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This past week, the news of Jacob Ostreicher’s still unexplained surprise exit from Bolivia and the extraordinary extent of the National Security Administration’s program of spying as revealed by Edward Snowden took center stage. And there are important lessons to be learned from both developments in terms of how we should view criminal justice issues.
Mr. Ostreicher, a Jewish-American businessman, came to Bolivia to salvage his business interests there, which were substantial. He was held in a Bolivian jail for 18 months, purportedly on suspicion of having engaged in money laundering, though he was never formally charged with a crime. As it happens, several governmental and police officials, including a judge and several prosecutors, were charged with involvement in a scheme to extort wealthy foreigners and Bolivian citizens on fabricated suggestions of criminal wrongdoing.
Rather than being released after these developments, however, Mr. Ostreicher was placed under house arrest, again without any formal charges being filed against him. This went on for approximately a year until his apparently clandestine exodus last week.
Despite the apparent frame-up and the fact that Mr. Ostreicher was never criminally charged, the Bolivian government reacted angrily to the news that he had slipped out of the country. The statement of Bolivian Justice Minister Cecilia Ayllon was particularly telling. She said she didn’t know whether the U.S. government played a role in Mr. Ostreicher’s leaving Bolivia but that “His escape demonstrates that he was involved in the crimes he’s accused of.”
She added that Bolivia had alerted Interpol to the matter and was considering requesting Ostreicher’s extradition from the U.S., with which Bolivia has an extradition treaty. Left unsaid, however, was that relations between Bolivia and the U.S. have been strained since the American ambassador to Bolivia was expelled in 2008. Or that this past July, the Bolivian president, Evo Morales, threatened to break relations after he accused the U.S. of trying to persuade European governments to block his return from Russia based on the suspicion that the aforementioned fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden was on board his presidential plane.
Plainly there is a subtext to the Ostreicher matter. How high up the corruption went is still unknown, but the fact that Mr. Ostreicher was not released after those Bolivian officials were charged in that extortion scheme strongly suggests that the corruption went higher up than the officials already implicated.
In addition, the fact that the justice minister of a country of 10 million people could criticize the desperate acts of someone imprisoned for no apparent reason should tell us that we should always be wary about accepting official actions on their face. Rather, we should be sensitive to possible political dimensions or even outright venality.
The case of Jonathan Pollard comes to mind. Not in terms of his guilt or innocence but with regard to the harshness of the fate meted out to him. By any objective standard, his sentence was unique. And is anyone prepared to dismiss the notion that politics impacted the disposition of his case?
An important gloss is also provided by the latest Snowden revelations, which confirm something any student of history worth his or her salt already knew: countries spy on one another, and they do it all the time.
Notwithstanding Jonathan Pollard’s claim that he spied on the U.S. for Israel solely for altruistic reasons, it always rankled even many in the pro-Israel community that he did, after all, spy against the U.S., Israel’s only ally and greatest benefactor. Yet the rage that his case engenders in the military and intelligence communities has always seemed beyond reason, even more so now that the Snowden revelations remove even the slightest doubt that the U.S. and other countries routinely spy on each other, and in more sophisticated and effective ways than Mr. Pollard could have ever dreamed of.
Moreover, any damage Mr. Pollard was alleged to have caused was never proven in a court of law. The only thing he was convicted of was what he pleaded guilty to – the illegal transfer of governmental documents. And yet to hear some of his more ardent critics, one would think he nearly caused the downfall of the republic.
That’s why it’s so important to avoid getting carried away by the emotions of the moment and to never forget that rationality in government and individual freedom are the cornerstones of democracy.
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Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.
Why does the Times relay different motivations and narratives for jihadists in Europe and Israel?
To defeat parasites-the hosts of terrorists-we need to deny them new people, potential terrorists
Desperate people take what they can, seizing opportunity to advance their main goal; the Arabs don’t
There was a glaring void in the President’s State of the Union speech: Israel.
Let’s focus not on becoming an ATM for that little bundle of joy, but on what you can save in taxes.
Since the passing of the Governance bill legislation on March 11, 2014, new alignments have become to appear in Israeli politics.
Israel has some wild places left; places to reflect and think, to get lost, to try to find ourselves
The British government assured Anglo-Jewry that it is attacking the rising levels of anti-Semitism.
Obama’s Syrian policy failures created the current situation in the Golan Heights.
Our journey begins by attempting to see things differently, only then can we be open to change.
Despite Western ‘Conventional Wisdom&PC,’ the Arab/Israeli conflict was never about the Palestinians
Confrontation & accountability, proven techniques, might also help dealing with religious terrorists
In fact, wherever you see soldiers in Paris today, you pretty much know you’re near Jewish site
In this particular case, the issue was whether the Arkansas prison system could prohibit, for security reasons, a devout Muslim’s maintaining a beard of a certain length as a matter of religious practice.
Despite the president’s respectable anti-terrorism record, he doubtless has little interest in being identified with anything that might suggest, however tangentially, criticism of Muslims or Islam.
One wonders what connection that rejection has with turning to the ICC, which would allow the Palestinians to bring war-crime charges against individual Israelis and is certainly one more step away from seeking a negotiated settlement.
In the NPR interview, Mr. Obama said Iran could become a “very successful regional power” if it agreed to a long-term nuclear deal.
Thus, despite the increasingly serious problems for the mayor arising out of the current anti-police protests, Mr. de Blasio apparently will be cut no slack by those who seem to be aiming for a significant role in running the city from the streets and who will do whatever they can to prevent their momentum from ebbing.
Despite strong pressure to throw the book at the accused, Mr. Thompson allowed him to plead guilty to assault.
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