Preet Bharara's Boy Scout Manual of 'Doing Justice'

The former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York unconvincingly channels Atticus Finch in his legal memoir.


Public Domain, Wikipedia

From the very first pages of his new legal memoir, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) Preet Bharara underscores his commitment to all that he believes is good, decent, and disappearing fast in contemporary America. Reason readers may remember him as the official who, in 2015, issued a grand jury subpoena demanding turn over "any and all identifying information" of six commenters who had criticized District Court Judge Katherine Forrest's sentencing of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht. Shortly after we received the subpoena, his office issued a gag order on Reason, which prevented us from discussing the demand for records until it was lifted (more on that in a bit).

In Doing Justice, Bharara sounds like an Aaron Sorkin protagonist; a mix of Tom Cruise's character from A Few Good Men and Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (a version of which Sorkin is currently directing on Broadway).

Phrases and concepts like "the rule of law" and "due process" and "presumed innocent" seem to do service these days more as political slogans than as bedrock principles….It seems preferred these days to demonize one's opponents rather than engage them, to bludgeon critics rather than win them over. There is a creeping contempt for truth and expertise….And the concept of justice seems turned on its head—holding different meaning depending on whether you are a political adversary or ally.

The law, he continues, "is not a political weapon; objective truths do exist; fair process is essential in a civilized society." Especially in a world that seems hell-bent on burning down existing norms and institutions—one in which the president attacks a dead rival and Democratic contenders for president lobby for the destruction of the Electoral College—that all sounds comforting, as does Bharara's insistence that it's "an undeniable fact" that "the system is imperfect."

Over more than 300 pages broken into four large sections ("Inquiry," "Accusation," "Judgment," and "Punishment"), he tells a wide variety of stories from his time at SDNY about how the feds decide who to charge with what sorts of crimes. There are some famous cases here, such as the prosecution of Faisal Shahzad, who in 2010 tried to detonate a car bomb in Times Square; the "cannibal cop," an NYPD officer whose conviction on conspiracy to kidnap women he fantasized about torturing and eating was overturned; and the successful cases against Sheldon Silver, speaker of the New York State Assembly, and Dean Skelos, the majority leader of the New York State Senate, on federal corruption charges.

Among the most appealing tales involves Brandon Mayfield, an American whom the FBI, on the basis of a fingerprint match, mistakenly insisted was involved in the March 2004 terrorist attacks on trains in Madrid, Spain. In a chapter called "The Problem of Confirmation Bias," Bharara notes that the paucity of physical evidence (a single fingerprint match from a plastic bag used by the bombers) was complemented by a series of seemingly incriminating coincidences. Mayfield, a lawyer, had represented a convicted terrorist in a trial. His wife was a Muslim immigrant from Egypt and he had converted to Islam. He attended a mosque in Beaverton, Oregon that had, in Bharara's artful phrasing, "received attention from local authorities." "The science had spoken," he writes. "The [fingerprint] match had been made and confirmed….Clearly the FBI had got its man." Except they hadn't. Even as the feds took Mayfield into custody, Spanish investigators "definitively concluded" that the fingerprint was a match with an Algerian suspect named Ouhnane Daoud. The FBI officially apologized (a rare thing) and the government eventually paid Mayfield $2 million. Bharara notes that the FBI's internal investigation concluded that agents running the investigation became so uncritically accepting of their theory that they created a "failure to sufficiently reconsider" their suppositions even after they found no real corroborating evidence. "That is worth repeating," says Bharara. "An innocent man was accused and forever injured because of a failure to sufficiently reconsider" (his emphasis). A cautionary tale, to be sure.

Yet Bharara's treatment of the Reason episode reveals a fair amount of distance between his ideals and his actions while in office and suggests the blindness with which prosecutors tend to act. He writes that law enforcement people have a "God forbid" voice in their head warning them that the consequences would be catastrophic if they ignored what turned out to be legitimate threats against public officials from the president on down. "When the possibility of harm is afoot," he writes, "prosecutors are aggressive."

During the Silk Road trial, Judge Katherine Forrest had become "the victim of abuse and harassment," says Bharara, including having her Social Security number and home address made public. In a bit of rhetorical slipperiness, he writes that "her critics called for SWAT teams or anthrax to be sent to her residence," though such things never happened (my emphasis). When it comes to Reason's commenters, he says that a "string of threats was made," including lines such as "it's judges like these that should be taken out back and shot" and "send her through the wood chipper" (this last is a reference to a scene in the movie Fargo, in which criminal characters violently dispatch one of their own ilk).

Prosecutors in my office took aggressive action. They subpoenaed the records of six Reason users who posted threatening statements. They sought a boilerplate gag order…so that Reason could not prematurely and publicly discuss the subpoena before law enforcement could run down the leads, to determine whether there was any actual threat.

"Pretty routine and responsible," he concludes, surprised that "for this, I earned the endless antipathy of the libertarian periodical."

Well, principled opposition and criticism of government action isn't "endless antipathy" and there are in fact good reasons to be concerned by Bharara's version of events, which blurs some details and simply ignores the massive, nearly unconstrained power the government wields in such situations. His office filed the subpoena but forgot to attach a gag order, so we shared the subpoena with the six commenters to see if any were planning to quash it, which would affect our compliance with the demand. The gag order came a couple of days later, after our attorney had talked with an assistant U.S. attorney and explained that we had shared the subpoena with the targeted commenters (once the gag was in place, we complied fully with it).

As former assistant United States attorney and law blogger Ken White wrote as events were unfolding, there is simply no world in which what our commenters wrote came anywhere close to being "true threats" that should trigger a subpoena and gag order. Indeed, one of the commenters whose information was requested had simply written, "I hope there is a special place in hell reserved for that horrible woman" and another wrote, "I'd prefer a hellish place on Earth be reserved for her as well." A true threat, White wrote, requires specificity about who is going to use violence, when they are going to act, and some sort of plan. "Even the one that is closest to a threat — 'It's judges like these that will be taken out back and shot' isn't a true threat," writes White. "It lacks any of the factors that have led other courts to find that ill-wishes can be threats." Which isn't to say that the SDNY didn't have the legal right to issue the subpoena and the subsequent gag order. Especially when it comes to grand jury subpoenas, the government holds all the power.

As Matt Welch and I wrote after the gag order had been lifted, "the chilling effect on Reason and our commenters is tangible. It takes time, money and resources to challenge, or even simply to comply with, such intrusive demands." It's simply impossible to know how many requests for user data the government has made of publications, platforms, or service providers, but in 2013 Mother Jones reported that Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, and firms received "tens of thousands" of requests each year. It's also impossible to know how many requests have been made but can't be discussed due to gags.

"The line between hyperbole and plausibility is hard to discern," writes Bharara, again channeling a world-weary Sorkin protagonist. "In some lines of work you don't want to take any chances." That's simply not a good enough answer, especially when confidence and trust in government institutions are at or near historic lows and the expansion of federal power after the 9/11 attacks continues apace. In a 2016 article for Reason titled "Confessions of an Ex-Prosecution," Ken White, now a defense attorney, recalled his own time as a federal prosecutor and wrote that immense institutional and cultural pressures conspire to make federal prosecutors view consitutional "rights as a challenge, as something to be overcome to win a conviction." Bharara's actions toward Reason suggest a similar mindset at work despite his attestations to truth, justice, and the rule of law.

NEXT: Robert Mueller's Russia Report Is Finally Done, and We Still Know Nothing

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. In Doing Justice

    Best porn spoof…ever.

    1. Christ, what an asshole.

      1. I never met Christ but he seems less uptight than his dad.

        1. Ask the moneylenders about that.

          1. on Saturday I got a gorgeous Ariel Atom after earning $6292 this ? four weeks past, after lot of struggels Google, Yahoo, Facebook proffessionals have been revealed the way and cope with gape for increase home income in suffcient free time.You can make $9o an hour working from home easily??.

            VIST THIS SITE RIGHT HERE >>=====>>>>

        2. I’m not particularly religious, but I gotta say… Jesus was kind of a cuck. If I was going to believe in the God espoused by the Judaeo-Christian-Muslim folks I’d definitely convert to Judaism or Islam… Old testament God is waaay more awesome than the way Jesus makes him out to be, and skipping over most of the Jesus stuff in Islam, and then cranking up the badassery to 11, Islam even trumps Jews on the hard ass factor.

          If you’re going to have a God, who wants some wimpy, bleeding heart one? LAME. That said I’d go with Germanic paganism or Greco-Roman paganism before either of those options. Way better plot lines, cooler characters, etc. Plus they’re actually the true religion of my peoples anyway, instead of some Middle Eastern import job!

    2. Google is now paying $17000 to $22000 per month for working online from home. I have joined this job 2 months ago and i have earned $20544 in my first month from this job. I can say my life is changed-completely for the better! Check it out whaat i do…..

      click here ======??

      1. Why everyone is confused just join at home online job .This is really good opurtunity for home mom just join this website and Earn money by monthly check .So u cant be miss and join this site as soon as posible .
        Here what i am doo ?


  2. Don’t criticize Preet too harshly in these comments, folks. He’s watching…

    1. Don’t criticize Preet too harshly in these comments, folks. He’s watching…

      The difference between getting a little Hackensack and having a friend get a little Hackensack on your behalf is plausible deniability. When you get a little Hackensack, it means you act like an annoying customer until the receptionist realizes that her day will be better if she stops giving you slow customer service. If you call a friend to complain about her customer service, he will get a little Hackensack on your behalf without telling you. It’s more expensive to go that route, but it’s a long term investment, because she will remember that accident for a long time.

      That reminds me, I have to visit my friend in Brooklyn on a regular basis to keep his spirits up. Does anyone know the office address for the SDNY? There’s a New York City Homeland Security office across the hallway from the National Archive room in the National Museum of the American Indian, but I haven’t bumped into any other high profile federal offices lately.

    2. He is a nazi out of power ? fuck him.

      1. Not even with a horse dildo attached to a ten-foot pole.

        1. No. I would fuck him with that. Vigorously and lube free.

    3. Yeah well that asshole Preet should be fed feet first into a … luxurious hot tub filled with naked super models!

      1. Even with Viagra he wouldn’t be able to satisfy even one supermodel.

    4. I hope he is. My level of contempt for this backbirth is taller than the rebuilt WTC.

      If something bad happens to him, my schadenboner will reach low earth orbit.

  3. If there was a pay-per-view special headlined by a cage match between Preetender in a Lena Dunham suit and Crusty, I would probably buy it.

    1. Oh man. That would be a sight to behold.

      1. Something for Pedo Jeffy to do in between watching illegal alien made kiddie porn films.

        1. And losing his shit about Mueller!

    2. Booooooooooo

    3. I ran that fucking bitch off. You’re next.

  4. “Even the one that is closest to a threat ? ‘It’s judges like these that will be taken out back and shot’ isn’t a true threat,” writes White.

    Unless I’m misremembering, I wrote ‘should’, not ‘will’.

    1. Are you the only one of the Preet Six still left here?

      1. I might be. One of them left immediately, I think the others left with the Sloopy’s Mom Scandal.

      2. I’m still here. And I’m thinking the woodchipper would not be slow enough or painful enough.

        I’m thinking Pancreatic Cancer sans opioids.

        1. My mistake was failing to extend my remarks, referencing the Drug War Crimes Tribunal, erected with irony aforethought in an open field outside of Nuremberg, PA.

          1. Twenty woodchippers, no waiting.

      3. Lame. I never get threatened by the man for my comments!

        I guess I am pretty careful in my wording though sometimes, for this very reason. With how over zealous some of these shit heels are nowadays I always like to make it clear that I have ZERO personal intent of harming anybody.

  5. “for this, I earned the endless antipathy of the libertarian periodical.”

    No, for this you wasted tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of tax payer dollars to discover what any fresh out of college junior prosecutor would know – there was no threat.

    Does anyone have the slightest clue how the SDNY office found these posts? I doubt they watch Reason, but with all the anarchists here I can’t be sure. Did some nanny watching the board report them? Was it the NSA?

    1. I have always suspected Mary Stack. She is mental, and for some time was maniacally obsessed with this place.

    2. Who was it that used to whine allthe time about being attacked and nobody would defend him?

      1. Could it be Hihnfaggot? FYI, he’s updated his enemies list……

        1. What a homo, I’m still not on the list!

          I asked why not once and he said I wasn’t mean enough or something 🙁

  6. How is a gag order remotely constitutional??? The government can fuck you over and then forbid you from telling anybody? WTF? If that isn’t the most blatant violation of the First Amendment, I don’t know what the fuck is.

    The attack on Reason commenters makes you wonder if you really have any f’ing rights.

    1. If you think that’s bad, one of our guys in the NJLP got a very long pre-trial detention because he publicly complained about the cops finger blasting him during a traffic stop.

      1. Any news items available?

        1. I don’t have recent information, but there was talk of a lawsuit.

  7. Hey Pretty. You’re still an woochippable asshole.

    1. He’s proof that you can get pregnant from anal sex.

  8. “When the possibility of harm is afoot,” he writes, “prosecutors are aggressive.”

    That oath to uphold the Constitution comes a distant second on the zeal meter. Well, third, if you count the times the possibility of a prosecutor advancing his career is afoot.

  9. I’m always amused at how arrogant, self-important wannabe tyrants like Preet Bananarama always view themselves as the hero, to the point of finding it necessary to write a memoir.

    Christ, what an asshole.

    1. A campaign biography is part of the process of running for elective office.

    2. See also, “Comey, James”

  10. I’m awaiting a photo/video of this book being fed into a wood chipper.

    1. It’s not worth it unless you steal the books. No way should that backbirth get any more money than he’s already gotten from his advance.

      1. I don’t think Comey and Bharara’s books are selling well. You usually trip over all the stories about how well political books are flying off the shelves (or onto the iPads). Not with these guys.

  11. “Which isn’t to say that the SDNY didn’t have the legal right to issue the subpoena and the subsequent gag order. Especially when it comes to grand jury subpoenas, the government holds all the power.”

    That doesn’t make it legal.

    Go back to the Framing and consider whether such things were meant to be authorized by the Constitution.

    1. Just as one example, in a country with freedom of religion, how can it be punishable to say someone’s behavior deserves Hell fire? Would the Framers have been down with investigating people for that?

      1. The 18th century equivalent to Preet would be the government ordering a printer to disclose the identity of the author of an anonymous pamphlet. Which might have been fine and dandy to a supporter of the Sedition Act of 1798, but I thought we’d moved on from that incident.

        1. > but I thought we’d moved on from that incident.

          Really? I wish I had that kind of optimism.

  12. It sounds like all Preet needs is a pair of overalls, so he can hook his thumbs under them with his left hand, wave his glasses around with his right hand, while proclaiming that he’s just a simple country lawyer.

    1. He’s simple, all right. Simple tyrant who should be air-dropped over North Korea for Kim’s enjoyment.

  13. “When the possibility of harm is afoot,” he writes, “prosecutors are aggressive.”

    When there’s an opportunity to do a favor for the trial judge, whose support your are seeking, prosecutors are aggressive about doing the favor.

    The possibility of harm to an average Joe, unconnected to the courthouse clique, is not really a high-profile concern.

    1. It just occurred to me that I could have said Preet was trying to curry favor with the judge. I won’t use that expression because it would be called racist against Indian-Americans.

      1. But consider the “optics” (as Isaac Newton would put it) of a judge having the attorney for one side in a case investigating people who criticized the judge for ruling for that party in the case.

  14. This backbirth’s “attestations to truth, justice, and the rule of law” is merely more lies in a career filled with them.

  15. ” I earned the endless antipathy of the libertarian periodical.”

    No, you piece of fucking shit, you earned the endless antipathy of every decent human being. There is no Hell. It is a fucking shame because you, you fucking piece of god damned swamp shit, deserve to burn there for eternity.

    1. I think there are many people affiliated with Reason that probably don’t. None of them are commenters.

  16. Progs are jizzing themselves over Preety boy because Trump dismissed him. I have no doubt that he will be first in line for a SCOTUS vacancy in the next dem administration.

  17. Well, it’s time to fire up the woodchipper again!

    There. Are you coming after me Bharara, you fucking asshole? You’re nothing but a fucking boot-licking power-hungry auto-fellatio wanna-be. Be careful, you might bite your own dick off when you break your back trying to reach the little thing.

    I’d create a “gag order” with your bitten-off nub of a cock, but it wouldn’t be nearly enough to choke you.

    Are you offended? Pull out the subpoenas! Get to the gagging!

  18. It sure would be a shame if Preet were to accidentally fall, feet first, into a woodchipper.
    *feet and Preet rhyme. Somebody who was literate and poetic could do something with that*

    1. There was an attorney named Preet
      Should be chipped from his head to his feet
      Went after commenters on Reason
      Like they committed treason
      Then Trump kicked his ass to the street.

  19. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.

  20. Note what he does, there, conflating “truth” and “expertise,” which actually have nothing to do with each other.

  21. Woodchippers for Justice.

    1. Woodchippers are EXACTLY what America needs more of! That and helicopter rides!

  22. Progs wants to Phuck Preet’s poontang.

    1. He could star in a new movie, ‘Weekend at Crusty’s’.

  23. I really don’t have a problem with investigating people who use language like that in reference to judges. If judges can be intimidated with impunity, few of our other rights are safe. The most disappointing thing about Bharara is how weak he was on investigating securities fraud in the banking industry, settling with institutions for big dollars while letting individual offenders off the hook.

    1. “If judges can be intimidated with impunity, few of our other rights are safe.”

      Like free expression?

      It is necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.

      1. Few rights are safe if anyone can be subject to actual (as opposed to imaginary) intimidation.

        Imaginary intimidation includes suggesting that someone’s behavior is so bad as to be worthy of Hell fire.

        Actual intimidation includes investigating ordinary citizens for their exercise of free expression.

      2. It’s one thing if somebody says:

        “I live near this asshole… I’m going to go burn their house down and shoot them in the face as they run out of the burning house!”

        It’s another to say common sayings that are non approving like the ones said here, or “We should be at their place with torches and pitchforks!” etc.

        Anybody who can’t tell the difference is a moron. Either way assholes deserve to be intimidated in the soft way at the least, and sometimes in the LITERAL pitchforks and torches sort of way. If nobody ever makes people feel intimidated for the tyrannical things they’re doing, then they just get even MORE tyrannical… Fear of the mob has ALWAYS kept the elites in line.

    2. Preet, how nice of you to join us.

  24. Preet Bharara

    May a rusty woodchipper fall from the sly and land on him, sending him face first into the abyss.

  25. This asshole is also one of the major reasons we’re no longer allowed to play online poker with the rest of the world.

  26. You know, it’s funny but “Bharara” is the sound this chipper makes when you feed a fascist into it. Feet first of course.

  27. I’m pretty sure I heard Ken White smooching Preet’s backside on KCRW this week. Professional courtesy I guess.

  28. The law, he continues, “is not a political weapon; objective truths do exist; fair process is essential in a civilized society.”

    Sounds like a book that Preet Bharara should read.

  29. Google is now paying $17000 to $22000 per month for working online from home. I have joined this job 2 months ago and i have earned $20544 in my first month from this job. I can say my life is changed-completely for the better! Check it out whaat i do…..

    click here ======?? http://Www.TheproCoin.Com

  30. I am getting $100 to $130 consistently by wearing down facebook. i was jobless 2 years earlier , however now i have a really extraordinary occupation with which i make my own specific pay and that is adequate for me to meet my expences. I am really appreciative to God and my director. In case you have to make your life straightforward with this pay like me , you just mark on facebook and Click on big button thank you?
    c?h?e?c?k t?h?i?s l?i?n-k >>>>>>>>>>

  31. Between this asshole, Rho Khanna, the Commie Bindi twins from Seattle, and Shika, India’s certainly doing its best to show that it belongs on the travel ban list.

  32. Google is now paying $17000 to $22000 per month for working online from home. I have joined this job 2 months ago and i have earned $20544 in my first month from this job. I can say my life is changed-completely for the better! Check it out whaat i do…..

    click here ======??

  33. on Saturday I got a gorgeous Ariel Atom after earning $6292 this ? four weeks past, after lot of struggels Google, Yahoo, Facebook proffessionals have been revealed the way and cope with gape for increase home income in suffcient free time.You can make $9o an hour working from home easily……. VIST THIS SITE RIGHT HERE >>=====>>>>

  34. Now I’m not saying anybody SHOULD put this guy into a woodchipper… But I’m not saying somebody SHOULDN’T put him into a woodchipper either.

  35. up to I saw the bank draft of $7781, I did not believe that my best friend was like they say actually taking home money in there spare time from there new laptop.. there uncle started doing this 4 only 22 months and at present cleared the loans on there mini mansion and purchased Dodge. this is where I went,

  36. Bharara has been a practitioner and participant in a nationwide practice using federal criminal prosecution as a means to convict whoever law enforcement and prosecutors choose to target. The US government achieves a 99%+ conviction rate of those charged in federal indictments – not because everyone is guilty, but because no one has a chance at acquittal, and because the Feds use underhanded tactics to obtain convictions, including rewarding snitches for telling tales that prosecutors want told against defendants.

    If anyone but a federal prosecutor rewarded witnesses for testifying in a trial, they would go to jail for bribery. Prosecutors do it as a matter of standard practice. They purchase testimony, and when the price they pay is a reduction in sentence for another person, the cooperating witness, they almost always get the testimony they are paying for.

    The fact that Mueller just ran out of indictments is astonishing. But he made his point – he convicted a number of people simply because he could. He may have felt the need to reign himself in rather than take the next step -indicting a sitting president.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.