My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Incidentally, my working title was “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes,” but my editor kindly translated it for y’all. Here you go:
Wisconsin’s Department of Justice was asked to investigate illegal leaks to the media by the now shuttered John Doe investigations. What the investigators found was more than just a few rogue prosecutors. They found a fascist political hit squad determined to use their police power to criminalize speech and silence their political opponents. Action must now be taken to punish the guilty and prevent it from ever happening again.
Wisconsin’s John Doe law allows a unique process where prosecutors are granted extraordinary powers to investigate in exchange for keeping everything secret. The intent of the law is to allow investigators to look for suspected criminal activity where there is not sufficient probable cause to use a normal investigatory process, but protect the reputations of those being investigated in the event no criminal acts are uncovered.
Leftist prosecutors and investigators abused this process as they hunted conservative people and groups in the wake of Gov. Scott Walker’s election in 2010. They used the broad powers granted to them under the John Doe process to sift through the lives of their political opponents while leaking selective information to the media. Then they used the process to silence the targets of their illegal investigations and did not even allow them to secure legal counsel for their own protections.
I strongly urge you to read the entire report written by the Department of Justice. It reveals behavior that would have been familiar to the Soviet Politburo in the 1950s, but it happened in Wisconsin in the 21st century. Here are a few of the more outrageous findings:
■ They seized “millions of documents that had been created over a period of several years” by “29 organizations and individuals.” This was not a targeted investigation looking for a crime. It was a political operation sweeping up their opponents’ private information.
Much of that information was copied, placed on several digital drives, and distributed, but no record was kept of who made copies or to whom all of that private information was distributed.
■ The prosecution team intentionally used Gmail and Dropbox accounts to avoid oversight.
■ A key hard drive that Shane Falk used is missing. It contained all of the leaked documents.
■ The specific information leaked was designed to influence the U.S. Supreme Court as it was considering a case related to the John Doe.
■ After the court repeatedly ordered the investigators to cease their investigation, the investigators repeatedly and knowingly copied and distributed the captured information.
■ After the court ordered all of the documents surrendered to the court, the DOJ found multiple caches of documents.
■ Many of the ill-gotten documents were stored in a files labeled “opposition research,” indicating the real purpose for their collection.
■ The John Doe persecutors also swept up and kept thousands of personal emails including private medical information. There is no rational investigatory value to these documents.
One has to read the entire report to fully appreciate the incredibly abusive behavior of a group of partisan activists using their broad investigatory powers to terrorize their political opponents.
Now that we can no longer hide behind the naïve illusion of impartial justice, we must act.
First, although the Government Accountability Board was rightly disbanded, many of the partisans who worked for it and were involved in the abuses of the John Doe persecutions just took new jobs working for the new Ethics and Elections Commissions. Anybody associated with those abuses must not be allowed in a similar position of power again. Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald have called for the resignations of those involved, but the bureaucrats have circled the wagons around their own. They have lost the mantle of impartial and dispassionate management of those Commissions. If they will not resign with honor, then they must be forced out with dishonor.
Second, the people directly involved in the abuses of the John Doe persecutions must be punished by whatever legal means available. This is important not only to punish the guilty, but to send the strong message that these kinds of abuses will not be tolerated in Wisconsin.
Third, Wisconsin must repeal the John Doe law. It is unique for a reason. It is unjust. The normal criminal justice process with all of the protections for victims and suspects that has grown through centuries of legal evolution is more than sufficient in dealing with suspected criminal activity. Government, secrecy and power rarely do a good job of protecting our civil liberties.
Finally, we must shed the misguided notion that great power can be so cavalierly handed to people presumed to be above petty human emotions and biases. We must reject any government entity that insists that it must operate in the shadows. No person is above corruption. No person is beyond the reach of our inherent sinful nature. Visibility and vigorous oversight must be our watchwords. Secrecy and unilateral power must be rejected.