A Philosopher's Blog

Evil & Institutions II: Lawful Evil Reconsidered

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on January 26, 2018

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In an earlier essay, I considered the various evil Dungeons & Dragons alignments in the context of institutions. In that essay, I took the view that lawful evil people are the most dangerous of all because they aim to institutionalize evil. However, a case can be made that the lawful evil approach is better than that of the other evil alignments. Making a case for this involves appealing to the work of Thomas Hobbes.

In the Leviathan, Hobbes argues that the state of nature would be a war of all against all, a state perhaps best described as chaotic evil at worst and chaotic neutral at best. However, his description of people makes most of them seem to be neutral evil (utterly selfish, with no concern for others). He regarded the chaos of the state of nature as the worst and his solution was, roughly put, for people to accept a sovereign to rule over them and impose order. This would transform the chaotic evil of the state of nature into the lawful evil of the state of civilization. In D&D, lawful evil is defined in this way:

A lawful evil villain methodically takes what he wants within the limits of his code of conduct without regard for whom it hurts. He cares about tradition, loyalty, and order but not about freedom, dignity, or life. He plays by the rules but without mercy or compassion. He is comfortable in a hierarchy and would like to rule, but is willing to serve. He condemns others not according to their actions but according to race, religion, homeland, or social rank. He is loath to break laws or promises.

This reluctance comes partly from his nature and partly because he depends on order to protect himself from those who oppose him on moral grounds. Some lawful evil villains have particular taboos, such as not killing in cold blood (but having underlings do it) or not letting children come to harm (if it can be helped). They imagine that these compunctions put them above unprincipled villains.

This description shows that lawful evil types have the qualities needed to maintain civilization and hold off the state of nature. The lawful evil persons respect for tradition, loyalty and order lead them to value the institutions of the state and they will seek to protect and preserve them. They might even be willing to tolerate some goodness in these institutions, provided that the goodness contributes to order.

Interestingly, a principled lawful evil person would be loath to harm or attack an institution even if doing so was personally advantageous. For example, a lawful evil ruler being investigated for a crime would do much to avoid being punished but would be very reluctant to harm or weaken the institutions of law enforcement. This is because a lawful evil person lacks the shallow selflessness of the neutral evil person and cares, in their own evil way, about the preservation of society and its institutions. As such, the lawful evil person can act in a principled way and could even sacrifice themselves for others, and thus they could be mistaken for being good people.

While a lawful evil person would not be good, they could be rightly said to have virtues.  Kant, in his Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals, makes this point:

Moderation in the affections and passions, self-control, and calm deliberation are not only good in many respects, but even seem to constitute part of the intrinsic worth of the person; but they, are far from deserving to be called good without qualification, although they have been so unconditionally praised by the ancients. For without the principles of a good will, they may become extremely bad; and the coolness of a villain not only makes him far more dangerous, but also directly makes him more abominable in our eyes than he would have been without it.

While Kant regards evil combined with virtue to be perhaps the very worst, the lawful evil villain, as noted above, operates within limits that puts them above the worst villains—the chaotic evil and neutral evil types. While lawful evil types lack, in Kantian terms, the good will, they could be said to have the lawful will. That is, while they do not will the good, they do will the law. While this would certainly not satisfy Kant, it would be quite enough for Hobbes. For him, what gets humans out of the chaos of the state of nature is not goodness or love or others, but self-interest and an acceptance of order. Roughly put, enough people are willing to shift their alignments from chaotic or neutral evil to lawful evil to allow society to form. Maintaining that society requires that enough people remain lawful, even if they are lawful evil. As such, good people who value society and order can find allies in their lawful evil fellows, although this alliance can presumably never be more than one of convenience. This is because while good and lawful evil people share a common desire to oppose chaotic evil and neutral evil types, they still have an irreconcilable moral difference regarding good and evil.


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  1. dh said, on January 27, 2018 at 11:27 am

    well, as I said in the last post of this kind, it doesn’t mean much to reduce people to stereotypes unless you are playing a game or starting a novel. People are highly complex, actions are motivated by a huge multiplicity of factors, and to try to fit either into a pre-defined category isn’t so fruitful, IMHO.

    However, if you are going to address this issue in this way, you might want to consider a constructivist point of view, if only for some comparison on the definition of virtue.

  2. CoffeeTime said, on January 28, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    This is a model that divides people on two axes, with three scale points – positive, neutral, negative – on each, into a total of nine classifications. When I read Part I, my first thought was: “There are two kinds of people: those who divide people into nine types, and, erm, the other eight.”

    “All models are wrong, but some are useful”. In what ways is this model wrong? Is it useful? if so, in what ways, under what conditions and within what limits? Are the axes truly independent? The proposer of a model has the onus of demonstrating its applicability and usefulness.

    This model never seemed useful to me, outside the context of games or comic books.

    Can we test the model? If so, how? Can we even agree an operational definition for assigning people to categories?

    There are many sets of “law”. There is custom and practice and keeping faith with family. There is tribal law. There are social norms and expectations with one’s peer group. There are organisational rules. There is religious law. There is the law of the state, and in the US, the federation of states. There is international or universal law. These can and do clash. Measure of adherence to which “law”, then, is the one we follow on that axis?

    From Part I, it seems that in this model, “Lawful” is applied to any person who consistently follows any code of conduct, chosen by themselves. While this may sometimes produce entertaining tensions in fiction where that code has been spelled out for the reader, it is clearly impossible to measure in real life, when Lawful means something different to everyone, and is therefore not well defined.

    I am reminded of a quote from House: “You will do what you think is best … everyone always does.”

  3. WTP said, on January 28, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Y’all do understand that Mike is writing about Trump vs the FBI here, don’t you? An evil beyond lawful evil? You’re not taking this piece as a serious philosophical, just out of the blue I-was-thinking-apropos-of-nothing venture…excuse me, endeavor, are you?

    • CoffeeTime said, on January 28, 2018 at 3:47 pm

      Actually, that angle hadn’t occurred to me; I did think this came from Mike’s gaming hobby. It doesn’t especially strike me now either, not least because I have trouble picturing Trump as especially “Lawful”. He seems more like someone who looks to results than someone who takes care to colour inside the lines, but is canny enough not to get caught, so I would classify him “Neutral” on that axis in the D&D model.

      As for good and evil in poltics, I suspect much of that is beyond human capacity to judge. Taxation is an evil act. There is no getting around that – it is demanding money with the threat of violence and imprisonment. It is justified because of the good the government is claimed to do with that money. It’s a claim that the end justifies the means. How much money? From which people? On what basis? To be divided how? Among whom? Demonstrating what results? No human mind can hold all the consequences of one US budget. Perhaps some day a descendant of AlphaGo will. This is the basis of government, and we are already beyond human understanding.

      • WTP said, on January 28, 2018 at 4:02 pm

        You can’t see through this?

        Interestingly, a principled lawful evil person would be loath to harm or attack an institution even if doing so was personally advantageous. For example, a lawful evil ruler being investigated for a crime would do much to avoid being punished but would be very reluctant to harm or weaken the institutions of law enforcement. This is because a lawful evil person lacks the shallow selflessness of the neutral evil person and cares, in their own evil way, about the preservation of society and its institutions. As such, the lawful evil person can act in a principled way and could even sacrifice themselves for others, and thus they could be mistaken for being good people.

        At a time when Trump is (rightfully) attacking the FBI for its convenient incompetence, its losing text messages and emails, its suddenly developing gator-arms?

        • TJB said, on January 28, 2018 at 5:07 pm

          The FBI has revealed itself to be a bunch of clowns with far too much power. Scary clowns.

          • CoffeeTime said, on January 28, 2018 at 8:15 pm

            I acknowledge that I’m a splitter rather than a lumper, but even taking that into account, I still think it’s overly broad to tar the whole FBI with that brush. If there were illegal actions by some FBI officials, which has yet to be proved, it was still by quite a small number.

          • WTP said, on January 29, 2018 at 2:14 pm

            The FBI has frequently been off the rails. From its founding under J. Edgar Hoover, there have been controversies about their abuses of power. Maintaining files on all kinds of benign people such as Elvis Presley up to political citizens such as MLK. They made a mess of the Whitey Bolger case. It has at many times in its history worked ex-judiciously, even setting up ambushes of criminals. Not that they didn’t kill nobody that didn’t need killing. Or so it goes…

            They are a dangerous double-edged sword. Maybe that is necessary. Maybe not. But in this case and in the more general switch from long-arm to gator-arm law, their actions have certainly raised very legitimate concerns.

            • dh said, on January 30, 2018 at 11:01 am

              I can totally see both points of view here – that the FBI, when investigating non-government kinds of crimes – “Amerithrax”, the “Beltway Snipers”, organized crime – it’s a different agency than when investigating misdeeds by members of the government. The latter just lumps them in with the rest of the politicians – taking sides, quid-pro-quo, CYA, scapegoating, etc.

              Even in cases where a political narrative can be teased out, as in cases of terrorism, they seem to fall all over themselves in trying to “do right” by whomever wields the most power over them, and whom they need to protect.

              There are several pundits and politicos (not sure who came up with the term the first time) who refer to the idea that Barack Obama “weaponized” the DOJ (and the IRS, for that matter). I think that given their actions of the past year or so, and the siding with Clinton or the Democrats or Trump or the GOP, that’s a pretty apt description.

        • CoffeeTime said, on January 28, 2018 at 8:11 pm

          Not so much a matter of seeing through it as it didn’t occur to me. I’m not American; When I see the leaves blowing on the trees, I don’t immediately assume they’re a metaphor for something about Trump.

          And even now that you say it, I still think that if that’s what Mike is referencing, he is so far off base that I don’t recognise it, because even if I accepted that the model had any applicability, I don’t see Trump either as that evil or as that lawful.

          • WTP said, on January 29, 2018 at 2:17 pm

            I’m not American

            Well, no offense but I think that may have something to do with this situation being a bit under your radar. There has been some pretty significant news flying around going into last weekend and now regarding FISA abuses and the ongoing RussiaRussiaRussia fiasco. The President has been calling out the FBI over much of this.

            • CoffeeTime said, on January 29, 2018 at 11:02 pm

              No offence at all. Outside the US, anything political below the Presidential level is off most people’s radars, though I’ve been reading around recently based on looking up posts here. Which further reinforces my point that I don’t automatically relate everything to use politics.

              And if Mike really is referencing Trump here, I still contand that none of it fits.

            • WTP said, on January 30, 2018 at 12:41 pm

              And if Mike really is referencing Trump here, I still contand that none of it fits.

              I agree and totally understand your point to wit “When I see the leaves blowing on the trees, I don’t immediately assume they’re a metaphor for something about Trump.” But having followed this sight for nearly a decade I’ve picked up some patterns. Mike presents things in such a way that he can walk away from them. Done once or twice or occasionally, it’s not that big a deal nor really a problem. But it’s kinda intrinsic to how he operates. Consider the comment/reply from just last week, to dh I think, regarding Shutdown Blame: “I actually threw in the Trump remark and my statement of bias to see how the comments would pan out against me.”

  4. TJB said, on January 29, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    The FBI needs to clean house.

    FBI admits forensic evidence errors in hundreds of cases

    The FBI has admitted “errors” in evidence provided by its forensics laboratory to US courts to help secure convictions, including in death penalty cases, over more than 20 years.

    A report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) noted “irregularities” in the hair analysis unit.

    More detail on the cases affected is expected later from campaign groups.

    Flawed forensics were used in at least 60 capital punishment cases, the OIG report found.

    Fourteen defendants were either executed or died in prison, says the Washington Post, which first reported the story at the weekend.

    The review of cases was prompted by the Post’s 2012 story that three men were wrongly placed at the scene of violent crimes by the unit’s hair analysts, raising the possibility of hundreds of unsafe convictions.


    • CoffeeTime said, on January 29, 2018 at 11:12 pm

      I saw quite a bit about that, not in US news, but in Science news, such as it is. I filed it not so much under #FBI but under #ReplicationCrisis.

      In many areas of science, labs are now publishing and building on flawed research. In nearly all of such cases, the flawed research is never referenced, or feeds in to some other lab, who can’t build on it and so abandon it, or less commonly challenge it. Either way, the academics have got their grants, so they’re OK. In a few areas, like forensics, this flawed work is used directly without being examined either through further experiment or commercial development and testing.

      While the failure of the FBI labs was tragic in these instances, I would see it not as an institutional failure of the organisation but as part of the wider failure of controls on research.

      • TJB said, on January 29, 2018 at 11:41 pm

        Disagree. Research is when you don’t know the answer. You are groping in the dark, doing the best that you can. There is a high degree of uncertainty and an appropriate level of humility.

        Forensics claims to know the answer. That person’s DNA matches that recovered from the victim. A forensic scientist testifies with certainty. People go to jail.

        • WTP said, on January 30, 2018 at 12:34 pm

          That person’s DNA matches that recovered from the victim. A forensic scientist testifies with certainty. People go to jail.

          I’ve been quite uncomfortable with the degree to which DNA evidence is accepted without much question. Especially given how new it is, how little we really know about what DNA actually means respective to how/where it is gathered. Speaking specifically of chimerism here, but there are other concerns as well. But what worries me most is not so much the very little that my depth of scientific knowledge about chimerism might affect my perception of the investigative processes. I’m willing to accept that I have a good bit of ignorance there. What really scares me is that when I’ve raised this issue on web sites and such in attempts to try to understand it more clearly, how quickly, easily, and especially bitterly it gets dismissed. Something is definitely suspicious. And I say this as someone with a good bit of money invested in DNA technology.

        • CoffeeTime said, on January 31, 2018 at 3:22 pm

          I’m not saying you’re wrong about the overselling of forensic certainty, but I’m not hanging this one solely on some institutional problem specifically at the FBI. It’s everywhere in many areas of modern science, but in most cases there are practical filters betwen the wrongness and the application.

          I certainly don’t see a connection between political influence at the FBI and their defence of hair evidence long after it should have been discredited.

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 1, 2018 at 4:00 pm

            Quite right. It is a red herring to bring up the FBI’s alleged defense of hair evidence in response to the issue of whether the FBI is being politically influenced. That said, it could be used as a part of an argument by example to try to show bad methodology or incompetence at the FBI.

            • TJB said, on February 1, 2018 at 9:40 pm

              There is no underlying commonality between the reproducibility issues in basic scientific research and the flawed forensics coming out of the FBI lab for 20 years.

              The FBI culture is rotten and there needs to be a management purge.

            • CoffeeTime said, on February 2, 2018 at 6:50 pm

              TJB: There absolutely are commonalities between reproducibility issues and the hair analysis scandal.

              1. Confirmation bias. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool. It’s pleasant to believe you are right, and have people believe you are right, and request your opinion. This problem is all over a lot of current work, and not just in forensics.

              2. Lack of challenge. I follow a site called Retraction Watch. It documents some scientific papers that are retracted or corrected. If you read for any length of time, you will be dumbfounded at just how hard it is to have a wrong paper retracted or corrected, even when you have clear and convincing proof that there was an error in the method or data. It is much easier to “catch” papers on technical issues like plagiarism, doctored images, re-used graphs. There is no reward for someone who challenges an error – just a long and discouraging trudge.

              Further, while the FBI took the direct PR hit for hair analysis, it was also in common use in State prosecutions, and outside the US. You can’t blame that on the FBI. Yes, within the US, the FBI trainers also encouraged the same methods, but the State authorities were already using it. The failure of hair identification was not specifically an FBI problem.

              I might also mention the problems of legal precedent, under which, once hair identification was ruled admissible, its general admissibility was not up for forther challenge, and forensic science people being essentially clients of the police and prosecutors, and therefore biased accordingly. These were not specifically FBI problems either.

            • TJB said, on February 2, 2018 at 10:24 pm


              Do you agree that the people working in forensics laboratories are technicians and not scientists?

            • CoffeeTime said, on February 3, 2018 at 2:58 am

              TJB, even if they are otherwise doing original research, which most of them aren’t, they are acting as technical experts or technicians rather than scientists when examining the evidence and testifying, whether in the FBI or elsewhere.

              That doesn’t immunise them from confirmation bias or a lack of challenge to their procedures.

            • TJB said, on February 3, 2018 at 10:14 am

              Lab technicians are not supposed to suffer from confirmation bias. If you have a biopsy and your tissue is sent to the lab for analysis, what kind of confirmation bias does that technician have?

              Scientists can indeed have a confirmation bias as they may have invested years of their lives trying to prove a certain hypothesis.

              If the FBI lab technicians had a confirmation bias, then the problem is with the FBI leadership.

              In terms of challenging procedures, this again has to happen at the top. Low-level technicians are in no position to buck established procedures. Again, it points to a failure of leadership.

            • CoffeeTime said, on February 3, 2018 at 2:56 pm

              Of course lab techs have every reason for confirmation bias, They have, after a basic degree, done months of training followed by months or years of supervised work among people who all believe the same tenets of their practice, investing in building a career for themselves.

              And once again, this was not specifically an FBI problem. The belief that hairs were more distinguishable than they actually are was universal, from a quick search, from the 1800s until some doubts appeared in the late 1980s/1990s. The WaPo stories that brought the problem to public attention centred on the FBI, but the problem did not originate with the FBI.

            • TJB said, on February 3, 2018 at 7:42 pm

              CoffeeTime, it looks like the confirmation bias you are pushing is that the lab techs actually believed that the hair analysis worked the way they testified it did. I’m afraid I am much more cynical. I suspect they knew it didn’t work as advertised, but didn’t care. My evidence is that their testimony favored the prosecution 95% of the time. They knew what the prosecutors wanted, and they delivered.

              One major barrier to improving forensic evidence in criminal trials is that in most jurisdictions, the state has a monopoly on experts. Crime lab analysts and medical examiners (and to a lesser extent DNA technicians) typically work for the government and are generally seen as part of the prosecution’s “team,” much like the police and investigators. Yes, science is science, and it would be nice to believe that scientists will always get at the truth no matter whom they report to. But studies have consistently shown that even conscientious scientists can be affected by cognitive bias. A scientist whose job performance is evaluated by a senior official in the district attorney or state attorney general’s office may feel subtle pressure to return results that produce convictions. In cases in which district attorneys’ offices contract work out to private labs, the labs may feel pressure—even if it’s not explicit (though sometimes it is)—to produce favorable results in order to continue the relationship.


            • CoffeeTime said, on February 4, 2018 at 2:00 am

              I think that in general they really did believe it. Why should they not? The hairs no doubt did match. Remember, the defence could also bring in hair analysis, to contradict the prosecution, and while most probably didn’t have the budget, at least some did. The hairs did match. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that a microscopic match wasn’t as rare as they all thought.

              I’d be surprised if their testimony favoured the prosecution only 95% of the time. Many hairs would have been a clear mismatch, and in such cases they would not have been called by the prosecution, because the prosecution would not have used the hair as evidence.

              And delivering what the prosecutors wanted, and being praised for putting dangerous violent criminals away is exactly what feeds confirmation bias.

              But we are getting away from your original point, which was that this incident is part of the same FBI-specific problem as political favouritism, and I still don’t see that you have made any connection. This was not an FBI-specific problem.

              I will admit that I personally have a confirmation bias towards seeing other people’s errors as tainted by confirmation bias, precisely because I’ve seen it every day in my own career, in choices of technique, of tools, of structures. I’ve seen it in other people and in myself. If confirmation biases were zombies, we’d be in the apocalypse.

            • WTP said, on February 4, 2018 at 8:38 am

              I will admit that I personally have a confirmation bias towards seeing other people’s errors as tainted by confirmation bias, precisely because I’ve seen it every day in my own career, in choices of technique, of tools, of structures. I’ve seen it in other people and in myself

              Tabs vs. spaces? Vim vs. emacs?

            • TJB said, on February 4, 2018 at 10:38 am

              “Since the 1970s, FBI policy had been that hair association could not be used as positive identification, but their agents testified to positive hair identification nonetheless.”


              They knew.

            • CoffeeTime said, on February 4, 2018 at 6:33 pm

              Tabs vs. spaces? Vim vs. emacs?
              Oh that brings me back! Though before the vim days. Sadly, we have at least one whole generation of programmers, maybe two, who have been raised on GUIs and IDEs, so the classics don’t get their former respect.

              But no, it was much more widespread into many different areas. Joe worked before on a project that used the Burns-Smithers Widget Toolkit, and now believes that it’s the best answer for everything, or a PHB was brainwashed by a corporate seminar that Managers who use the Monkey-Time method get the best results. And every time something good happens in connection with one of these, their confirmation bias grows.

            • CoffeeTime said, on February 4, 2018 at 6:39 pm

              They knew.
              If this was so well known, why didn’t defences shred prosecution hair testimony? Why didn’t legal firms give these same people a huge salary bump to switch sides and do the shredding? From what I read, I don’t even believe we actually know today, in the same sense that I know my keyboard is on a wooden table right now.

              Qualitative statements are at best dubious, in any area that should require certainty.

              John Oliver did an entertaining spot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScmJvmzDcG0

          • TJB said, on February 4, 2018 at 7:14 pm

            I certainly don’t see a connection between political influence at the FBI and their defence of hair evidence long after it should have been discredited.>/em>

            I never made an explicit connection. I brought this up as further evidence that the FBI needs new leadership. I think the top 3 layers of management needs to be replaced.

            • CoffeeTime said, on February 7, 2018 at 3:20 am

              This seems to be the current official state of play:

              The critique:

              Click to access pcast_forensics_request_for_information.pdf

              My comment: all over the place – unrelated comments, criticisms, support, opinions from academics and practitioners from every possible angle on the various questions around certainty in forensic work.

              The response:
              A one page blow-off. But really, how can you possibly answer such a mish-mash of comments?

              This is a lot wider than some bureaucrat stonewalling. Many of the people criticising contradict one another, and I find the complexity of many of the questions raised quite daunting. It seems there is pretty widespread disagreement about objective measurement of standards in many areas. And the Exec Asst Director of that Branch was appointed just over a year ago, and came in from another Branch, so has no history in forensics to sweep under any carpets.

              I still see it as a problem of experts with confirmation bias, and inadequate challenges.

            • TJB said, on February 7, 2018 at 1:53 pm

              This is from the 2009 NAS report on forensics:

              Congress’ authority to act is significant, however. Forensic science programs in federal government entities
              are funded by congressional appropriations. If these programs are required to operate pursuant to the highest
              standards, they will provide an example for the states.

              Click to access pga_057632.pdf

              This is how the 2016 Report was received by the FBI and DOJ:

              ALTHOUGH A REPORT released this week by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology concludes that there is scant scientific underpinning to a number of forensic practices that have been used, for years, to convict thousands of individuals in criminal cases, the U.S. Department of Justice has indicated that it will ignore the report’s recommendations while the FBI has blasted the report as “erroneous” and “overbroad.”

              The report, titled “Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods,” concludes that a number of common, pattern-matching forensic disciplines – bite-mark analysis, fingerprint and firearm comparison, shoe-tread analysis, and complex DNA mixture analysis – need additional support to be deemed scientifically valid and reliable – a conclusion in line with that reached in the groundbreaking 2009 report on forensics issued by the National Academy of Sciences National Research Council.

              In a statement reported by the Wall Street Journal, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that the agency remains “confident that, when used properly, forensic science evidence helps juries identify the guilty and clear the innocent, and the department believes that the current legal standards regarding the admissibility of forensic evidence are based on sound science and sound legal reasoning.” As such, she said, while “we appreciate their contribution to the field of scientific inquiry, the department will not be adopting the recommendations related to the admissibility of forensic science evidence.”

              The DOJ did not respond to The Intercept’s request for additional information, but based on her statement, it appears Lynch is saying there’s simply nothing to see here and that the criminal justice system is working just fine.


              Sorry, CT, I don’t see the FBI and DOJ attempting here to “operate pursuant to the highest standards.” I see imperious and unaccountable organizations telling critics to “take a hike.”

              Did you see the video clip of Schumer saying that the FBI and other intelligence agencies will get revenge on politicians that cross them? Are you OK that our elected officials are afraid of the FBI?

            • CoffeeTime said, on February 9, 2018 at 7:37 pm

              I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this. Reading around, I still don’t see it as an FBI problem, but a much wider one.

              Click to access pcast_forensics_2016_public_comments.pdf

              lists some formal responses. It is disheartening to see that the prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, and forensic practitioners all blow the PCAST report off. FBI, ATF. DOJ, Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners, International Association for Identification, Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists, National District Attorneys Association all write variations on the same theme – that PCAST didn’t make its case.

              This is a reflection of one of the ways that modern science is being pushed off track. The organisations that should be pushing for more research on replication and validation, and funding it, are arguing that no work should be done in these areas. Scientists study what they get grants to study. When the DOJ aren’t funding study that might cast doubt on their previous convictions, those results ar never going to happen.

              Now, on the political end, I agree with you entirely that the FBI is not equipped to investigate its masters. The Strzoek-Page text about not wanting a future President Clinton to carry a grudge against the FBI, and not distinguish that that grudge would more correctly be aimed at the DOJ, is entirely damning all by itself.

            • TJB said, on February 9, 2018 at 10:34 pm

              CoffeeTime, you do agree that it is up to the FBI to lead the way, that they are looked up to by other law enforcement agencies? That is really up to them to lead by example?

            • CoffeeTime said, on February 10, 2018 at 4:31 am

              I believe that everyone has a responsibility to do the right thing, and set an example that way, of course, but no, I don’t see that the FBI has a responsibility that is significantly different than other law enforcement agencies.

              The FBI is not independent; it is responsible to the DOJ. On reading through the various papers and articles it struck me that the shut-down noises emanated mostly from prosecutors. I did wonder how much of the impetus came from there. I’ll never know.

    • WTP said, on January 30, 2018 at 8:39 pm

      But for a period of at least three weeks, according to people involved at the time, nothing much happened — a lag that has sparked the inspector general’s questions.

      McCabe’s defenders in law enforcement say that there was nothing nefarious going on — officials were pursuing a careful process of determining whether the emails might be relevant, and that took time.

      Other law enforcement officials, however, have said they are concerned that the issue seemed to die for a period of time at McCabe’s desk, without explanation.

      On Oct. 24, 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that McCabe’s wife had received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from a close ally of Clinton, then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The donations were for McCabe’s wife’s unsuccessful run as a Democrat for the Virginia state legislature.

      The dormant laptop issue then appeared to gain new attention inside the FBI and Justice Department. At a meeting of senior officials of both agencies, senior Justice Department official George Toscas asked about the status of the inquiry into the emails on Weiner’s laptop, according to people familiar with the matter.

      At the same time, the FBI was facing a new set of questions, this time about McCabe’s role in a stalled probe into the Clinton Foundation. Some within the FBI felt McCabe had repeatedly moved to hamstring that probe and were suspicious of his motives for doing so, according to people familiar with the matter.

      From the alt-right winger newspaper, The Washington Post.

      • TJB said, on February 4, 2018 at 7:23 pm

        Every year I have to fill out a “conflict of interest” form in which I declare that I have no conflicts of interest with my employer.

        Do FBI agents not have to fill out such a form?

        McCabe’s wife receives huge contributions from a Clinton surrogate, and he is investigating Clinton. How much clearer can a conflict of interest get?

        • WTP said, on February 4, 2018 at 10:12 pm

          Well you see, he’s got that extra special objectivity/fairness education and whatnot just like journalists and academics and such also got. You can’t see it because you’re biased.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 6, 2018 at 8:04 pm

          FBI agents, like all law enforcement, do not surrender their rights as citizens. As far as I know, McCabe did all that stuff above board. Perhaps the police class should be forbidden from any political views, but that would seem problematic.

  5. TJB said, on February 4, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    I am arguing that there has been a failure of leadership at the FBI. I don’t see how bringing up multiple examples of failed leadership is in any way a “red herring.”

    Mike, please explain why you believe that bringing up more than one example of failed FBI leadership is a “red herring.”

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on February 6, 2018 at 8:02 pm

      It is relevant to the issue of their competence, but irrelevant to Trump’s innocence.

  6. TJB said, on February 4, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    I guess Dems believe we should all live in fear of our intelligence agencies. What say you, Mike? Are you on board with this?

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