Thousands of Americans are languishing in federal prisons for lying to federal officials. Federal officials themselves often get a pass when they tell a whopper to Congress. It's a double standard that must end.
The problem starts at the top with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. His career in prevarication began as an advocate for Marc Rich, a fugitive from justice on the list of the FBI's Top Ten most wanted when in the final days of the Clinton administration he engaged a group of Friends of Bill to work to obtain for him a presidential pardon. This violated Department of Justice protocol and procedure. Called before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2001 to explain his role in the questionable pardon, Mr. Holder said, "Mr. Rich's name was unfamiliar to me." It later became known that, as U.S. attorney in 1995, Mr. Holder filed suit against companies owned by Mr. Rich. One of the things Mr. Holder learned in law school is that it's a good idea to get the name of who you're suing.
Two years ago, Mr. Holder told a House hearing that he was unfamiliar with the administration's gunrunning operation. "I'm not sure of the exact date," Mr. Holder told the House Judiciary Committee, "but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks." Documents surfaced showing that he learned about the program nearly a year earlier.
Asked about targeting journalists for criminal prosecutions, he said he had never been involved in a prosecution of the journalists. Shortly after his testimony, Justice Department officials conceded that Mr. Holder personally approved a search-warrant application for Fox News journalist James Rosen that named him a probable co-conspirator in a leak investigation.
Others throughout the administration have been following the attorney general's lead. At a Senate hearing, James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, was asked specifically by Sen. Ron Wyden whether the National Security Agency "collects any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" Mr. Clapper looked the senator in the eye and replied "No, sir." A leaked Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant, a document that was meant to remain top secret, later revealed that Mr. Clapper's agency has in fact been collecting cellphone location and call-activity records from every Verizon customer (and likely from other phone companies as well).
Even midlevel Internal Revenue Service officials are parties to deception. Faris Fink, head of the IRS small-business division, is best known for his role as Mr. Spock in a bizarre and wasteful "training" video at a $4 million IRS conference in California. "I actually did not become aware of the massive expense until much later," Mr. Faris initially told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. When that answer seemed implausible, he revised his remarks. "I was aware of the cost," he finally said. His initials, in fact, were signed on documents approving the expenditures of the conference.
Congress, which attempted to send baseball great Roger Clemens to prison for telling a tall tale about steroids, allows government officials to get away with misleading answers to questions that actually matter. Unless the double standard is dismissed, the deception will continue.
The Washington Times
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