator Barack Obama was running for president.

Federal authorities, particularly those Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), were outraged that Madison Hobley had been released from death row for an arson that killed seven people. Claiming he was the victim of abuse by infamous former police commander Jon Burge, Hobley was freed from behind bars when he was granted a pardon from Governor George Ryan in 2003.

The allegations of torture against Burge are treated as gospel in Chicago’s well-oiled journalism machine. The Hobley case is compelling not only because it was based on a crime in which seven people died and dozens were injured, but because it became the foundation upon which federal authorities were finally able to convict Burge for perjury and obstruction of justice when Burge stated in a civil suit brought against him by Hobley that he had not coerced confessions.

The problem with the Hobley case was that no legal proceeding ever ruled that Madison Hobley did not set the fire. No judge, jury, appeals court, nor post-conviction hearing ever proved Hobley was innocent of the charges. This fact raises a chilling question: To finally convict Jon Burge, did Chicago release a mass murderer?

Well, many federal investigators believed so. The ATF took up a federal case against Hobley after he was released from death row. In the course of re-investigating it, ATF agents found even more evidence against Hobley, not less.

Agents, for example, went to Hobley’s mother’s apartment where Hobley had strangely relocated to after the fire. There the agents met the landlady, who told investigators that she was approached by Hobley’s mother and told to hide Hobley’s clothes or she would be harmed. Chicago detectives had searched for the clothes, but never found them. Now ATF agents understood why.

After Obama won the election, he quickly announced that Eric Holder, the same man who had forcefully advocated for jailed FALN terrorists, would be the next attorney general. The feds in effect had two cases on their table: One was new charges against Hobley that might return him to prison and the other was Jon Burge.

Many federal agents thought the indictment of Hobley was imminent, but suddenly things went quiet. U.S. attorney for the northern Illinois district, Patrick Fitzgerald, announced to the shock of ATF agents that his office was not going to indict Hobley, but would proceed against Burge. Hobley was ultimately awarded a multi-million-dollar settlement from the city of Chicago and Burge was sent to prison for four years. At his sentencing hearing, Burge asserted he had never spoken to Madison Hobley.

The politicization of the DOJ has long roots, revealing a conservative movement that remained asleep for decades while the once laughed at radicals from the 1960s slowly burrowed their way into mainstream institutions. Now they control the Department of Justice, attacking political enemies, undermining fair elections, and using the media to silence opposition.

Conservatives are slowly waking up, but it just might be too late.

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