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Here's a Cut: Slash Justice Department Budget

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

The spectacle of Roger Clemens on trial for lying to Congress reveals once again the overreach of our federal government, and why we need wholesale budget cuts to salvage our freedom. Of course, the Clemens trial would not have existed at all had Congress, led by the insufferable Henry Waxman, just stifled their obsession with sanctimony and not held the hearing in the first place.

Mr. Waxman staged his investigation into steroid use “for the children.” That is rather ironic, because he has for decades been a stalwart opponent of reform in a public education system that condemns millions of children to illiteracy, welfare, and third-rate jobs, and has never expressed a hint of regret for rolling up trillions of dollars in Federal for which these same “children” will ultimately pay. (Author’s note – Mr. Waxman has no children of his own.) As much a waste of money the Clemens trial may be, it gets even worse.

I just finished reading Three Felonies a Day by Harvey Silverglate. The book was right up there on my list of all-time most infuriating reads, and would make any American totally disgusted with the state of our current federal government.

I sought out the opportunity to interview Mr. Silverglate, who lives among the hornet’s nest in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and – believe me – he is one fascinating man. Based on where he lives, his Jewish background, and the fact that the foreword to the book is written by Alan Dershowitz, I figured that Silverglate might be a liberal – a suspicion he confirmed, albeit describing himself as a “classic liberal.” He has the same disdain for Progressives as I do, and loved my comment that the only thing progressive about them is how they wish to progressively raise your taxes and progressively restrict your life. We both agreed that an out-of-control Justice Department is neither a liberal nor conservative issue, but that Americans of all political leanings should be disgusted with the direction that the Department has taken over the past couple of decades.

The essence of Silverglate’s book is that any honest American sitting at home (including everyone reading this column) can be charged with three felonies every day by the federal government, and that they can destroy your life. He states “the criminal statutes are so impossibly vague that no lawyer can predict when a particular action might be subject to an indictment.” The book illustrates these premises using a series of cases that Silverglate subsequently dissects.

Silverglate writes that when he became a defense attorney, he expected to be representing criminals like bank robbers, murderers, and embezzlers. What he has been doing is defending doctors, businessmen and other professionals , people he says “…who have no idea they are breaking any laws, and I believe are not guilty of any crimes.” The problem is that the system is so heavily slanted in favor of the prosecution that it’s almost impossible to survive once the feds take aim at you.

It starts with Title 18, Section 1001 of the U.S. Criminal Code, which makes it unlawful to tell a lie to a federal employee. Since there are over 2.1 million federal employees, it’s pretty easy to do, but the feds stack the deck against you even more. The FBI refuses to tape-record their interviews. They install two agents in the meeting, one of whom performs the interview while the other takes notes. They then return to their office and type up a report that becomes the “official transcript” of the meeting. So whatever the agents remember (or deem convenient) to put into the report is what becomes the testimony – accurate or not. This is why in so many high profile cases, the Justice Department can’t convict the defendants on the basis of the evidence, but nail them instead on phony-baloney charges of lying to a federal official.

Perhaps the scariest chapter describes how the feds are pursuing doctors over prescribing pain relievers. At a time when our population is aging – and pharmaceutical companies are developing medications to alleviate pains that often accompany aging – the federal government is unleashing a bunch of self-serving agents and attorneys to create a sense of panic among physicians whose only crime is helping their patients cope with physical discomfort. Once they have their eyes on a target – whether the doctor is innocent or not – his or her life is destroyed.

Mr. Silverglate explains how badly the system is poisoned. A large percentage of defense attorneys are former employees of the Justice Department, and they have a vested interest in not rocking the boat. Silverglate says they play ball with their former employer to gain clients, and the media doesn’t investigate the Justice Department because they want access to inside sources. These bogus cases demand ever more personnel, more judges and, of course, a never-ending stream of taxpayer dollars.

Case after case is described in this highly readable, riveting book that will make almost any honest, hardworking American citizen lose sleep at night worrying about what federal law they might be breaking and when the feds will be coming after them.

Next up on the docket is Lance Armstrong. The bigger the target, the bigger the gold star pinned on the U.S. attorney handling the case. Why the Justice Department would pursue these matters is beyond me, but I’m now convinced that the best way to stop these gangsters and their Mafioso tactics is to defund them. So here’s a suggestion – let’s cut the Justice Department budget by 30%. Then they’ll have to focus on core issues – and real criminals – instead of resume building. And perhaps they could have convicted those thugs who were blatantly guilty of voter intimidation in Philadelphia in 2008.

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