Yeh emails hai mushkil

US Elections FBI chief does a caged parrot act on America and the world
Voices Opinion Monday, October 31, 2016 - 22:44

My sleuth sense tells me that FBI Direct James Comey is protecting his derrière. There can be many reasons for this, but two are moot. There could be a bloodbath at the Federal Bureau of Investigation over the Hillary Clinton emails. Comey and a few others may have ‘seen’ something that he has not seen or none has seen. Which would make him and the others accomplices to something they don’t want to be to, irrespective of who wins the race to the White House.  Otherwise, why on earth would someone who holds such an important position sit on the fence less than ten days ahead of the elections in America and then blurt out something that sets the cat among the pigeons?

Earlier this year Comey said the FBI had completed its investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s personal server and there wasn't anything to write home about. Now, in light of recent developments Comey says he wants to supplement his earlier testimony.

In a leaked note, he says in connection with an unrelated case, the FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear ‘pertinent’ to the investigation. “I am writing to inform you that the investigative team briefed me on this yesterday, and I agreed that the FBI should take appropriate investigative steps designed to allow investigators to review these emails to determine whether they contained classified information, as well as to assess their importance to our investigation,” he added. In other words, a person who can be President of the United States (US) is back under investigation. Read the leaked memo here

This is like Ranjit Sinha, former head of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) telling media persons that he is a ‘caged parrot’ that can neither fly nor stay quiet. India is not America and New Delhi does not control international levers so Singh's laments don't make international headlines and cause concerns. Besides in India people who back the corrupt are reinstated as Governors or given Ambassadorial positions in foreign countries. It is unlikely that Comey, who, at the very least has damaged the FBI, is going to come out with flying colours. For effect, he said the FBI cannot take a final stand because it is too early!

At the centre of the controversy is Huma Abedin, a close aide of Hillary Clinton who was married to Congressman Anthony Weiner. Among other 'activities', Weiner was, in his own words, sexting six women. After the usual ‘error of judgement’ and ‘I love my family’ statements he stepped down. The marriage broke and Abedin also put out statements that the decision to move on was difficult but necessary as the couple have a child. Till this point all emails had been handed over to the FBI by all including Hillary Clinton and all was kosher.

News reports now says the FBI knew of mails between Abedin and her husband weeks before last Friday when they leaked and did not rule out the possibility of confidential information reaching Weiner as husband and wife at that time shared a computer. Why anybody handling sensitive information as Abedin would have a shared computer must be the subject of another investigation, but for now that is all we have in the public domain. Experts have been commenting on the roles of the US Department of Justice (DOJ), that of the Attorney General and hierarchy within the American system or who reports to whom to secure what type of clearance. Calling it a mess would be an understatement. 

At the time of writing, it looks like Halloween ghouls have descended on the Clinton campaign disguised as some 30,000 emails. At this point, Clinton has more to answer than Republican nominee Donald Trump. There is more. In an interview to Wolf Blitzer of CNN, former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani said there was ‘evidence’ that Hillary Clinton swayed the Swiss banking giant United Bank of Switzerland (UBS) to go easy on the Clinton Foundation. “UBS was under investigation by the IRS (America’s tax authority) to reveal 52,000 identities of Americans. UBS donated over $3 million to the Clinton Foundation gave Clinton a $1.5 million dollar speaking fee and Secretary went to Geneva and asked the Internal Revenue Service to go easy on Switzerland and they gave up only four thousand documents.” The background to this is the massive attack that the American government mounted on UBS to disclose names of American who had evaded tax in their own country to keep their wealth and assets in Switzerland. At the time, it was reported that some 19,000 Americans held over $20 billion in cash and assets in the Swiss bank. The UBS finally settled and paid $780 million in fines to the US. Watch here. 

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Institutional damage that may be wreaked on the FBI will be worse than any of the individuals concerned. Clinton could begin her term under the pall of an investigation or Trump could pull up the FBI for a shabby job. Both situations are bad for a country that is required to show global leadership at a moment of deep turmoil. Institutions are the enduring triumphs of democracies however small or large. The American one is the free world’s most resilient, one that impeached a President. In 1974, the 37thPresident of the US Richard M. Nixon was impeached and removed from office in what came to be known as the Watergate scandal. 

Something is smelling foul in Washington. Again.

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