Thursday, November 15, 2007

Same Game For Memphis FBI Head

It’s probably just us, but it seems time for Memphis FBI Special Agent in Charge My Harrison to get back to Quantico for some in-service training.

More and more, her comments at media conferences called in the wake of whomever is indicted this week come across as headline hunting at best and unprofessional at worst.

She’s become the antithesis of the circumspect and carefully modulated approach taken by Memphis U.S. Attorney David Kustoff. Some in Mr. Kustoff’s office have expressed some discomfort, but in a nod to the political theater of these things, they recognize the important value of having an African-American at the podium as indictment after indictment was returned against African-American Democratic political power brokers.

After so much deserved criticism about suspicions of racial profiling in the federal investigations, she seemed almost flippant when the long sought after indictment of a white elected official - any white official - finally came, against former Shelby County Commissioner Bruce Thompson.

“What can I say other than same game, different name,” she said.

Well, what you could say is this: “Those of us at the FBI have conducted a thorough investigation, we are proud of our work, we believe that the charges are warranted and we look forward to the jury’s decision on these matters.”

Her dramatic soliloquy about “cover of darkness,” “back of the room” and public corruption’s “ugly head” may get her the favorable press she seems to want, but they do little to project the façade of professionalism that is the hallmark of the “I.”

It triggers memories when an eager young reporter looking for an inflammatory comment in the wake of an indictment called a former county sheriff. His response: “We did our job. It is to investigate. It’s now up to others to decide if we are right, and we look forward to presenting our case to the jury.”

If a county sheriff can respond with that degree of professionalism, it shouldn’t be too to expect it from the law enforcement agency arguably considered the best in the world.

And in an era where there are so many suspicions about the activities of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, it’s more reassuring to hear comments of calm confidence than the macho remarks by the head of an investigative agency office with tens of millions of dollars to spend and dozens of agents to deploy.

Maybe that’s one quote by Ms. Harrison got our attention for its inadvertent double meaning. In her soundbite for an earlier conference, she said something like: Tap, tap, tap, you never know where we’ll go next.

In light of the Bush Administration’s passion for warrantless wire taps and the Department of Justice’s support for that position, that one hit a little too close to home.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought of that myself. Thompson is innocent until proven guilty, right, not guilty just because she thinks so.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but think "affirmative action".

Tom Guleff said...

I can't believe that these dealings were not considered conflict of interests in the first place. It is going to take a lot to get politicos to stop these practices while in office.

Anonymous said...

It just makes more sense and it's more fair if she'd keep her comments until someone is actually convicted?

Anonymous said...

Well someone's a little pissy, that's for sure. I certainly agree with the sentiment of your article. Every time one of these indictments comes down there seems to be an air of despair and discouragement about our community among my family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. In that context Ms. Harrison's comments about seem strangely glib.

Anonymous said...

Get real! There should be nothing but kudos for everyone working in that office. My Harrison's comments bring a smile to many faces because they ring true. Sure it's a little theatrical but they're true and they get the message across. Not to mention, she is not addressing the particular case but crime as a whole. I think she shows it's not about race, it's about right and wrong. If we could have a few dozen Kustoff's, Harrison's and the others in that office we'd be much better off.

Anonymous said...

After reading this article (and noting the "affirmative action" comment), I can't but wonder whether My Harrison is under a heightened level of scrutiny b/c the target now is a clean cut white guy with soap star looks.

Smart City Consulting said...

Just for the record, this isn't criticism of the FBI investigations themselves. In fact, the two agents heading most of these - Brian Burns and Mark Jackson - are the epitome of FBI button-down professionalism and discretion.

It's veteran FBI agents that wince the most at comments by Ms. Harrison, because they know they're over the line for an investigator.

And whether her comments bring a smile to your face is no measure of whether they are appropriate. At the point that she's making these comments at these news conferences, nobody has been convicted. They have just been charged.

We don't care what she says after conviction, but we continue to maintain that it's over the line at the point that someone has been charged. Remember: they are still presumed innocent by U.S. Constitution that Ms. Harrision is charged to uphold.

We think US Attorney Kustoff much more captures the approach and attitude that fit the purpose of the news conference.

And if you think that we've only reserved comments because a white Republican was indicted, you haven't been reading.

Smart City Consulting said...

Tom Guleff: You raise the most pertinent point, as usual.

Smart City Consulting said...

In a quick review of indictments in other cities, it seems to me that the FBI usually strikes a serious pose and only repeats the facts of the indictments. Based on my legal experience, it's the personal commentaries that make comments here unusual.

Smart City Consulting said...

Tom Guleff: Here's the explanation from the county attorney's office. It wasn't considered a conflict because Mr. Thompson did not have a vote on appropriations of the city school budget. Also, a county lawyer says that the opinion by the county attorney was "limited" and was in the absence of the details of the arrangement. He didn't answer the question of whether the details would have changed the opinion.

Anonymous said...

Didn't stories about Bobby Bonds indictment say that the FBI declined comment? I didn't see anyone in the California office grand standing - excuse the pun.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to disagree with you guys at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I think you're right. Gutsy. A different look.

can't wait for the day said...

Smart City...

Please don't think I am defending Ms FBI. However, your criticism of an African American woman that has been USED as a political PROP to help execute Karl Rove's facist political strategyum for the national Republican Party to capture certain southern states by demoralizing the Democratic political structure in those states using Justice Dept prosecutions, is "par for the Memphis course" of disrespect and arrogance shown to the "judgement" of African Americans in this region.

I can't wait for the next major local elections when we African Americans can deliver an entire set of elected African Americans similar to the "politically born-again Willie Herenton's" and myself, who WILL tell "y'all" ... to "KISS OUR ASSES!"

Essentially, that's what your article tells US today... our judgements don't MATTER... no matter how "useful" we try to make ourselves!

Say, "Amen" Sister Ms FBI...

PS: Hopefully Hillary or Obama will select a "Rove" type US Attorney General to "retaliate against already crooked Republicans like Don Sunquist, Jim Rout, Jack Sammons, Tom Marshall, etc !!!!

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