By allowing the Occupy Wall Street protesters to camp out in New York’s Zuccotti Park, Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a “terrible mistake,” Joe diGenova, a former U.S. Attorney in Washington, tells Newsmax.
While the park is private, Bloomberg could have the police remove the protesters based on health or safety concerns.
“I think both the owners of the park and Mayor Bloomberg have made a terrible mistake by allowing this to develop the way it has,” says diGenova, who dealt with similar issues involving demonstrators as U.S. attorney. He also was the principal assistant U.S. attorney during the prosecution of attempted presidential assassin John W. Hinckley.
“The truth is they are not going to be able to move them now. They are ensconced there, and it will obviously have a negative impact on the businesses in that area,” he adds.
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DiGenova says that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, with his “broken window” enforcement policy, dramatically decreased crime in New York by going after minor violations such as urinating on sidewalks or littering.
“They’ve just broken a window in a bunch of houses in that neighborhood by allowing these people to stay there,” diGenova says. “There’s going to be violence. It’s going to get worse, and Bloomberg will be very, very angry with himself for having been tolerant at the beginning.”
One of the savviest Washington observers, diGenova is a much-sought-after commentator on television and radio. He practices law with his wife Victoria Toensing, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department criminal division.
DiGenova says the protesters have a right to camp out in the park as long as the owner consents. If the park were owned by the city or the U.S. Park Service, they would not have a right to stay overnight and camp out.
“The Supreme Court [has] ruled that sleep is not speech, and you can’t sleep in a park and say that that is your form of expression or that you are protesting against the government,” diGenova says. “You have to leave parks when the government says they are closed, even if they don’t have gates.”
So the protesters “technically have a legal right to be there until the private owner changes his mind and unless they start violating the law through either violence or sanitary conditions,” diGenova says. “Then the government can override the wishes of the private owner and say we’re going to clear this park: It’s now a public nuisance.”
While President Barack Obama took a risk by endorsing the protesters, diGenova says Obama is an adroit wordsmith who will find a way to distance himself if the demonstrators become more violent.
Obama has a way of “sort of gently moving past subjects in a way that makes you think that he’s agreeing with you and agreeing with them and agreeing with anybody, and yet at the core of all of his comments is a commitment to the kind of civil disobedience that this represents,” diGenova says.
Polls have found that more than a third of the demonstrators believe violence is a legitimate way to achieve their goals and that America is equivalent to al-Qaida.
While the protesters say they want jobs, the vast majority of them are employed, according to the polls.
On another front, diGenova says Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has mishandled responding to the congressional investigation of the Fast and Furious gun operation conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Holder should have put out accurate information about it immediately, diGenova says.
A Phoenix gun sting, Fast and Furious allowed small-time straw purchasers to pass firearms to middlemen, who then trafficked the guns to Mexico. It resulted in more than 2,000 illegally purchased firearms ending up in the hands of criminals.
“If it was a bad operation, you get it [the full information] out right away,” diGenova says. “You don't ignore it. You get in, you dig in, you get the facts, and you get the facts out fast.”
Holder’s decision to reopen investigations of former CIA officers who engaged in enhanced interrogation also was a mistake, diGenova says.
“You have this kind of cognitive dissonance in the way the administration has conducted itself publically and conducted itself in the war on terror,” diGenova says.
“Criticizing Bush, wanting to end all of his policies, closing Guantanamo, and yet they have embraced Guantanamo,” he says.
“They are not closing it,” diGenova points out, referring to the prison camp. “They are not going to have civilian trials in New York for KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed]. They have continued the drone program with a vengeance, including the assassination of [American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki], which had never happened during the Bush administration.”
At the same time, Obama has criticized the use of waterboarding, which former CIA Director Leon Panetta has said helped the CIA locate Osama bin Laden.
Calling the conflict in Obama’s counterterrorism policies “bizarre,” diGenova says, “Waterboarding, of course, is used in the training of United States Armed Forces every day of the week. It’s part of their basic training.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is a New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. His latest, "The Secrets of the FBI," has just been published. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via email. Go Here Now.
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