The Weight of America’s Justice System — Really?

BY DIANE DIMOND

“Make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this, and we will find out who did this and find out why they did this.” — President Barack Obama

There will be no satisfying “why” at the end of the investigation into who placed bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Just like there was no satisfying “why” following the massacres at Columbine High School or Virginia Tech.

Nothing can ever adequately explain to normal thinking people how a gunman could hunt down tiny students at a Connecticut elementary school or exterminate innocents gathered at a Tucson, Ariz., parking lot to see their congresswoman, Gabby Giffords.

And so it will go with Boston. The bombers wanted to inflict as much death and destruction as they possibly could. And, by timing the bombs as they did — setting them to explode during the fourth hour of the marathon — they weren’t targeting the premiere athletes who had finished an hour or more earlier. No, the demented mastermind of this event wanted to exact revenge on the less strong, the average runner, who would be struggling the hardest to make it across the finish line.

Was the perpetrator trying to send a twisted message against America, or was it just a depraved attempt to deny the exhausted runners the joy of reaching their goal?

Not long after the dual bombings, President Obama solemnly announced, “Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.” Well, here’s a question. Given all the sequestration-caused furloughs within the ranks of federal investigators and prosecutors, who exactly will provide the “weight” behind this promised justice?

Our federal law enforcement forces are already stretched to the limit, and their massive workloads and mandatory furlough days aren’t going to suddenly disappear because there is a new case on the books.

Someone who is on the front line of all this (and therefore must remain confidential) wrote me after the tragedy to express total frustration. “Myself and all ‘Feds’ feel like we are getting beaten down so bad we can barely breathe. No raises for years, no future raises and now a massive reduction in salary through sequester furloughs (mandatory unpaid leave, during which we are NOT PERMITTED TO WORK or even answer our cell or emails!!)”

This is the weighty justice system our president promises will leap into action?

Just last month, my confidential source’s boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the $1.6 billion dollar sequestration cut to the Justice Department’s budget could have a “profound” impact on America’s safety in the future.

“Important law enforcement and litigation programs are being disrupted,” Holder said. “Our capacity — to respond to crimes, investigate wrongdoing and hold criminals accountable — has been reduced.”

Well, now the Justice Department has on its plate what will surely turn out to be a major and lengthy investigation into the Boston bombings. In addition, agents are being diverted with distracting events like the toxic ricin-laced letters sent to both the president and Sen. Roger Wicker by a suspect in Mississippi.

After several reports of suspicious packages at the U.S. Capitol, Secret Service agents (who got their furlough notices just last week) were called to supervise evacuations. In the New York metro area, there were dozens of citizen reports responding to the “If you see something, say something” command. The feds are surely monitoring those, as well.

With depleted federal law enforcement ranks and morale about as low as it can go, what kind of progress can citizens expect on these investigations and prosecutions?

And here’s an even more ominous question posed by my confidential federal source. “Did someone who was on furlough, or perhaps even worse, whose morale is so devastated that s/he can no longer even focus on the mission, miss something? What if the dramatic reduction in resources and morale had an impact on the government’s inability to prevent this horrible event??”

That got me thinking. Did the CIA miss telephone or Internet chatter that could have tipped us off to the bombings? If the FBI’s Boston office had all agents on full-time duty, might they have been able to sniff out this deadly plot? Will the federal prosecutor who gets this case have enough resources to do an adequate job?

On March 1, when the mandatory 2 percent across-the-board federal budget cuts went into effect, I remember thinking: “Good! Make the federal government economize just like my family has to!” Now, I’m back to wishing that our elected officials in Congress and the White House could get it together long enough to figure out a way to cut the truly unnecessary spending within our bloated budget.

The first mission of the federal government is supposed to be to ensure our national defense. It doesn’t make sense to cut law enforcement’s funding while bankrolling pie-in-the sky foreign aid programs like the $30 million spent on a program to spur mango production in Pakistan or the $207 million the Defense Department spent on a duplicative second engine design for the F-35 fighter.

There is no denying there is evil in the world. There always has been, and there always will be, and civilized societies need to be able to forcefully fight against it. Those who brazenly plant bombs to kill innocent people are terrorists — plain and simple. Terrorists — homegrown or foreign born — deserve only one thing: swift and decisive punishment; nothing more and nothing less.

I fear America is not in the best position to deliver that.

Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email Diane@DianeDimond.net.