From Abbottabad to Brooklyn

For ten years while American troops searched for Bin Laden in the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan, it turns out he was hunkered down at a relative’s mansion in Pakistan. President Obama, who informed Pakistan’s President Zardari of the raid only after it was completed, has demanded answers. How was Bin Laden hiding all these years in plain sight?

Ignorance could fly coming from one of America’s largest recipients of foreign aid, but sheltering Bin Laden who was living yards away from an army base was intolerable. The Atlantic reported the initial response from Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani. The ambassador stated that “Mafia figures manage to do this sort of thing in Brooklyn.” Whoops.

Enter lobbyist Mark Siegel, a partner at Locke Lord Strategies, which gets paid $75,000 a month by the Pakistani government to keep those billions in U.S. aid flowing. Siegel knows that comparing Pakistan’s corruption to the Brooklyn judiciary wouldn’t be a smart public relations move. The question remains, however: Was the ambassador correct?

Brooklyn has a long history of harboring the country’s most notorious crime figures, with the district attorney playing the role of Captain Renault in Casablanca. “I’m shocked, shocked to find out there’s gambling going on in here,” Renault famously proclaimed after spending the evening in a casino. “Give me your winnings,” the crooked captain would say.

The recent capture of Bin Laden shows that corruption in the Brooklyn courthouse is no longer a local issue. The cronyism and influence peddling has become an international punch line, with Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes as the man behind the joke.

The New York Post reported that the DA took a bag of $12,000 in cash in one of his re-election campaigns, and pleaded down murder cases in exchange for campaign contributions. The Daily News editorial board exposed a kickback scheme where 1,200 people on the DA’s payroll were required to contribute a portion of their salary to the boss’s campaign committee.

So why does a stench growing in the Brooklyn courthouse matter to CounterPunch readers in Akron, Ohio or Moab, Utah? Because our courts are where we settle disputes in a civilized society. When corruption is accepted in America’s largest county, then it becomes easier to accept anywhere.

Of course, Hynes’ petty details of malfeasance in the end were overlooked by the New York Times editorial board, which endorsed the prosecutor for re-election in his last tightly contested race in 2005. The Times was impressed with the DA’s much-touted probe that year into judicial corruption ? a probe that netted a single judge who took a box of cigars and a thousand dollars in cash to throw a case.

Just goes to show that you can pull the wool over the eyes of the New York Times, but not Pakistani intelligence.

John O’Hara, an attorney who lives in Brooklyn, is the first American since Susan B. Anthony to be convicted criminally on charges of “illegal voting.” O’Hara has an on line petition supporting his bid for a pardon. www.freejohnohara.com


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