It's a staple of the defense bar that an accused should not wind up in prison in the service of a political agenda. Although I often disagree with the defense, in this they are 100% correct. Putting people in the slammer because of the political needs of those in power is odious to American justice. It's the stuff of banana republics -- banana republics and tyrannies.
In all the recent talk of mass clemency for hundreds or thousands of drug pushers, I have yet to hear anyone in DOJ or elsewhere in the Administration mention giving consideration of clemency to the one non-violent federal defendant who, more obviously than any other I can remember, wound up behind bars (now in a halfway house) in the service of political expediency. That would be Nakoula Nakoula.
And who, you ask, is Nakoula Nakoula?
He's the fellow who produced the famous Internet video, "Innocence of Muslims," that the Administration ubiquitously, immediately and aggressively -- but falsely -- blamed for the Benghazi attack, saying that it whipped up a frenzy among random Islamic passers-by.
This was a point-blank lie. It was a pre-planned terrorist attack, something the CIA and the State Department knew almost immediately, and that is now no longer questioned by anyone.
But telling the truth about the attack was not on the government's agenda. An American ambassador was murdered and, while still alive, was dragged through the streets. Three other Americans had were also killed. For months, the embassy had been seeking improved security, but those requests were denied by the State Department, at the time headed by a politician with a lot of clout.
The politics of the moment dictated that something other than lack of preparation, indifference to the embassy's security needs, and an incompetent and/or uncaring attitude in Washington on the night of the invasion get nailed as the cause of the attack and its deadly consequences. Mr. Nakoula and his Internet video got the call.
He was an easy target. As one article points out, Nakoula is a crook and a swindler. He was out on supervised release from a fraud conviction. It's not like we're dealing with an innocent man here (of course the heroin and meth dealers whose sentences Mr. Obama is so eager to commute aren't innocent, either). As the article relates:
Following the Benghazi attack, it became quickly obvious that Nakoula Nakoula's days were numbered despite what actually happened on the ground. During the Benghazi hearings, Gregory Hicks, claimed "[t]he YouTube video was a non-event in Libya," despite the Obama Administration's attempts to pin the violence in Libya to protests over a short YouTube trailer for the anti-Muslim film.Regardless, the White House ran public service announcements in Pakistan featuring President Barack Obama saying the United States had nothing to do with the anti-Muslim video. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Charles Woods, the father of a Navy SEAL killed in Benghazi, that "[w]e will make sure that the person who made that film is arrested and prosecuted."
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was arrested the day after President Obama's re-election ostensibly for lying to his probation officer about his role in making the anti-Muslim film. Since the Obama administration wanted to blame the video for Benghazi Nakoula ended up in jail. At the time, Politico pointed out how unusual this should lead to jail time, never mind having his records sealed:
"A violation of probation, though, usually produces a court summons and doesn't typically lead to more jail time unless it involves an offense that would be worth prosecuting in its own right under federal standards. Not for Nakoula. ... Nakoula Basseley Nakoula's underlying offense wasn't an underlying offense. He exercised his First Amendment rights."
The purpose of this post is not to assign blame for the Benghazi episode. It is simply to point out what seems clear by now, to wit, that Nakoula Nakoula, swindler that he is, would never have gone back to jail but for the political machinations Benghazi ignited. Essentially, the Administration made the scurrilous, extremely public and false accusation that Nakoula was responsible for four gruesome murders. If an Assistant US Attorney had pulled a stunt like that, he'd be fired the next day.
If DOJ can be falling all over itself to push clemency for people who facilitate the death-dealing heroin trade, one would hope it could extend at least a little consideration to a mere con artist it imprisoned -- it is now clear -- in the service of political expediency.