By Ralph Nader
Secret laws, secret courts, secret evidence, secret dragnet snooping, too big to fail, too big to jail… the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not been fully living up to its name.
As Attorney General Eric Holder prepares to step down, it is time to look forward and ask what his replacement must bring to the table for our country. The United States has been increasingly dominated by law-dodging, self-serving big corporations. Wall Street continues its corporate crime wave; strip-mining the economy whilst providing huge bonuses to its executives. The Executive Branch has run amok with acts of imperial military aggression, unlawful imprisonment and many civilian fatalities with no legal consequences.
President Obama should strongly consider the areas that Mr. Holder’s Justice Department has failed to adequately act upon when choosing his successor. The new attorney general will have the responsibility to establish trust and confidence with the American people that their Department of Justice is doing its job sufficiently.
Here is a brief list of areas where AG Holder’s Justice Department has been inadequate in enforcement.
Corporate criminals have unrepentantly looted and drained trillions of dollars from American workers and investors, wiping out their savings and pensions. No Wall Street executives were prosecuted for their part in the economic collapse in 2008-2009.
One important step the DOJ could take is establishing a comprehensive database on corporate crime. Imagine if the Department of Education had no measures for how well our children learn or if the U.S. Department of Agriculture had no idea of how much wheat or corn our farmers grew? This is the how the DOJ operates in its handling of corporate crime today.
For street crime, the FBI oversees the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, which tracks data from over 18,000 local and state law enforcement agencies. The DOJ should launch a similar data compiling program for corporate crime. Such a database would catalog antitrust and price-fixing, environmental crimes, financial crimes, overseas bribery, health care fraud, trade violations, labor and employment-related violations, consumer fraud and damage to consumer health and safety, and corporate tax fraud onshore and offshore.
In order to enforce the law, the authorities at the DOJ must have tools in place to measure the incidence and severity of corporate crime, to determine whether its efforts against them are successful or not, and the many ways they might be improved. Establishing such a database — called for by corporate reformers for many years — could be an excellent first step for the incoming attorney general.
Another area in which Attorney General Holder has failed is his inaction on the out-of-control national security state. Holder signed off on the National Security Agency’s legal authority to sweep up the phone and email records of millions of Americans not charged or suspected of any crime. This mass dragnet snooping is a clear violation of the Constitution. Whereas Attorney General Holder failed to go after the Wall Street criminals, he disturbingly did not hold back in prosecuting whistleblowers of security state wrongdoing and their reporters.
It would greatly benefit the new attorney general to take drastic steps in protecting the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans by establishing an open legal process on how and why data is collected.
Attorney General Eric Holder has maintained that there is sufficient due process entirely inside the White House to engage in military aggression overseas without Congressional oversight or judicial review. The result is a continuation of the Bush-era secretive imperial presidency that bypasses the Constitution’s separation of powers and checks and balances in unending wars of choice.
Using drone strikes, the White House has usurped the authority to target anyone suspected of terrorist ties based on secret information, whether or not the targeted person is actually plotting an attack against the United States, and whether or not innocent family members or bystanders are nearby. The next attorney general should apply the Constitution and international law to rein in these dictatorial actions by the out-of-control White House.
The next attorney general must, above all else, respect the Constitution and the rule of law. Our country cannot afford and does not deserve an attorney general who puts political loyalty above the sworn obligation to respect and defend civil liberties, civil rights, challenge the abuses of executive power and corporate crime.