Government Aggression

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Mark Houck and one of his sons

There has been a lot of talk, especially among those of the more politically conservative bent, about the politicization of the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ). The raid on Mar-a-Lago certainly increased this talk, especially in light of the fact that Hillary Clinton got off clean for her illegal emails fiasco. To hear Clinton talk about no one being above the law is laughable, if not choke-worthy, while she continues to insist that none of the documents she absconded with were classified even as the FBI reports that they were. Oh, well. These people live on a different planet than the rest of us.

Two stories, in particular, give credence to the accusation of politics ruling the FBI and the DOJ. The FBI recently suspended 12-year veteran agent Steve Friend for refusing to participate in SWAT raids on citizens who were charged with mere misdemeanors for their actions during the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Friend has said that he twice told his immediate supervisor at the FBI that he believed one such raid carried out on August 24, and the investigation that led up to it, violated FBI policy and the citizen’s rights under the Sixth and Eighth Amendments.

In a whistleblower complaint filed to DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, Friend laid out what he believes are several violations of FBI policy related to the January 6 investigation, including:

  • Manipulation by the Washington, DC field office of the FBI case management protocol and sending Jan 6 cases to field offices across the country to create the impression that right-wing domestic terrorism is a widespread problem.
  • Listing Friend as the lead agent on a case he had not investigated and on which his supervisor had not signed off, a violation of FBI policy.
  • FBI investigations of domestic terrorism being opened on citizens who were nowhere near Washington, DC on Jan 6 based on anonymous tips called in to an FBI hotline or from Facebook spying on peoples’ messages. (Yet another good reason to get off Facebook!)
  • An area outside the Capitol building that was not designated a restricted zone on Jan 6 being so designated by the FBI after the fact so they could prosecute people who were in that zone on Jan 6.

Friend reports that he first told his immediate supervisor, Agent Greg Federico, that he believed “it was inappropriate to use an FBI SWAT team to arrest a subject for misdemeanor offenses and opined that the subject would likely face extended detainment and biased jury pools in Washington, DC.” Friend goes on to say, “I suggested alternatives such as the issuance of a court summons or utilizing surveillance groups to determine an optimal, safe time for a local sheriff deputy to contact the subjects and advise them about the existence of the arrest warrant.” Friend says that Federico told him it would be best for Friend to “call in sick” instead of communicating his objections. Federico, according to Friend, “threatened reprisals indirectly by asking how long I saw myself continuing to work for the FBI.”

The story only gets worse, and I encourage you to read the NY Post account. Friend was charged with going AWOL when he refused to participate in the August 24 raid and was stripped of his security clearance after going to his FBI office and downloading to a flash drive an employee handbook and guidelines for employee disciplinary procedures. The Post wrote that “Friend says his concerns are shared by large numbers of rank-and-file FBI agents across the country who believe they are being used as pawns to pursue the political agenda of the bosses in Washington, DC.” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is trying to introduce legislation that would strengthen whistleblower protections for FBI agents like Friend. Grassley has sent over a dozen letters to FBI Director Christopher Wray raising concerns about conduct at the FBI, but Wray has ignored the senator.

Another story equally alarming involves Mark Houck, who was arrested in his home by a squad of 25-30 armed SWAT officers who showed up at his family’s home in the early morning, banging on the door and shouting for him to open. When Houck told them he was opening the door, but that his seven children were home and afraid, the SWAT team ignored him and continued to bang and shout. When Houck opened the door, he was met with a gun to his face and arrested. His wife asked to see the warrant. Initially she was told that they intended to arrest Houck with or without a warrant, but finally produced the first page of the warrant after she accused them of kidnapping her husband.

What were the charges against Houck. Was he the leader of a drug cartel responsible for distributing fentanyl throughout the country, killing hundreds? Was he an assassin carrying out contracts on the enemies of his criminal organization? Was he a spy, distributing classified information to Russia, China, or Iran? Was he an international terrorist, here in the U. S. to plan and execute an attack on our political institutions? No, none of these. According to the warrant the SWAT officers gave to his wife, Houck was accused of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act by allegedly attacking a patient escort at a Philadelphia abortion clinic. It seems Houck, a pro-life and anti-pornography activist, got angry and pushed a clinic escort when the escort got into Houck’s 12-year-old son’s face shouting obscenities. The escort, who was not injured, tried to sue Houck, and Houck was obliged to show up in court on five separate occasions. On each occasion, the escort failed to show, so the judge dismissed the charges. This was all almost a year ago, in October of 2021. However, the DOJ picked up the charges and sent the FBI SWAT team of more than two dozen armed officers to arrest a guy charged with pushing another guy a year ago and after the charges had been dismissed by a judge.

What is going on here? Why are the FBI and DOJ so aggressively pursuing minor charges against American citizens, or even possibly creating false charges against innocent people? This is one of the greatest fears of any people – that their own government would demand compliance from citizens with the values and interests of those in political power, or else endue severe consequences intended to punish and silence. Suppressing the temptation of those in political power to use the tools of government to oppress, persecute, or unjustly prosecute its own citizens for the audacity of disagreeing with government policy and/or practice is what the American Revolution was fought for (and, no, that’s not just patriotic romanticism), and what virtually every American war was fought for, as well as what inspired the creation of the U. S. Constitution, and motivated the Abolitionist Movement, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and every other effort in American history whose goal was to right some wrong suffered by her citizens.

I am currently watching the PBS documentary series “Eyes on the Prize” about the Civil Rights Movement. One of the realities of the Civil Rights Movement was that the federal government (if sometimes, only eventually and reluctantly) became the ally of African Americans who were protesting for their rights against oppressive and unjust state laws and practices. Today, it almost seems that that dynamic has been turned around, with states now advocating for the protection of civil rights against the unjust overreach of the federal government. It is beyond me how the FBI and DOJ can justify their actions in these matters. The federal government is supposed to be that last line of defense against injustices placed on American citizens by states, workplaces, courts, etc. If the powers of the federal government are being employed as whips to keep citizens in line, that is already over the line that separates our society from totalitarianism. This cannot stand.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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