“It doesn’t matter whether the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice.”
That’s how Deng Xiaoping justified his economic revolution, opening up China’s formerly entirely party-state controlled economy to make room for enterprise and initiative.
Just show results, baby. Catch those mice. End of story.
Fine if you’re the head of a Communist party state that has always felt free to make its own laws and bend or ignore them as it chose.
Of course, you wind up with a Chinese economy corrupted by cronyism and collaboration with organized crime, enabled by the very Party state that presently makes the rules.
In democracies like ours, there are frequent conflicts between results and rule of law. Usually, rule of law wins out, but when it comes to catching and convicting criminals, results can pose a powerful argument.
Recently the NY Times investigative reporter Matt Apuzzo broke the story… of how an ATF (the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) tobacco smuggling task force was turned into an out-of-control, off-the-books bank and supply service for the agency and its agents.
Using the tobacco smuggling unit’s management account gave agents gold-plated credit cards and flashy cars and iPhones and flat-screen TVs to give to informants or targets; and all without any approvals or messy paperwork. Or oversight.
Lax oversight appears to have allowed the unit’s 2 favorite informants to blow the whole thing up by bringing into their criminal-catching operation a group of plain old tobacco growers. Apuzzo says court documents filed by the tobacco growers co-op suggest the informants, who made more than $6 million apiece over the 7 years of this operation, thought they had found a way to bring in more millions to their and the ATF Agents’ piggy bank. The tobacco growers figured out they’d bought into some funny business, sued, and revealed the structure and innards of this mess to NY Times.
But this exercise in throwing away the rulebook did produce results. More than 100 ATF arrests, according to the agent who dreamed this whole deal up, and recognition for assistance on cases for the F.B.I., the DEA and British intelligence. Oh, and the agent’s church may have netted $410,000 from the so-called “management account.”
Results were the justification and accomplishment for a 6 month ATF mission to attack drug and gun crime in Albuquerque, NM from March to August of 2016. 103 people arrested, of whom 65 have already plead guilty. A net-full of “the worst of the worst” of criminals taken off the street, crowed the local US Attorney and the Agent in Charge at a post-op news conference.
Jeff Proctor is an investigative reporter based in Albuquerque, NM. He works for the news website NM in Depth (nmindepth.com) and the Santa Fe Reporter. His work has appeared in the New York Times and on the NPR investigative news magazine Reveal.