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Taibbi writes: "It turns out that Barack Obama's Justice Department, in the person of Attorney General Holder, didn't just grossly overstate the success of its Mortgage Fraud Task Force. In what at best is a bonehead mistake, the Department channeled 1984 and whitewashed a web page."

Attorney General Eric Holder. (photo: AP)
Attorney General Eric Holder. (photo: AP)


DOJ Compounds Stat Screwup By Whitewashing Old Eric Holder Speech

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

14 August 13

 

ourtesy of old friend Paul Thacker, former Hill staffer and currently a fellow at Harvard's Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, here's an interesting addendum to Bloomberg's highly embarrassing Eric-Holder-Caught-Juking-the-Stats story that came out this Sunday.

It turns out that Barack Obama's Justice Department, in the person of Attorney General Holder, didn't just grossly overstate the success of its Mortgage Fraud Task Force. In what at best is a bonehead mistake, the Department channeled 1984 and whitewashed a web page, re-transcribing an old speech of Holder's to better reflect the "updated" version of the mortgage facts.

By now most people who follow white-collar crime know the backstory. Last year, on October 9th, Mr. Holder gave a press conference in which he touted the efforts of Barack Obama's Mortgage Fraud Task Force, claiming that in a year's time, the Department had secured "285 federal criminal indictments and informations against 530 defendants for allegedly victimizing more than 73,000 American homeowners - and inflicting losses in excess of $1 billion."

Two days after that appearance, a pair of pain-in-the-ass Bloomberg reporters, Phill Mattingly and Tom Schoenberg, reported that at least one of the cases Holder was citing was a Bush-era prosecution, and multiple others had been filed long before the Task Force existed. "There is no attempt to fudge the numbers," an FBI spokesman grumbled lamely at the time.

Subsequently, Bloomberg writer Jonathan Weil continued to follow up, pestering the DOJ for a list of the cases Holder was talking about. He repeatedly asked a DOJ spokesperson for the list, and whether the delay was coming from the FBI (which had the information) or the DOJ, he never got the information he was after.

Last Friday, the reason for that stalling finally emerged. The DOJ issued a revised press release, admitting that it had not, in fact, prosecuted 530 individuals in the program, but 107 as Weil noted, an 80% decrease. Wrote Weil this weekend, in a piece entitled "Eric Holder Owes the American People and Apology":

Holder originally said the defendants had victimized more than 73,000 American homeowners. That number was revised to 17,185, while estimates of homeowner losses associated with the frauds dropped to $95 million from $1 billion.

Now, the new, revised DOJ press release came with a big banner at the top announcing their screwup, along with a full-paragraph mea culpa in which they basically admit to gaming the numbers for press purposes in multiple ways. The new press release reads like a Capitol Hill version of horror fiction. Emphasis is mine:

This press release was updated on August 9, 2013.
An extensive review of the reported cases concluded that the original figures included in the Distressed Homeowner Initiative were not just criminal defendants who had been charged in Fiscal Year 2012, as reported, but also a number of defendants who were the subject of other prosecutive actions such as a conviction or sentence in Fiscal Year 2012. In addition, the announcement included a number of defendants who were charged in mortgage fraud cases in which the victim(s) did not fit the narrow definition of distressed homeowner that the initiative targeted. As a result, the announcement overstated the number of defendants that should have been included as part of the Distressed Homeowner Initiative. . .

It goes on. This is the kind of paragraph that should have been written in drippy-blood font, for heads surely rolled behind this incident: I would bet just about anything that the dumpsters outside the DOJ offices in D.C. this week are full of medical waste bags, bodies wrapped in carpet and duct tape, etc. . .

Enough hay has already been made about the Task Force numbers screwup, so no need to go there. What is interesting is what my friend Thacker noticed yesterday. Not only did the DOJ revise the original press release on the web, they also revised the transcript of Holder's remarks from the infamous October 9th, 2012 press conference from last year. The only thing is, unlike the press release, there was nothing on the web page containing that transcribed speech indicating that it had been altered. Here's how the second paragraph of the official DOJ transcript of Holder's remarks reads now note some of the numbers:

This national effort known as the Distressed Homeowner Initiative ran from October 1st, 2011, to September 30th of this year and was led by members of the Mortgage Fraud Working Group of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. This landmark Initiative, spearheaded by the FBI, was launched to help streamline and advance investigations and prosecutions against fraudsters who allegedly targeted, and preyed upon, Americans struggling to keep their homes. And it's been a model of success. Over the past 12 months, it has enabled the Justice Department and its partners to file federal criminal charges against 107 defendants for allegedly victimizing more than 17,185 American homeowners and inflicting losses in excess of $95 million. On the civil side, as part of this Initiative, Mortgage Fraud Working Group Members have filed federal civil cases against 128 defendants for losses totaling at least $54 million, and involving more than 19,000 victims.

Thanks to the joy of the Wayback Machine, however, we know what Holder actually said that day. His actual remarks read as follows:

This national effort known as the Distressed Homeowner Initiative ran from October 1st, 2011, to September 30th of this year and was led by members of the Mortgage Fraud Working Group of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. This landmark Initiative, spearheaded by the FBI, was launched to help streamline and advance investigations and prosecutions against fraudsters who allegedly targeted, and preyed upon, Americans struggling to keep their homes. And it's been a model of success. Over the past 12 months, it has enabled the Justice Department and its partners to file 285 federal criminal indictments and informations against 530 defendants for allegedly victimizing more than 73,000 American homeowners and inflicting losses in excess of $1 billion. On the civil side, as part of this Initiative, we have filed 110 federal civil cases against over 150 defendants for losses totaling at least $37 million, and involving more than 15,000 victims.

As someone who collects old newspapers and once paid pretty fair money for an old Soviet magazine featuring a photo in which the face of Lev Trotsky had been blotted out I find this very curious.

Certainly it is news when the Attorney General recites erroneous statistics, but the fact that his Department admitted to such a mistake last week would normally be in his, and its, favor.

But just as clearly, one can't go back into history and change what someone said, in public, at a news conference. Nonetheless, this is, in fact, what the Department of Justice just did.

The DOJ insists that in short order there will be a disclaimer on the Holder-speech page to match the disclaimer on the press-release page (UPDATE: the disclaimer is now up). As to the other obvious question, whether this is the first time this sort of history-fixing thing has been done, I'm working on that. At best, it's a pretty weird little story.

 

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+41 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-08-14 09:27
George Bernard Shaw:"The longer I live here, the more I think this planet is used as an insane asylum for other planets." Hit the road Holder. Go back to your planet Bufungoo.
 
 
+14 # HowardMH 2013-08-14 10:40
Totally Agree Eldon,

“I can explain this to you; I can’t comprehend it for you.”

Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity
 
 
+15 # ER444 2013-08-14 12:47
How did the Chinese Communists used to say "The future is certain, history is constantly changing." Who are we now?
 
 
-41 # arquebus 2013-08-14 09:29
Much ado about nothing. Waste of paper and bandwidth.
 
 
+9 # HowardMH 2013-08-14 10:34
Just look at the three stooges. Obama the Wimp, Holder the puppet of the Wimp, and Justice Thomas the mute who hasn’t said anything intelligent on the supreme court in many, many years. You can also add to the list the former Republican Congressman in Florida, Allen West who is a threat to the gene pool and it took him a month to figure out that he lost the election in 2012. What about the hearings on how bad Wall Street is screwing everyone???? Clinton put over 1000 Wall Street Crooks in jail, Bush put 1300 and Obama the Wimp and put Zero, “0”, nada, none, no one in jail!
 
 
0 # robcarter.vn 2013-08-18 01:59
That's fantastic Bush and Clinton cleared all the crooks off Wall Street and Obama didn't allow any new crooks into the money end?
 
 
+15 # nice2blucky 2013-08-14 13:23
"Much ado about nothing." ... To whom? And more importantly, why?

I won't use the term troll for you becasue it may be that you are just not very bright.

Some fools never understand, some cannot. The most offensive are the ones who just don't want to.

Reports are coming out about Fukushima -- of the continuing consequence of shortsightednes s and greed.

Years ago, there were likely prescient people who either objected to the safety of the then-proposed Fukushima nuclear reactor for various reasons: the site chosen for the reactor was near a large, underground fresh-water aquifer, possibly because of design flaws, or simply because of unknown factors and potential for catastrophic and uncontrollable damage.

There are causal correllations to action, whether you see it or not.

And whether it is over the erosion of civil liberties, acquiescence to Wall Street, the Military Industrial Complex, energy companies, privatization of prisons, etc., there are drastic and far reaching consequences; it is only compounded when under the banner of the fervently defended D party.

To accept determinations of meaning, importance, or consequence from the arrogant, ignorant, the sociopathic, or the conflicted is the hight of irresponsibilit y and foolishness.

While Holder should have never been appointed -- nor confirmed -- as Attorney General of the U.S., he should also have long stepped down -- or been fired -- for numerous reasons. This is simply another brick.
 
 
+7 # womyn 2013-08-14 17:21
Great info provided. I concur 100%

Also, Eric Holder was previously involved in the cover up with the Oklahoma bombing. That's how he got his career really going.

He's willing to lie, deceive, and worse, NOT prosecute the Wall Street Criminals (who put him in his job via financial support!).

During the S&NL scandal, a drop in the bucket compared to the 2008 world wide financial collapse, by design, of course, by the Wall Street Bansters. Over 1500 people were not only prosecuted, they up ended in prison. Hello, does this matter to anyone?
Can you say corruption with a capital C?
 
 
+21 # fredboy 2013-08-14 09:49
Today's DOJ would make a hilarious sitcom, or tragicomedy.
 
 
+6 # HowardMH 2013-08-14 10:32
Stupid is as Stupid does and there is obviously a whole lot of stupid out there. I’m not sure what concerns me more the stupid politicians or the idiots and imbeciles that voted for them.

If DOJ with Holder the puppet of Obama the Wimp is investigating then there is nothing there to investigate.
DOJ couldn’t investigate Wall Street because they would actually find something and have to put some of those donors to Obama the Wimp in jail.
 
 
-25 # vgirl1 2013-08-14 10:14
Old news. The DOJ amended this last evening after it was first reported and made a note that the numbers that now appear on the webpage have been updated from those used in Holders original speech.

Will you post an amendment to this story saying they have done that?
 
 
+2 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-08-15 14:02
Your point being? Surely the issue is not only the errors, but also the fraudulence of rewriting the prior release.
 
 
+14 # nice2blucky 2013-08-14 10:28
The use of semantics and parsed phrases, along with the occasional (well orchestrated or timed) plausably-denia ble oops, is the norm for our deeply flawed government agencies and representatives.

Delay, delay, delay, distract, obfuscate, lie, ... to the eventual no comment, this is standard operating procedure within our govenmental institutions and agencies.

And if people want accountability. Well, tough shit. These people have accepted that fiddling around truth and lying is their job. They will always be protected for lying on behalf of their objective.

Punishment!!!!!!! ... for doing their job (lying)?

Ask James Clapper what the punishment for lying is. Ask Eric Holder what the punishment for lying is. Ask George Bush, Dick Cheney, or Scooter Libby what the consequence for lying is. Pardon ME is the answer.

But tell the truth??? Ask Bradley Manning, John Kiriakou, etc. ... what is the consequence of revealing truth.

Speaking of semantics, parcing, and obfuscation...

On the question of SPYING ON AMERICANS... are our leaders allowing, assisting, accessing and/or using foreign espionage intelligence against American citizens?

Is the solution to not being allowed to legally spy on Americans to outsource spying to foreign entities? Absolutely.

Will they lie about it? Absolutely.

Their preference is a poorly (or carefully crafted confusing, vague, intentionally misleading) question, or no question at all.

But they lie, lie, lie, and they lie.
 
 
+4 # RLF 2013-08-15 06:36
Government stats haven't been trust-able since raygun. I can't believe Holder didn't brag about how much they had gotten in settlements while allowing these assholes to admit no wrong doing. None of that money gets back to the injured...it goes to bail out more banksters!
 
 
+9 # lnason@umassd.edu 2013-08-14 10:44
Holder is a serial liar and this is just one of his most recent untruths. He lied to Congress about not knowing about Fast and Furious; he lied to everyone about not ever even "hearing about" the prosecution of journalists for doing their jobs; he has lied about mortality causes for black women; he has lied about his dismissal of the conviction of the Black Panthers guys for voter intimidation; he has lied about the actual effects of voter ID laws; and much, much more.

Finally, most recently, he is violating his obligations under the law by dictating drug laws instead of enforcing existing laws. I happen to agree with his thinking on the drug war but the rule of law demands that he raise the issue with Congress and get the laws changed rather than telling prosecutors to withhold evidence from judges.

I was favorably inclined toward him initially since he had had a good record for avoiding activism but power has gone to his head and he is indeed absolutely corrupted.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
 
 
+1 # Robt Eagle 2013-08-14 11:38
So, essentially it is ok for Eric Holder to lie and get Obama re-elected. Holder has allowed voter fraud when it suits Democrats, but will prosecute Republicans for allegeded, and never proven, activities that are helpful to elect Dems. Even though Obama has violated the Constitution on numerous occassions, Holder would never go after any of those abuses. This is just pure fraud over and over again. Let's not forget Fast and Furious (cover up), IRA abuses (coverup), Benghazi (coverup), etc, etc, etc. Eric Holder is a shill for his good friend Obama and the loser in all of this is the American public. I still think that Obama will declare himself Emperor Obama and Holder will defend his right to do so, the US Constitution be damned...just wait and see!
 
 
+4 # karenvista 2013-08-14 12:26
Straight out of "The Ministry of Truth."
 
 
+5 # 666 2013-08-14 14:27
in orwellian terms, "minijust" would be a perfect name for the DOJ -- since justice is exactly what's missing in the country
 
 
+1 # dick 2013-08-14 17:19
Congress isn't the only Animal Farm. Jen Granholm for AG.
 
 
+2 # wrknight 2013-08-14 18:29
In Orwell's 1984, Big Brother did that all the time. Why should we expect anything less?
 
 
+2 # Walter J Smith 2013-08-15 06:00
More evidence, as if we need it, that Holder is Obama's principle puff ball fairy dust spreader.
 

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