FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Your Government is Closed

by DAVE LINDORFF

I was working on a story about the FBI’s harassment, intimidation and extortion of friends and associates of Ibragim Todashev, the man they executed at the end of a six-hour night-time interrogation in his apartment in Orlando, Florida earlier this year. Since his death, which the FBI initially claimed, variously, was the result of his lunging at an officer, or trying to grab the officer’s gun, or attacking the officer with a sword or a broom, but later admitted it couldn’t explain, the agency has been systematically picking up and intimidating, Gestapo-style, his girlfriend and other friends and associates, reportedly threatening them with deportation or arrest if they don’t agree to assist the FBI by spying on local mosques or middle eastern restaurants in Florida’s Islamic neighborhoods.

One particularly egregious case involved a friend of the late Todashev’s named Ashur Miraliev, who last month was picked up by the FBI, which claimed he was wanted for questioning on a charge of “intimidating a witness” to an alleged bar fight (a local, not a federal charge). Miraliev, according to the Florida office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), says that the agents, once they had him, never asked about that case, but wanted to question him about his relationship to Todashev, who had been a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder of the two brothers accused of the Boston Marathon bombing, and who died in a shootout with Boston police. Miraliev said he demanded an attorney, but was told he couldn’t have one, and was then grilled for hours in violation of his Miranda rights. He remains in a local jail on $50,000 bail on the “intimidation” charge, and has been there now for 15 days, unable to raise the bail.

I tried to call the FBI for comment, since one news report had quoted the FBI’s top flak, Paul Bresson, as claiming that the FBI would never question a witness who had requested an attorney’s presence, unless the witness agreed to be questioned without legal counsel. I wanted to ask how voluntary such questioning could be in this case, since Miraliev would clearly have known that his friend Todashev was killed by the FBI during his attorney-free interrogation. Not the kind of situation in which one would be comfortable refusing to answer questions, one would think!

Anyhow, when I called the FBI Public Affairs office, the phone just rang on and on. There was not even a voice-mail recording offering a journalist a chance to leave a message.

Curious about what was going on, I called the Justice Department, which oversees the FBI. That federal department’s press office line had a recording saying:

“In the event of a lapse of appropriations, this message will be listened to and responded to upon a funding resolution.”

Wow! That could be some wait. I left a message, but if Republicans continue to block passage of a rise in the debt ceiling, I may have to wait weeks for a response or maybe longer.

Wondering how many federal departments, agencies and offices have shut down their public affairs and press offices, I phoned the White House press office. That call elicited another recording. This one said:

“You have reached the White House press office. This office remains open during the lapse in appropriations, but with greatly reduced staffing. We are available to handle urgent or emergency requests but no one is available at this time to take this call. Please emailpress@who.eop.gov [2] with any urgent requests. Thank you. Sorry. Cannot leave a message now because user’s mailbox is full.”

So it has come to this: The US government, including the White House and the Justice Department and the FBI, are no better than the Apple help line or the Verizon Wireless customer support office, only without the Muzak.

Except that when you get lousy customer support from a company, at least you can change to another one.

What do we do in this case? Hmmmm….

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail