A nation divided

For a view of repression under a Democratic president after the creation of the FBI, see www.progressive.org/archive/1917/june/rightofcitizen

Before 1908, there was no Federal Bureau of Investigation. The country’s largest detective agency was Pinkerton, a private investigative agency. They were the answer to “Who are those guys?” asked by Butch Cassidy and many other robbers and killers.

But progressives resented the Pinkertons. They wanted a public federal agency that, according to progressive doctrine, would be unbiased and efficient. It would be managed on scientific principles of forensics and overseen by democratically elected representatives. Hatred of the private sector, of the profit motive, and consumer sovereignty are hallmarks of the progressive mindset.

Once created, the new Bureau of Investigation (Federal came later) gained its first national attention by vigorously prosecuting the Mann Act, which punished black men, like the famous boxer Jack Johnson, for “trafficking” their white girlfriends across state lines. Later, they gained popular support as crime fighters through movies like The FBI starring Jimmy Stewart, and by publishing the FBI’s “Most Wanted List.”

Its most famous director, the paranoid J. Edgar Hoover, thoroughly politicized the FBI by spying on politicians and civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King. As the FBI became politicized, it gradually turned away from investigating real crimes toward “national security.”

In recent times the reputation of the FBI has declined due to revelations of incompetence and corruption. The Bureau failed to stop the Boston and Orlando attacks, while it entraps deluded but harmless Muslims through paid informants. Its cyber-crimes unit is staffed with third raters. Google “FBI incompetency.”

FBI Director James Comey wrapped up the criminal investigation of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with a whimper, not a bang. Comey has a reputation on Capitol Hill of being a “straight shooter,” but he shot the principle of equality before the law in the foot by declining to prosecute Hillary Clinton for even a misdemeanor. Many ordinary Americans are prosecuted for felonies for much less “extreme carelessness.” Comey’s decision to avoid making history but instead opting for a safe career and nice retirement—no doubt to write a book regretting his decision—simply adds to the reputation of the FBI as careful to protect the powerful, and its own ass, while persecuting the defenseless.

Within days, the country was shocked by videos of apparently unjustified police shootings of black men in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, followed by the murderous rampage by a black military veteran shooting 14 Dallas police officers after a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration.

Is America coming apart? The Red and Blue political gangs are unwilling to work together but always willing to point fingers at each other. The Blues, like President Obama and presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, emphasize gun control and white guilt. The Reds, except for the libertarians, talk about black on black violence and eternal support for the police.

The progressives got their constitutionally unauthorized federal detective agency, and the Pinkertons are a shadow of what they could have been. Are we better off?

What the progressives did was create an intertwined law enforcement system where everyone works under qualified immunity, meaning that they cannot be held personally liable for acts committed on duty. If an officer is successfully sued, the taxpayer—not the individual officer—pays the victims. The police are a protected class.

I credit Black Lives Matter for its proposals to remove some of the extraordinary legal privileges police have when they shoot a civilian. Private investigators like the Pinkertons can be individually sued if they violate civil rights. Qualified immunity should be removed for acts of police brutality, and the individuals responsible exposed to tort liability.