Chris Christie

Christie Should Really Stop Bragging About That Time He Used the PATRIOT Act to Entrap an Idiot

The New Jersey governor says he has a record of locking up dangerous terrorists. A closer look at one of his biggest cases suggests otherwise.

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This week presidential wannabe Gov. Chris Christie has been trotting out a line we're sure to hear many more times during his campaign:

"I'm the only person in this national conversation who has used the PATRIOT Act, signed off on it, convicted terrorists because of it."

Which means it's time for a refresher on one of the two cases to which he is almost certainly referring: The prosecution of Hemant Lakhani. 

The story, as told in this classic 2005 This American Life episode, is a tale of ineptitude, entrapment, and bureaucratic self-perpetuation, starring very young U.S. attorney Christopher (!) Christie.

The episode is a full hour, and you should absolutely listen to (or at least read) the whole thing. But until then, enjoy some highlights from Christie's dogged the pursuit of this dangerous terrorist:

Here is a list of what Lakhani claims he can acquire, when prodded by an FBI informant:

  • Stinger missiles
  • ammo
  • submarines
  • night-vision goggles (although the exchange makes clear that he think that might just be another term for sunglasses)
  • plutonium in 22-pound bottles
  • anti-aircraft weapons
  • landmines
  • radioactive suitcase bombs.

Here is a list of weapons he is actually able to acquire on his own for this informant:

  • Nothing.

Here is a list of people Lakhani claims to be friends with:

  • Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi
  • former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto
  • the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
  • the President of Congo
  • U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom he offers to summon to an NPR reporter's house on 48 hours notice. 

Here is how he tries to pay an arms dealers for a missile:

  • a personal check.

In short, Lakhani's an idiot.

After many twists and turns, the U.S. government winds up handling every single aspect of the transaction around Lakhani. This triumphant national security prosecution is actually the story of a 70-year-old small-time hustler who gets sent to jail for buying a fake missile from a fake arms dealer to be delivered to a fake terrorist group at an airport Hilton.

Lakhani is also an asshole, to be sure. There's no doubt he believed he was doing business with Al Qaeda–affiliated terrorists who would use the weapons to kill Americans. 

But is he a real threat whose capture justifies massive infringement on civil liberties and privacy? Chris Christie doesn't care. In the NPR segment he acknowledges Lakhani isn't terribly impressive, but says "I'm not going to sit around and second guess it. What was done was done, and I think ultimately the jury decided that question." What's more, Lakhani is "amoral" and "there are good people and bad people. Bad people do bad things. Bad people have to be punished. These are simple truths. Bad people must be punished." Christie says, "I don't have a crystal ball and I don't know, if this had fallen apart, what Hemant Lakhani would have done next," but "That's the kind of guy I want in federal prison, and so that's where he's going to go. And at the end, that's the success of the Lakhani case."

This case is often cited as a big win for the PATRIOT Act—Christie's bragging about it on the trail this week is nothing new—but it seems like a good time for a handy reminder that this is what "successful" applications of the controversial anti-terrorism law look like.

Listen to the whole thing here.

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  1. New Jersey Democrat Chris Christie will never be president.

    1. For some people, presidential candidacy is a vanity thing.

      1. +1 Trump Has A Big Announcement

    2. How dare you “Fat Shame”!

    3. On the plus side, as long as he’s campaigning he’ll never be Governor either.

  2. That’s the kind of guy I want in federal prison, and so that’s where he’s going to go.

    And some asshole who would say something like that is the kind of guy I want nowhere near the fucking White House.

    1. Or near any position of power for that matter.

    2. A decade as a Federal Prosecutor with political ambitions does terrible things to a soul.

      1. Federal Prosecutor with political ambitions and soul.

        Mutually exclusive.

        1. Pick two.

        2. Exhibit 1: Eliot Spitzer

    3. In his defense, he says that about everybody.

    4. Anybody who trots out his use of the PATRIOT ACT in support of his candidacy is the kind of guy I want in federal prison.

  3. There’s no doubt he believed he was doing business with Al Qaeda?affiliated terrorists who would use the weapons to kill Americans.

    Sounds to mean like he was trying to scam al-qaeda.

    Of course, that implies that al-qaeda is run by blithering idiots just like the FBI.

    1. Al Qaeda actually has some successes it can point to.

      “Two World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, my main man…..and what do you have?”

      1. I walked ON THE MOON!

        1. Let’s all remember – never challenge Buzz Aldrin on this point…

  4. Shorter title: Christie Should Really Just Stop

    1. Judging by his eating habits…he’s not good at just stopping.

  5. alt text: not bad, but I think he took way more than one bite.

  6. OT: My wife just failed her driving test here in the great state of Texas. She just became a little more libertarian. Best quote of her rant: “Now I understand why people blow up government buildings!”

    It’s funny mostly because she is a much safer driver than I am about 90% of the time. Anyhow, she will continue to operate her vehicle without permission from the State.

    1. Does she still hold a Florida license?

      1. Yeah, if she holds a license from anywhere else, she’s good. that’s what I did when I moved. Drove around on my old NM license for almost two years.

      2. Wait…

        Someone who holds a license from another state has to retake an actual drivers test when they move to Tex-ass? Like get in a car, with a brake pedal on the passenger’s side, with an old man who collects checks from the DMV for being a crotchety old asshole, and drive around the block and parallel park, like a 16 year old, drivers test?

        1. When my wife moved to Texas in 2010 that wasn’t the case (I already has a Texas license).

        2. Used to be that way in Washington. I drove on my old state license until they changed the law.

          And it was a scam, too. They’d take your fee for the first test and fail you. Guaranteed. Everyone… and I mean EVERYONE I know who had to take the driving test failed for infinitesmally small infractions. Signaling only 70′ before the turn. Hands weren’t at 10 & 2 when you came out of the turn etc.

          Then you’d take the second test (and they’d collect the second fee), they’d have you drive around the block and mark you as “passed”.

          1. You had a driving test in Washington state? I just showed up here last year, showed them my drivers license from Arizona, paid the license fee and was good to go.

        3. No. She let her FL license expire and didn’t realize until after we had car insurance in TX.

          1. ERROR. ERROR. STER-I-LIZE.

    2. My wife just failed her driving test

      You like ’em young, huh?

      1. At least I had the decency to marry her.

        1. I’m sure your cousin is happy

          1. But that would make him Asian too!

    3. How do you fail a driving test?

      1. Peed positive, yo….

        *palms up*

      2. The tests are written by idiots, and the non-idiots are at a disadvantage.

        My last driving test I got one question wrong. As I watched the person “grading” it and marking one wrong, I asked “Which one did I get wrong?” He told me and I said “No, my answer is correct.” He started to argue and I said “Your answer only is correct if you don’t understand proper grammar. Am I supposed to assume the grammar on the test is wrong?” He replies, “You passed, and I’m not going to listen to you anymore.” This from an Illinois employee working for the Sec. Of State that just imprisoned the previous Sec. Of State (George Ryan) for letting idiots pass the exam.

        If I was a normal person I would have shot the place up on principle.

        1. I got into with a DC DMV employee who thought it would be a productive use of his taxpayer-funded time to harangue me for not pushing in my chair when I was done with the test.

  7. In the NPR segment he acknowledges Lakhani isn’t terribly impressive, but says “I’m not going to sit around and second guess it. What was done was done, and I think ultimately the jury decided that question.”

    Nice dodge, asshole. Does locking up a gormless idiot justify the expense and invasiveness of the program?

    1. The entire FBI has been living on this sort of crap for decades.

      1. If by FBI you mean the entirety of government from municipalities up to the feds, then yes, they have.

    2. “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

  8. What’s more, Lakhani is “amoral” and “there are good people and bad people. Bad people do bad things. Bad people have to be punished. These are simple truths. Bad people must be punished.”

    Hmm, well I can picture Christie dressed up as Santa Claus with a list of good boys and bad boys. Also, someone should tell Christie amoral does not mean immoral.

    Christie says, “I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t know, if this had fallen apart, what Hemant Lakhani would have done next,” but “That’s the kind of guy I want in federal prison, and so that’s where he’s going to go. And at the end, that’s the success of the Lakhani case.”

    In other words, Lakhani can’t actually do anythig he claims, so in order to send him to prison, we’ll have to supply the dealers and arms to him ourselves

    U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom he offers to summon to an NPR reporter’s house on 48 hours notice.

    They should’ve supplied this for him too.

  9. You know who else thought “That’s the kind of guy I want in prison, and so that’s where he’s going to go”…..

    1. David Rasche, about Tom Selleck?

      1. Did…did you just make a Sledge Hammer! reference?!?

        “Every breath you take, every move you make…I’ll be watching you. That’s police talk.”

        1. Did…did you just make a Sledge Hammer! reference?!?

          Loved “Video Indoor Target Range”!

        2. His writer had a short story sequel, “The Return of Sledge Hammer”. Not as good as the TV show, though, at least before Bill Bixby got his hands on that.

        3. I too thought he was referencing the Hammer.

      2. +1 obscure movie reference.

  10. “That’s the kind of guy I want in federal prison, and so that’s where he’s going to go. And at the end, that’s the success of the Lakhani case.”

    This sounds like the crazy ramblings of a washed up b-movie actor who’s trying to convince an interviewer that he doesn’t have any regrets.

    1. No Ragrets.

  11. What was the other case?

    1. Had a lemonade stand shut down.

  12. A Che shirt worth wearing:

    http://www.7bucktees.com/shop/…..e-guevara/

    1. This one is not too bad, either.

    2. I want one with his bullet riddled body being hauled around in a wheelbarrow and the inscription ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’.

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