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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

There Are No "Talking Points" for Law Enforcement

This article first appeared in Eagle Rising.

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As a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent, I am taken back by the revelations this week that the FBI asked the Department of Justice for "talking points" in connection with the efforts of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) to obtain documents created by the FBI pertaining to the June 2016 meeting between then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton during the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.

ACLJ has released over 400 pages it has finally obtained from the FBI, which show an alarming amount of back and forth between the FBI and DOJ about the Lynch-Clinton meeting even before ACLJ sent in its FOIA request.last July. Yet, in October, ACLJ was advised that no documents existed. Eventually, we learn that over 400 pages of correspondence, in fact, existed, which are now in the hands of ACLJ-albeit heavily redacted..

Also troubling is the FBI's request to DOJ for guidance in responding to press inquiries and DOJ's giving the FBI "talking points" pertaining to the Lynch-Clinton matter. (Said talking points have been redacted from correspondence turned over to ACLJ.)

Talking points?

Excuse me, but talking points are something that bureaucrats and diplomats do especially when they are trying to cloud an issue. Law enforcement has no business dealing in talking points. They deal in facts. Quite often, law enforcement must refrain from letting certain facts out into the public in order not to compromise an on-going investigation. That is different. Usually, the police officials can be up front with that when they decline to answer a reporter's questions regarding an investigation.

When I was serving overseas with DEA and working at an American embassy/consulate, I had occasion to see State Department cables that listed "talking points" about one matter or another. This meant that this is what the receiving party was expected to say publicly about a particular matter. It wasn't necessarily false information; call it "spin" if you will. When you use the term, "talking points", however, you are not dealing in unvarnished truth and straight facts, at least that is the implication. The most charitable thing I could say about talking points is that it represents one's position on a matter. An example of a government talking point would be something like, "We take seriously any allegation of wrong-doing by any of our personnel."

The Lynch-Clinton meeting on a Phoenix airport tarmac raised questions as to whether "the fix was in" concerning the FBI investigation. James Comey's subsequent press conference in which he "exonerated" Mrs Clinton after laying out a pretty good case against her only compounded the controversy.

And if all that is not bad enough, we learned that Lynch was at some point added to the email distribution under an alias-Elizabeth Carlisle (her grandmother's maiden name)! Not only was Lynch using a secret email account to conduct government business, but this appears to directly contradict her sworn testimony before Congress that she had never done anything of the sort.

And of course, ACLJ has also learned that our trusty news media was only too willing to help bury the story as revealed in the just-released documents.

It is troubling that organizations like ACLJ and Judicial Watch have to go to court to enforce compliance with lawful FOIA requests. It involves a lot of time and money. The Lynch-Clinton matter is not a case of national security or even an on-going investigation as far as I can tell. If the matter is closed, the information sought by ACLJ should be turned over unredacted-talking points and all.

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