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Like Palast, Alan Dershowitz Smells A Big Fat Hairy Rat!

March 17, 2008

I guess that Rupert Murdoch hasn’t totally ruined the reputation of the Wall Street Journal, yet. 😉

Like Greg Palast, Alan Dershowitz seems to be thinking that the whole “investigation” into former governor of New York seems suspect at best, and probably entrapment by the justice department.

Another thing that Dershowitz points out is how the Bushtard government is abusing their illegal domestic spying programs. We have been told that the Bushtard administration needed to spy on us American sheeple to protect us from the Islam O’ Fascists and would never be used for political gain or other fascist like activities. Well I guess that George W. Bushtard has “Fooled Us Again”, Doh!

If you ask me, what really sparked the justice departments interest in Eliot Spitzer wasn’t his Vitter like appreciation of call girls, but his column in the Washington Post from last Wednesday. Which do you think is a larger threat the the Bush administration? Spitzer bedding prostitutes or the govener writing an opinion piece called “Predatory Lenders’ Partner in Crime – How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers“.

The Entrapment of Eliot

By ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ
March 13, 2008; Page A19

The federal criminal investigation that has led to Eliot Spitzer’s resignation as governor of New York illustrates the great dangers all Americans face from vague and open-ended sex and money-transaction statutes.

Federal law, if read broadly, criminalizes virtually all sexual encounters for which something of value has been given. Federal money-laundering statutes criminalize many entirely legitimate and conventional banking transactions. Congress enacted these laws to give federal prosecutors wide discretion in deciding which “bad guys” to go after.

Generally, wise and intelligent prosecutors use their discretion properly — to target organized crime, terrorism, financial predation, exploitation of children and the like. But the very existence of these selectively enforced statutes poses grave dangers of abuse. They lie around like loaded guns waiting to be used against the enemies of politically motivated investigators, prosecutors and politicians.

There is no hard evidence that Eliot Spitzer was targeted for investigation, but the story of how he was caught does not ring entirely true to many experienced former prosecutors and current criminal lawyers. The New York Times reported that the revelations began with a routine tax inquiry by revenue agents “conducting a routine examination of suspicious financial transactions reported to them by banks.” This investigation allegedly found “several unusual movements of cash involving the Governor of New York.” But the movement of the amounts of cash required to pay prostitutes, even high-priced prostitutes over a long period of time, does not commonly generate a full-scale investigation.

We are talking about thousands, not millions, of dollars. We are also talking about a man who is a multimillionaire with numerous investments and purchases. The idea that federal investigators would focus on a few transactions to corporations — that were not themselves under investigation — raises as many questions as answers.

[Eliot Spitzer]

Even if Mr. Spitzer’s derelictions were serendipitously discovered as a result of routine, computerized examination of bank transactions, the dangers inherent in selective use of overbroad criminal statutes remain. Money laundering, structuring and related financial crimes are designed to ferret out organized crime, drug dealing, terrorism and large-scale financial manipulation. They were not enacted to give the federal government the power to inquire into the sexual or financial activities of men who move money in order to hide payments to prostitutes.

Once federal authorities concluded that the “suspicious financial transactions” attributed to Mr. Spitzer did not fit into any of the paradigms for which the statutes were enacted, they should have closed the investigation. It’s simply none of the federal government’s business that a man may have been moving his own money around in order to keep his wife in the dark about his private sexual peccadilloes.

But the authorities didn’t close the investigation. They expanded it, because they had caught a big fish in the wide net they had cast.

In this case, they wiretapped 5,000 phone conversations, intercepted 6,000 emails, used surveillance and undercover tactics that are more appropriate for trapping terrorists than entrapping johns. Unlike terrorism and other predatory crimes, prostitution is legal in many parts of the world and in some parts of the U.S. Even in places like New York, where it is technically illegal, johns are rarely prosecuted. Prostitution rings operate openly, advertising “massage” and “escort” services in the back pages of glossy magazines, local newspapers and television sex channels.

If the federal government really wanted to shut down these operations, they could easily do it without a single wiretap or email intercept. All they would have to do is get an undercover agent to answer the ads, arrange for the “escort” to go from New York to New Jersey and be arrested. But many in law enforcement would much rather reserve these statutes for selective use against predetermined targets.

In this case, if the serendipitous bank audit really led federal agents to Mr. Spitzer, and Mr. Spitzer led them to the Emperor’s Club, and federal prosecutors really wanted to get the Club, they could easily have sent an undercover cop to pose as a john, instead of tapping phones and reading emails — tactics designed to catch and embarrass Mr. Spitzer with his own recorded words, which could be, and were, leaked to the media. As this newspaper has reported: “It isn’t clear why the FBI sought the wiretap warrant. Federal prostitution probes are exceedingly rare, lawyers say, except in cases involving organized-crime leaders or child abuse. Federal wiretaps are seldom used to make these cases . . .”

Lavrenti Beria, the head of Joseph Stalin’s KGB, once quipped to his boss, “show me the man and I will find the crime.” The Soviet Union was notorious for having accordion-like criminal laws that could be adjusted to fit almost any dissident target. The U.S. is a far cry from the Soviet Union, but our laws are dangerously overbroad.

Both Democrats and Republicans have targeted political adversaries over the years. The weapons of choice are almost always elastic criminal laws. And few laws are more elastic, and susceptible to abuse, than federal laws on money laundering and sex crimes. For the sake of all Americans, these laws should be narrowed and limited to predatory crimes with real victims.

Mr. Dershowitz teaches law at Harvard University and is the author of “Finding Jefferson” (Wiley, 2007).

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