In 1999, the NASA space probe Mars Climate Orbiter burned up in the Martian atmosphere and with it, three hundred million taxpayer dollars. Post-mortem examination revealed that NASA calculations used metric newton-seconds as a unit of measure, while prime contractor Lockheed Martin used pound-seconds. Oops.
That’s up there with the multi-billion dollar Hubble Space Telescope, needing “glasses”.
Of all the powers citizens delegate to Government, few can be as fearsome as the power of arrest, the power to take our freedom, the power to take our lives. Such awesome power must be wielded by the wisest of heads and subjected to the strictest of checks and balances, but such is not always the case.
According to the government’s own website, vault.fbi.gov:
“The FBI began COINTELPRO—short for Counterintelligence Program—in 1956 to disrupt the activities of the Communist Party of the United States. In the 1960s, it was expanded to include a number of other domestic groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Socialist Workers Party, and the Black Panther Party. All COINTELPRO operations were ended in 1971. Although limited in scope (about two-tenths of one percent of the FBI’s workload over a 15-year period), COINTELPRO was later rightfully criticized by Congress and the American people for abridging first amendment rights and for other reasons”.
“Rightfully criticized”? I should say so. COINTELPRO tactics included smearing individuals and groups using forged documents and false reports, planted in the media. There were instances of harassment, wrongful imprisonment and illegal violence, up to and including assassination. Director J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI harassed witnesses, withheld evidence, and publicly humiliated or falsely charged targets, with crimes. Washington Post journalist Carl Rowan insists the FBI sent at least one anonymous letter to Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., urging the man to commit suicide.
The program was exposed when an activist group burgled an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania, stealing reams of information which were then exposed to news outlets. It was March 1971, the “fight of the century” between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali providing cover for the burglary. The irony is rich. Ali himself was a COINTELPRO target, based on associations with the Nation of Islam, and the anti-Vietnam war movement.
It was the perfect crime. No one was ever caught.
Decades later, long after the statute of limitations had run its course, Keith Forsyth identified himself as one of eight burglars. Knowing the office to be locked at night, one of the crooks wrote a polite note asking the door be left unlocked, and pinned it to the door.
It pays be nice I guess. The last to leave the office, courteously obliged. One burglar was so delighted, he proposed that a polite thank you note, be left on the door. Lucky for him, cooler heads prevailed.
Speaking of savvy Government personnel. On this day in 2014, the Stockholm offices of the Swedish Public Employment Service erupted in chaos, as 61,000 people showed up for a job interview. The email was supposed to go out to a thousand select individuals. Instead, tens of thousands went out to registered job seekers, demonstrating the truth of the old adage: To err is human. To Really screw up, requires a Government.