Chris Christie, is the blowhard, bully New Jersey Governor, best known for closing the world’s busiest Bridge in revenge against a political opponent in a political corruption fiasco known as “Bridgegate”. Christie ran a pitiful campaign for the Republican Nomination, because as a candidate he lacked charisma and was essentially unlikable. Like his prior Republican Presidential doppelganger, Rudy Giuliani, Christie’s campaign could be said to be “A noun and a verb and 9/11,” which was the description laid on Rudy by Joe Biden. Christie’s claim was that he was appointed a Federal Prosecutor on 9/10/2001 and that he spent his time as a prosecutor keeping America “safe from terrorism” after 9/11. This was the central claim of Christie’s pathetic Presidential campaign and obviously the voters weren’t buying the snake oil from this supreme egotistical failure. In this post my purpose isn’t to beat the dead political elephant that Christie has become, but to make two essential points about his phony candidacy that I think speak to larger issues. I don’t lay claim to being an investigative journalist, but the amount of research necessary to debunk the central premise of Christie’s campaign failure was minimal and that says much that is negative about what passes for television political analysis which allowed Christie to make his phony claims unchallenged. The other point I will discuss is the position of Federal Prosecutor that put wind under the scraggly wings of Chris Christie’s political career.
I’ve written much about my feeling that Federal Prosecutors have gone off the rails in their zeal for self promotion, which causes them to misuse the Law in a search for positive publicity. All you need do is type “Federal Prosecutor” into the search function and you will see 11 posts covering the subject. While Christie has already proven himself a loser, I think it is instructive to look at the basis of this politician’s claims that his record as a Federal Prosecutor made him uniquely qualified to protect our country from terrorism.
“On the Evening of May 7, 2007, 48-year-old Lata Duka was doing dishes in the kitchen of her home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, when she heard a loud bang come from the front of the house. “It wasn’t a normal sound. I was very scared,” Lata recalls nearly a decade later.
Thinking someone was breaking in, Lata grabbed a chair from the kitchen table and hoisted it above her head, waiting for the intruder. Moments later a swarm of armed men burst through the front door and ran into her kitchen. “Put the chair down or I’ll shoot!” she says one exclaimed, pushing his gun against her chest.
The armed men were FBI agents and other law enforcement officials. As they searched the house, one of the men approached Lata. He was smiling.
“He kept asking me, where are my sons!” Lata remembers. “Just smiling and going up and down the stairs, asking me all the time, where are your sons? I told him my sons were at work. He just kept smiling at me.”
Lata didn’t know that at roughly the same time, authorities were conducting raids at separate locations in Cherry Hill to arrest her three sons, Dritan, Shain and Eljvir Duka. Over 100 officers and agents were involved in what at the time was one of the most high-profile counter-terrorism arrests in the post-9/11 era.” Thus begins The Intercept’s “Fort Dix Five Terror Plot: The Real Story”. Chris Christie and the FBI played a major role in this terrorism sting, which in the end resulted in life sentences for these brother’s. What follows are the real facts of the matter, which makes real Christie’s role as an inveterate, self-serving bully.
“The next morning, Chris Christie, then the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, appeared at a press conference flanked by law enforcement officials to announce the arrests. “The philosophy that supports and encourages jihad around the world against Americans came to live here in New Jersey and threatened the lives of our citizens through these defendants,” he said.
Christie said that five men apprehended the previous night — the three Duka brothers along with two friends, Mohamad Shnewer and Serdar Tatar — had been planning to launch a terrorist attack against the nearby Fort Dix military base. “Fortunately, law enforcement in New Jersey was here to stop them,” he said.
The press conference and ensuing case garnered national attention, and the brothers and their friends quickly became known as the “Fort Dix Five,” characterized in the media as a terrorist cell that intended to kill servicemen and attack facilities at the base. For Christie, a possible contender for the GOP 2016 presidential nomination, the arrests would be a career turning point, helping galvanize his eventual rise to governor of New Jersey.”
“Conspiracy Laws” in our country have been used since our founding, as a means of dealing with groups of supposed lawbreakers. Valuable in some instances, their use in America has also been a method for suppressing dissent, punishing minorities and padding the crime fighting statistics of prosecutors and the FBI. In this case:
“Beyond the sensational headlines is the story of paid FBI informants with long criminal histories who spent a year working to befriend the brothers and enlist them as terrorists. This effort, both expensive and time-consuming, nevertheless failed to convince the Duka brothers to take part in a violent attack. Indeed, over the course of hundreds of hours of surveillance, the plot against Fort Dix was never even raised with them.
In the years since these events occurred, the use of dubious informants in terrorism investigations by the FBI has become almost routine. When purported terror plots are “revealed,” they almost invariably involve paid government informants at every level of their ideation, facilitation and planning. But the story of the Duka brothers is an early example of this type of case — and it still stands out because of the deliberate and brazen way the brothers were entrapped by authorities, assisted by their paid informants. Indeed, one might argue that the targeting of the Dukas was the prototype for the program of state-orchestrated terrorism plots that continues today.”
Follow the link above and read the rest of the facts of this story, which is merely another case of government “entrapment” which “is a practice whereby a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a criminal offense that the person would have otherwise been unlikely to commit.”
Here is a direct statement from Christie used as part of his campaign “stump” speech:
“I spent seven years of my life in the immediate aftermath of September 11th doing this work, working with the Patriot Act, working with our law enforcement, working with the surveillance community to make sure that we keep America safe.”
“We prosecuted two of the biggest terrorism cases in the world and stopped Fort Dix from being attacked by six American radicalized Muslims from a Mosque in New Jersey because we worked with the Muslim American community to get intelligence and we used the Patriot Act to get other intelligence to make sure we did those cases. This is the difference between actually been a federal prosecutor, actually doing something, and not just spending your life as one of hundred debating it.”
“Terrorism — radical jihadist terrorism — is not theoretical to me. It’s real. And for seven years, I spent my life protecting our country against another one of those attacks.”
You will also note that constantly Christie would claim that he was appointed Federal Prosecutor on 9/10/2001 and so immediately was called into anti-terrorist action when 9/11 occurred the following day, thus dramatizing his role in the affair. His appointment actually came in January of 2002, but why should we let nitpicking get in the way of an “heroic” narrative?
The second “major” terrorism case Christie refers to is that of Hemant Lakhani: “an Indian born British rice trader and sari salesman. He was convicted in 2005 of illegal arms dealing after purchasing a fake surface-to-air missile from a Russian intelligence agent posing as a disgruntled military officer, then attempting to sell that missile to a FBI agent posing as a Somali terrorist”
“Lakhani was prosecuted by U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Chris Christie. He was convicted by jury in April 2005 of attempting to provide material support to terrorists, unlawful brokering of foreign defense articles and attempting to import merchandise into the U.S. by means of false statements, plus two counts of money laundering. He was sentenced to 47 years in prison, and died in 2013.”
You will note that on both ends of his supposed terrorist transactions, Lakhani was dealing with government agents playing roles as “bad” people and pretending to do bad things.
About the Lakhani Case: “In a 2006 article in The Nation, Christopher Hayes wrote:In August 2003, to cite just one example, the New York dailies breathlessly reported what one US official called an “incredible triumph in the war against terrorism,” the arrest of Hemant Lakhani, a supposed terrorist mastermind caught red-handed attempting to acquire a surface-to-air missile. Only later did the government admit that the “plot” consisted of an FBI informant begging Lakhani to find him a missile, while a Russian intelligence officer called up Lakhani and offered to sell him one”.
As was summarized in Lakhani’s Wiki entry linked above: “U.S. government agents were continuously involved with Lakhani’s case, many claim to the point of entrapment. It is not clear that Lakhani, before allegedly being convinced by US agents, would have wished to obtain support for terrorism. It is also unclear whether Lakhani could ever have delivered on his promises of illegal arms to a government informant: When Lakhani was unable to obtain a missile, the U.S. government, acting through the intelligence community, provided him with one. Such counterterrorist strategies have been described by legal scholars as window dressing, because they target supposed enemies who are so weak as not to be a threat, and divert resources from addressing real threats.”
Here is the case summarized in another way by Reason.com:
“In short, Lakhani’s an idiot. After many twists and turns, the U.S. government winds up handling every single aspect of the transaction around Lakhani. This triumphant national security prosecution is actually the story of a 70-year-old small-time hustler who gets sent to jail for buying a fake missile from a fake arms dealer to be delivered to a fake terrorist group at an airport Hilton.
Lakhani is also an asshole, to be sure. There’s no doubt he believed he was doing business with Al Qaeda–affiliated terrorists who would use the weapons to kill Americans.
But is he a real threat whose capture justifies massive infringement on civil liberties and privacy? Chris Christie doesn’t care. In the NPR segment he acknowledges Lakhani isn’t terribly impressive, but says “I’m not going to sit around and second guess it. What was done was done, and I think ultimately the jury decided that question.” What’s more, Lakhani is “amoral” and “there are good people and bad people. Bad people do bad things. Bad people have to be punished. These are simple truths. Bad people must be punished.” Christie says, “I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t know, if this had fallen apart, what Hemant Lakhani would have done next,” but “That’s the kind of guy I want in federal prison, and so that’s where he’s going to go. And at the end, that’s the success of the Lakhani case.”
This case is often cited as a big win for the PATRIOT Act—Christie’s bragging about it on the [campaign] trail this week is nothing new—but it seems like a good time for a handy reminder that this is what “successful” applications of the controversial anti-terrorism law look like.”
And so it goes. Chris Christie’s two greatest national security triumphs turn out to be government sting operations, using entrapment, to round up people who are probably more threats to themselves, then they are to the nation. But you see that is the reality of what “prosecution” has become in the United States. Despite the tough talk from politicians like Christie, the reality is that it is mostly a sham. A Potemkin Village pretense that ALL of us are in deadly danger and these Law Enforcement personnel are protecting us from those deadly outside strangers. The scaremongers in government benefit from making all of us afraid of the terror of the unknown, because from our fear comes their power, their career success and the generous funding of their often futile endeavors.
It is political sophistry of the highest order, but damn it, it works. This is not to say that the act of terrorism that was done on 9/11 wasn’t a disgusting strike at innocent people, by those bent on harming our country and its citizens. However, as we now know, the CIA sent George W. Bush specific information that Al Qaeda was planning to attack skyscrapers with airplanes in the summer of 2001. Bush brushed off the information, as did his advisers. In the blundering of the supposed “grownups” of American Foreign and Defense policy, we have made our World less safe and cost many, many lives in the process. The geniuses of American Foreign and Defense policy created Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in the 1980’s. Our CIA armed them, trained them and provided financing for them, only to have them attack us in 2001.
In the end political charlatans like Chris Christie are a dime a dozen in the American oligarchy. Merely hungry people on the make for themselves, careless in the destruction that feeds their unsatiated egos with dreams of grandiosity. How sad it is for them and more importantly for us, that their “heroic” deeds done in the name of our safety are merely pretense. My own personal rule for judging our political leaders is the more tough talking they are, the more they are full of hot air, or other substances.