Tag Archives: Justice Department

The Mueller Indictments: Observations And A Spin Report

Late yesterday afternoon the Justice Department announced that it had indicted thirteen Russians and three Russian companies for participation in a scheme to interfere in the United States political system. From the Justice Department website:

“The Department of Justice announced that a grand jury in the District of Columbia today returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s Office. The indictment charges thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 Presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they called “information warfare against the United States,” with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

The full 37-page indictment is here, giving citizens a rare example to read everything reporters know and to thereby be able to gauge exactly how accurate and fair their reporting is, if the citizens are so inclined. SPOILER ALERT: The spin efforts thus far have been staggering.

The press release also tells us in part:

According to the allegations in the indictment, twelve of the individual defendants worked at various times for Internet Research Agency LLC, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg, Russia. …Internet Research Agency allegedly operated through Russian shell companies. It employed hundreds of persons for its online operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support, with an annual budget of millions of dollars. Internet Research Agency was a structured organization headed by a management group and arranged in departments, including graphics, search-engine optimization, information technology, and finance departments. In 2014, the agency established a “translator project” to focus on the U.S. population. In July 2016, more than 80 employees were assigned to the translator project….To hide the Russian origin of their activities, the defendants allegedly purchased space on computer servers located within the United States in order to set up a virtual private network. The defendants allegedly used that infrastructure to establish hundreds of accounts on social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, making it appear that the accounts were controlled by persons within the United States. They used stolen or fictitious American identities, fraudulent bank accounts, and false identification documents. The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans, advocating for and against particular political candidates. They established social media pages and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans. They also purchased political advertisements on social media.

Also:

The Russians also recruited and paid real Americans to engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political rallies. The defendants and their co-conspirators pretended to be grassroots activists. According to the indictment, the Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians.

Thirteen paragraphs into the release is this statement: “There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”

Talk about burying the lede!

Observations: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up,1/28/2018: Looking For The Silver Lining

Good Morning!

1 Phooey. This was one of those annoying weeks where the blog covered a lot of diverse topics (28 posts in the last 7 days), featured excellent comments, and was rewarded by a kick in the teeth. There was a big drop in followers, especially after the post about the Larry Nassar sentencing fiasco (I got slammed on Facebook, too.) That one is not open to legitimate controversy: the judge was unethical, the manner of sentencing did breach the Judicial Canons in Michigan and elsewhere, the length of the sentence was  disproportionate, and the parade of victims was a disgrace to the system. Never mind, though: he’s a monster and didn’t deserved to be treated any better by the judge, so good for her. No wonder trying to get people to reason using ethics tools and systems is so difficult. Most people default to emotion; some lawyers on Facebook even expressed that sentiment—“You go girl!”

It is such basic ethics, and so core to the justice system, that even the worst human beings deserve to be treated with the same respect and fairness as anyone else in the justice system. It is the bedrock of professional ethics that those with the job of protecting the public’s health, safety and welfare must be role models and eschew the passions and indulgences of the public they are pledged to serve. Yet people are frustratingly resistant to both concepts, giving lip service, pretending to understand, then  regularly bouncing back to rationalizations and mob reasoning like their values were on a bungee cord.

Silver Lining: It is satisfying to be 100% sure you are right in principle, even when, indeed especially when, you are getting beaten up for it.

2. And speaking of bitches…Contemporaneously with Hillary Clinton’s transparently cynical and damning response to the revelation that she responded to a campaign staffer’s complaint about sexual abuse by Hillary’s “spiritual survivor” in 2008 by transferring the accuser while keeping her advisor around (to harass others, it seems), she released a video…

…that began with the words, “And let me just say, this is directed to the activist bitches supporting bitches.” And thus we see how the Nation of Assholes is progressing. Somehow, I didn’t see the coarsening of the culture as Americans, as they always so, emulate the conduct of the President, extending to  Hillary Clinton, but why not? She has no integrity or ethics alarms. If she thinks going potty mouth will bring her money and power, why wouldn’t she ditch civility? The woman is first and always an ethics corrupter. Continue reading

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When Doing The Ethical Thing Is Ugly But Necessary: AG Sessions’ Retracts One Of Those Obama “Dear Colleague Letters”

By the way, “when doing the ethical thing is ugly but necessary” both refers to Sessions’ action and my writing this post…

 In March 2016 , President Obama’s Justice Department sent another one of the administrations patented (well, not really) “Dear Colleague letters” like the one that was used to bully colleges and universities into punishing male students for alleged sexual assault in the absence of sufficient evidence. This one was sent to state and local courts, urging them <cough>to review their procedures regarding fines and other punishments issued to the indigent  to ensure that they were consistent with “due process, equal protection and sound public policy.” The Justice Department’s 2016 release linked the letter to its description of a $2.5 million grant program to help agencies develop strategies that reduce unnecessary confinement of those who can’t pay fines and fees.” The letter said in part,

“Typically, courts do not sentence defendants to incarceration in these cases; monetary fines are the norm. Yet the harm caused by unlawful practices in these jurisdictions can be profound. Individuals may confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape.”

The letter also outlined “basic constitutional principles” regarding fee and fine enforcement. They included: Continue reading

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UPDATE: So THAT’S What Really Is Going On. Boy, Wouldn’t It Be Great If There Was Some Trustworthy Professional Source That Would Report Events Without Spin And Intentional Distortions?

 

Somehow, I expect the New York Times to be better than this.

Today’s Morning Warm-Up included this item as its final note:

Ethics Alarms will certainly feature more on this development, but for now I’ll just welcome the decision, sure to be attacked as “white supremacy,”  by the Justice Department’s civil rights division to begin  investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants. Affirmative action has always been a euphemism for “race-based discrimination in favor of the right race,” and while it can be argued that it was a necessary evil in the wake of Jim Crow, it is still a hypocritical and unconstitutional policy.  I hope the Justice Department includes discrimination against Asian-American students in its crackdown as well.

Well what do you know?

DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores  put out a statement today clarifying what the New York Times went out of its way to distort, saying,

“Press reports regarding the personnel posting in the Civil Rights Division have been inaccurate. The posting sought volunteers to investigate one administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015 that the prior Administration left unresolved. The complaint alleges racial discrimination against Asian Americans in a university’s admissions policy and practices.”

This was the 2015 complaint by Asian-Americans claiming they were victimized by quotas at Ivy League schools that was discussed in the Ethics Alarms post I linked to this morning. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/10/17

 

1. In the category of “Good!”, or maybe “Better late than never!” was the news that CNN, after a a full week of pondering, determined that maybe it wasn’t sufficiently professional for a host to call the President of the United States a “piece of shit,” or anyone a “piece of shit,” really, or use “shit”  under the CNN banner, so it fired “Believer” host Reza Aslan. I don’t know why CNN can’t figure out that an immediate firing sends the message that the organization has professional standards and enforces them, and the way CNN handled this says, “We were hoping this would blow over, but guess not.”

Aslan’s tweet after his hook raised other questions:

  • Wait, CNN is trying to be an unbiased new outlet???
  • Oh, is “piece of shit” how scholars express themselves now?
  • “I need to honor my voice” by being able to use vulgarity to express his measured views. Got it.
  • The “tenor” of discourse is entirely within the control of the speaker.
  • Why does CNN put people on the air who don’t understand or respect their professional obligations to the network or the audience?

2. Fox News’s Sean Hannity got web headlines yesterday by tweeting to Aslan: “I do not think you should be fired. You apologized.” Sean Hannity is really too dumb to be allowed out without a leash. His theory is that an apology magically returns everything to where it was before the conduct in question, as if there were no effects. This was serious breach of professionalism and responsibility showing the Aslan was too untrustworthy to be allowed to have his own TV show. It proved that he was a threat to CNN’s reputation (Crude News Network” is the current successor to “Clinton News Network,” and no organization can function if its announced policy is “Go ahead, do anything; as long as you apologize, your job is safe.” Continue reading

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The Flynn Fiasco: Flynn Doesn’t Understand That Ethics Thingee, And That’s Reason to Fire Him All By Itself

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From The Daily Caller:

In the final hours before his resignation, now-former White House National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn said he “crossed no lines” in his discussion with Russia’s ambassador, but ultimately he was most concerned about the steady stream of leaks to reporters based on classified information.

“In some of these cases, you’re talking about stuff that’s taken off of a classified system and given to a reporter. That’s a crime,” Flynn told The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group during a telephone interview from his White House office on Monday.

“You call them leaks. It’s a criminal act. This is a crime. It’s not just a wink and a nod,” Flynn said.

Signature significance: any time an official under fire claims that he”crossed no lines,” he or she is asserting The Compliance Dodge, Rationalization #6 on the list:

5. The Compliance Dodge.

Simply put, compliance with rules, including laws, isn’t the same as ethics. Compliance depends on an individual’s desire to avoid punishment. Ethical conduct arises from an individual’s genuine desire to do the right thing. The most unethical person in the world will comply if the punishment is stiff enough. But if he can do something unethical without breaking the rules, watch out!

No set of rules will apply in all situations, and one who is determined to look for loopholes in a set of laws, or rules, or in an ethics code, so that he or she can do something self-serving, dishonest, or dastardly, is likely to find a way…

In an earlier version of #6, this was called the Al Gore Dodge, in honor of then Vice-President Gore, who had been caught engaging in some of the slimy Clinton administration fundraising machinations, and  justified his conduct by arguing that “no controlling legal authority” prohibited what he did, which was to raise campaign funds  from his office in the White House. Flynn lied to the  current Vice-President and attempted to cover-up his conversation with the Russian ambassador. The FBI was spying on him at the time, which raises other issues. But even if the FBI’s surveillance was a part of a rogue operation by Sally Yates to take over the government and make Barack Obama King, it doesn’t change what Flynn did, or make his conduct any more acceptable. Continue reading

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Ethics Observations On The Michael Flynn Resignation

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We woke up this morning to this…

Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, resigned on Monday night after it was revealed that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other top White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Flynn, who served in the job for less than a month, said he had given “incomplete information” regarding a telephone call he had with the ambassador in late December about American sanctions against Russia, weeks before President Trump’s inauguration. Mr. Flynn previously had denied that he had any substantive conversations with Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak, and Mr. Pence repeated that claim in television interviews as recently as this month.

But on Monday, a former administration official said the Justice Department warned the White House last month that Mr. Flynn had not been fully forthright about his conversations with the ambassador. As a result, the Justice Department feared that Mr. Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail by Moscow.

Ethics Observations:

1. Good. Good because it was evident from the beginning that this was a questionable appointment by Trump. Flynn is a hoax news addict and a well-established loose cannon.  Good also because  his removal was fast.

2. Naturally, the news media spin, since the idea is always to make the President look as bad as possible,  is that this is a record for short tenure. The previous administration stuck with demonstrably incompetent, corrupt or untrustworthy officials for months, years and in the case of Eric Holder, more than a full term after they had shown that they were liabilities. There is no honor in giving power to someone who is unqualified and unworthy like Flynn, but it vastly compounds the breach of duty to hesitate to fire them as soon as their disqualifications are known. In this respect, at least, the President’s CEO habits, and his fondness for saying, “You’re fired,” served him, and the American people, well.

3. Next up: learn to deal with such unpleasant situations without making them worse with lies, obfuscation and transparent deception. Kellyanne Conway yesterday said that Flynn had the President’s “full confidence,” an obvious lie from the second the words left her mouth. (Conway would be a good candidate for the next hook. Or Reince Priebus. Or Sean Spicer. Or Steve Miller. Or Rudy Giuliani….) Then Trump denied that he was aware of Flynn’s deceptions, even as contrary news reports were flashing. This is just incompetent, and there is no excuse for it. Admittedly, this President has no reputation for truth to shatter, but these Jumbos (“Elephant? What elephant? “) make a leader look stupid or contemptuous of the intelligence of the public. Continue reading

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