International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee

Political Dissent and Government Misconduct

On December 21, 2007, the New York Times reported that a document was declassified as part of a collection of cold-war documents concerning intelligence issues from 1950 to 1955. That document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), had a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans he suspected of disloyalty. This surprised many Americans. It shouldn’t have.

Despite the public image of the FBI as the nation’s premier law enforcement agency, it has always functioned primarily as America’s political police. This role includes not only the collection of intelligence on the activities of political dissidents and groups, but often times counterintelligence operations to thwart those activities.

As we have witnessed in the Peltier case, agents of the FBI tend to decide whether or not persons or groups are “politically correct” and agents also tend to believe they are above the law. The FBI tainted this case from the outset through the use of improper techniques, coercive tactics, poor investigation, and fabrication of evidence.

In addition, the federal prosecutors in this case—who knew or should have known about such misconduct, or who engaged in serious misconduct of their own—caused a conviction in large part by unscrupulous, untruthful, and overzealous and questionable behaviors such as courtroom misconduct; mishandling of physical evidence (hiding, destroying, and/or tampering with evidence, case files or court records); failing to disclose exculpatory evidence; threatening, badgering, and/or tampering with witnesses; and using false or misleading evidence.

The problems of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) are not unique to the Peltier case as evidenced by these sample news reports:

  • “3000 Tainted FBI cases,” Newsday, 17 March 2003.
  • Anderson, Curt. “Study on FBI finds fault, urges change,” Associated Press, 27 Feb 2004.
  • Jehl, Douglas. “Judge rules false testimony used to convict ex-CIA spy of arms sale,” NY Times, 30 Oct 2003.
  • Schaeffer, Jim. “Ashcroft admonished, but not facing charges,” Detroit Free Press, 05 Sep 2003.
  • “U.S. attorneys fired [allegedly for political reasons]; Patriot Act provision questioned,” NY Times, 15 Jan 2007.
  • “$101m civil verdict for wrongful convictions in gangland murder,” Boston Globe, 26 Jul 2007. (The DOJ has appealed this verdict.)

Government reports in the recent past have found fault with lab procedures (“FBI abandons disputed test for bullets from crime scenes,” Associated Press, 02 Sep 2005; “DOJ faults FBI for fingerprinting error,” Associated Press, 11 Mar 2006; and “FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades,” Washington Post, 18 Apr 2015 ), as well as determined that the DOJ is not in compliance with its own guidelines as regards wiretapping (“Justice Department report cites FBI violations,” NY Times, 09 March 2006) and the use of informants (“FBI violating informant guidelines: Inspector General finds 87 failure rate,” Boston Globe, 13 Sep 2005).

Whether it is exposure of the fact that the FBI’s crime lab has fabricated physical evidence for the purpose of obtaining convictions of possibly innocent people; the frame-up (and subsequent life imprisonment) of three men the FBI knew to be innocent so as to protect a murderous mob informant (“Everything Secret Degenerates: The FBI’s Use of Murderers as Informants,” Washington, DC: Committee on Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, Nov 2003); prosecutors’ violation of a court order with regard to coaching witnesses in confessed Al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui’s trial; the falsification of documents and other evidence (“Report finds cover-up in a FBI terror case,” NY Times, 04 Dec 2005); withholding exculpatory evidence (“Former prosecutor in terror case indicted,” NY Times, 30 Mar 2006)—or other examples far too numerous to review here—the pattern remains consistent.

The Peltier case is only one of many federal cases that demonstrates rampant investigative and prosecutorial misconduct on the part of the DOJ. Further, politically motivated official misconduct by agents of the FBI and federal prosecutors is not a thing of the past.

Consequently, we continue to petition Congress for strict oversight of the DOJ, in general, and the Bureau, in particular, and protection of our constitutional rights.

We also will continue to pursue:

  • hearings on the Pine Ridge “Reign of Terror” and the Peltier case; and
  • release of tens of thousands of documents regarding the Peltier case still withheld by the FBI.

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