• $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • other
  • use Paypal

CALLING ALL COUNTERPUNCHERS! CounterPunch’s website is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. We are supported almost entirely by the subscribers to the print edition of our magazine and by one-out-of-every-1000 readers of the site. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners to the “new” Cuba. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads or click bait. Unlike many other indy media sites, we don’t shake you down for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it. So over the next few weeks we are requesting your financial support. Keep CounterPunch free, fierce and independent by donating today by credit card through our secure online server, via PayPal or by calling 1(800) 840-3683.


The US Department of Injustice


The US Department of “Justice” has a distinctly nuanced concept of that term, taking a tough, no-holds-barred stance when it comes to individuals — especially little people without much power or influence — and trying at all costs to avoid prosecution when it comes to the powerful, and to big corporations — especially big financial corporations. That schizoid approach to prosecution is personified in the recent actions–and inaction–of the DOJ’s man in Manhattan, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.

You remember Preet. He’s the guy who came down so hard on a deputy consul general of the Indian Consulate in New York who was accused by his office of “human trafficking.” Specifically, 39-year-old Devyani Khobragade stands accused of lying to US visa officials in New Delhi when she applied for a visa to bring an Indian maid to the US to work in her home, allegedly claiming to them that she would be paying the woman some $4500 a month, when the maid, who left the job, claimed she was paid just $573 monthly. The US prosecutor (himself a naturalized citizen and native of India who grew up in the US) had Khobragade arrested as she dropped her two children off at school, brought her to the federal lock-up in Manhattan, where she claims she was strip searched and cavity searched several times, and finally released her on $250,000 bond, to face felony charges that could potentially result in 10 years’ jail time. (Khobragade has denied the charges and claims that the maid in question was extorting her family.)

Explaining his tough approach to the case, Bharara has stated that Khobragade’s treatment under arrest was not harsh, and that she was simply subjected to “routine procedures of the US Marshal’s Service” for persons being placed in detention following arrest. In fact, he claimed she had been extended “special courtesies” such as being allowed to make multiple phone calls to assure that her children would be cared for in her absence, and being offered coffee by her arresting officers. Bharara also defended his department’s tough approach in this case saying that human trafficking is a serious crime and that “Foreign nationals brought to the United States to serve as domestic workers are entitled to the same protections against exploitation as those afforded to United States citizens.” He went on to declare that the alleged lying to visa officials and the alleged “exploitation of an individual” were something that “will not be tolerated.”

Some might immediately point out that exploitation of low-paid American workers is rampant — including in Bharara’s jurisdiction of New York–and that the Justice Department largely ignores it. (US workers routinely are defrauded out of overtime, get paid below minimum wage, are denied unemployment benefits they are owed, are forced to work in dangerous conditions, and are abused on the job and the “Justice” Department does nothing.) But even putting that huge hypocrisy aside, there’s the matter of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase.

This past week, Preet Bharara also announced that his office had reached an agreement with the nation’s largest “too-big-to-fail” bank on a fine and penalties of $2.5 billion for violating the Bank Secrecy Act. Specifically, JPMorganChase was accused of turning a blind eye to the record-breaking pyramid scheme of Wall Street scammer extraordinaire Bernie Madoff, who bilked clients out of a staggering $65 billion over two decades, largely working through one account he had at JPMorganChase.

Now, you’d think that for a crime that large and egregious, someone — and ideally it would be bank head Jamie Dimon — ought to have been frog-marched in cuffs out of JPMorganChase headquarters, and then brought down to the same lock-up Bharara had Khobragade taken to, there to be similarly given the “routine” treatment of strip searches and cavity searches that she got. (After all, Dimon became the bank’s president and chief operating officer back in July 2004, later becoming chairman and CEO too, and over that period the bank concedes there had been plenty of internal warnings about Madoff, who was essentially using the bank to execute his massive fraud.)

Nope. Didn’t happen.

In fact, while the the US Attorney’s Office claims Bharara and his prosecution team technically “filed” criminal charges against the bank (though not against any bank officials), when they met in a “congenial” setting with Dimon and his attorneys, it was agreed that there would be no criminal prosecution at all. Instead, the bank agrees to a fine of $1.7 million plus a payment of $350 million to the Comptroller of the Currency as well as some $500 million in compensation to victims, and said it would accept a “deferred prosecution agreement,” giving the bank two years to “overhaul its controls against money laundering.” After that time, all is to be forgotten, and the charges will be dropped. Under this sweetheart agreement, the bank did not have to plead guilty to anything as part of this deal, but was allowed instead to “stipulate to the facts of the case.” This is even though JPMorganChase admitted that its own office in the UK, in 2008, sent a detailed warning explaining to senior managers that Madoff’s whole operation appeared to be a scam. (Wouldn’t you get a deal like that after an arrest for pot possession or for DWI!)

Bharara insisted, at a press conference announcing the settlement and the agreement to drop any criminal prosecution against the bank, that it was a good deal. He went to great lengths to insist that the bank’s failure was “institutional,” implying that it would not be appropriate to prosecute individuals. He refused to comment on the suitability of Dimon to continue running the bank, though his office could easily have insisted on Dimon’s departure as part of any non-prosecution settlement. He also several times repeated that there were “concerns” about possible “collateral consequences” of a criminal prosecution. At one point, when questioned by a reporter, he explained that those “consequences” might include “employees being laid off, the bank failing, or shareholders losing money.” Of course, JPMorganChase failing would merely mean that the institution would be broken up, with the pieces being taken over by other institutions under supervision of the Office of Comptroller. Lost jobs? What about all the jobs lost because of Madoff’s scams? And as for shareholders, aren’t they the owners of the bank, who are supposed to be insisting that it is well run and acting in accordance with the law, not to mention looking out for fraud? If they weren’t doing that, then they deserve to lose money!

What’s really going on, though Bharara struggled mightily to avoid having to admit it, is that if you’re big enough and powerful enough, you don’t get criminally prosecuted by the DOJ.

Remember that phrase “Equal justice under the law”? It’s engraved on the front facade of the US Supreme Court an is supposed to be a fundamental American principle. Apparently it’s just a slogan though. If you’re the nation’s largest bank, or the boss of that bank, it doesn’t apply to you. Just ask US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara.

Maybe we should just change the name of Bharara’s parent agency to US Department of Injustice. At least that would be honest.

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).

October 13, 2015
Steve Martinot
The Politics of Prisons and Prisoners
Heidi Morrison
A Portrait of an Immigrant Named Millie, Drawn From Her Funeral
Andre Vltchek
Horrid Carcass of Indonesia – 50 Years After the Coup
Jeremy Malcolm
All Rights Reserved: Now We Know the Final TTP is Everything We Feared
Paul Craig Roberts
Recognizing Neocon Failure: Has Obama Finally Come to His Senses?
Theodoros Papadopoulos
The EU Has Lost the Plot in Ukraine
Roger Annis
Ukraine Threatened by Government Negligence Over Polio
Matthew Stanton
The Vapid Vote
Louisa Willcox
Tracking the Grizzly’s Number One Killer
Binoy Kampmark
Assange and the Village Gossipers
Robert Koehler
Why Bombing a Hospital Is a War Crime
Jon Flanders
Railroad Workers Fight Proposed Job Consolidation
Mel Gurtov
Manipulating Reality: Facebook Is Listening to You
Mark Hand
Passion and Pain: Photographer Trains Human Trafficking Survivors
October 12, 2015
Ralph Nader
Imperial Failure: Lessons From Afghanistan and Iraq
Ishmael Reed
Want a Renewal? Rid Your City of Blacks
Thomas S. Harrington
US Caught Faking It in Syria
Victor Grossman
Scenes From a Wonderful Parade Against the TPP
Luciana Bohne
Where Are You When We Need You, Jean-Paul Sartre?
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The US Way of War: From Columbus to Kunduz
Paul Craig Roberts
A Decisive Shift in the Balance of Power
Justus Links
Turkey’s Tiananmen in Context
Ray McGovern
Faux Neutrality: How CNN Shapes Political Debate
William Manson
Things R Us: How Venture Capitalists Feed the Fetishism of Technology
Norman Pollack
The “Apologies”: A Note On Usage
Steve Horn
Cops Called on Reporter Who Asked About Climate at Oil & Gas Convention
Javan Briggs
The Browning of California: the Water is Ours!
Dave Randle
The BBC and the Licence Fee
Andrew Stewart
Elvis Has Left the Building: a Reply to Slavoj Žižek
Nicolás Cabrera
Resisting Columbus: the Movement to Change October 12th Holiday is Rooted in History
Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000