Letter to the Hon. William P. Barr, Attorney General - Rep. Davis Joins Letter to Attorney General Barr on Assault on Rule of Law


By: Mark Pocan, Denny Heck, Adam Smith, Pramila Jayapal, Rick Larsen, Suzan DelBene, Peter Welch, Gerry Connolly, Jennifer Wexton, Don Beyer, Jr., Abigail Spanberger, Donald McEachin, Filemon Vela, Jr., Sylvia Garcia, Joaquin Castro, Veronica Escobar, Al Green, Lizzie Fletcher, Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, David Cicilline, Mike Doyle, Jr., Matt Cartwright, Mary Scanlon, Madeleine Dean, Dwight Evans, Brendan Boyle, Peter DeFazio, Suzanne Bonamici, Tim Ryan, Marcia Fudge, Joyce Beatty, Brian Higgins, Paul Tonko, Sean Maloney, Eliot Engel, José Serrano, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Adriano Espaillat, Carolyn Maloney, Hakeem Jeffries, Nydia Velázquez, Grace Meng, Gregory Meeks, Kathleen Rice, Thomas Suozzi, Dina Titus, Deb Haaland, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Mikie Sherrill, Don Payne, Jr., Bill Pascrell, Jr., Albio Sires, Tom Malinowski, Frank Pallone, Jr., Andy Kim, Alma Adams, David Price, G. K. Butterfield, Jr., Betty McCollum, Rashida Tlaib, Andy Levin, Chellie Pingree, Jamie Raskin, Anthony Brown, John Sarbanes, Bill Keating, Stephen Lynch, Ayanna Pressley, Katherine Clark, Joe Kennedy III, Jim McGovern, Clay Higgins, Cedric Richmond, John Yarmuth, Bill Foster, Jan Schakowsky, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Mike Quigley, Chuy Garcia, Bobby Rush, John Lewis, Hank Johnson, Jr., Donna Shalala, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Frederica Wilson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings, Sr., Kathy Castor, Darren Soto, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Eleanor Norton, Jahana Hayes, Jim Himes, Ed Perlmutter, Jason Crow, Joe Neguse, Diana DeGette, Alan Lowenthal, Lou Correa, Nanette Barragán, Mark Takano, Gil Cisneros, Linda Sánchez, Karen Bass, Norma Torres, Jimmy Gomez, Ted Lieu, Grace Napolitano, Brad Sherman, Judy Chu, Julia Brownley, Jimmy Panetta, Zoe Lofgren, Anna Eshoo, Ro Khanna, Jackie Speier, Barbara Lee, Jerry McNerney, Doris Matsui, Mike Thompson, John Garamendi, Jared Huffman, Ruben Gallego, Raul Grijalva, Terri Sewell, Danny Davis
Date: June 4, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

Dear Attorney General Barr: We and the entire nation are in a state of heightened awareness in the wake of the thoroughly unconstitutional military assault you ordered on peaceful civil rights protesters exercising their First Amendment rights in a traditional public forum in order to make way for the President's blasphemous photo opportunity at St. John's Episcopal Church on Monday night. But now we write about a related and continuing remarkable assault on the rule of law: your deployment of Department of Justice (DOJ) law enforcement officers, including personnel from the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), to act against protesters in Washington, D.C. without carrying identifying name plates, official insignia, or agency markings of any kind on their "uniforms." Washington, D.C. is the constitutional Seat of Government where all citizens have the right to travel, speak, assemble, and petition for a redress of grievances. These generic "law enforcement personnel" you have sent forth into public spaces to police and harass the citizenry have been refusing to identify themselves or their employing agencies to members of the public and the press. Several have stated that they were not permitted to identify themselves. These officers have been part of a law enforcement operation making arrests, subduing civil rights protesters, firing rubber bullets in the chests of our constituents, and intimidating the public. Who are they and who do they work for? The United States is a constitutional democracy and all of us who are elected to public office are nothing but the servants of the people. Those appointed to public office, like you and the law enforcement officials under your command, are nothing but the servants of the servants of the people. The public must know in all cases whether individuals purporting to enforce the law by detaining citizens or using force against them are actually authorized to do so--and by whom. This is critical to police accountability to the people. How can our constituents complain about abusive conduct on the part of your officers if they cannot even identify them or which agency they work for? Anonymity for armed federal agents thus confers on them a cloak of immunity, impunity and omnipotence. There will be no repercussions for trampling the civil rights and liberties of the people. 2 Identifying law enforcement personnel is also critical to prevent vigilante and impostor groups from masquerading as law enforcement officers and committing random acts of violence and abusing the rights of the people.1 How do you propose to explain to American citizens the difference between your unidentified but heavily armed law enforcement officers and self-appointed militiamen and camouflage-sporting white supremacists carrying military-style assault weapons? The failure of law enforcement personnel to provide identifying information on a uniform is "a direct contradiction to the oversight that [DOJ has] been providing for many years to local police" according to former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton.2 Anonymizing law enforcement officials is a step taken by authoritarians like Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet who provide amnesty to loyalists so that their free-wheeling abuse of civilians is never known.3 This obscuring of lines of public authority is antithetical to our Constitution and should never be undertaken by the Attorney General of the United States. Over the last week, you defied the Constitutional rights of the people. It appears now that under your directive and leadership, the DOJ has formed an army of unidentifiable and unaccountable law enforcement personnel to dominate Washington, D.C. This is an invitation to further chaos, confusion, discord and violence. We demand that you immediately order the restoration of identifying information to the uniforms of all DOJ personnel deployed within the city of Washington, D.C. We also demand that you provide responses to the following inquiries by Monday, June 8, 2020:
1. Identify the individual(s) who ordered that DOJ law enforcement personnel be deployed to Washington, D.C., without any identifying name plates, insignia, or markers denoting agency affiliation on their uniforms.
2. Identify the authority and basis for allowing DOJ law enforcement personnel to remove all identifying nameplates, insignia, or markers denoting agency affiliation on their uniforms.
3. Identify the individual who ordered the unidentifiable DOJ law enforcement officers to refuse to answer inquiries as to their agency affiliations and the authority under which such order was given.
4. Identify the agencies, field offices, units, and any other identifying information from which DOJ law enforcement have been drawn and deployed to Washington, D.C.
5. Detail whether the Department has developed contingency plans to deal with right-wing agitators, domestic terrorist organizations, and paramilitary groups that may attempt to disguise themselves with paramilitary tactical gear similar to that worn by DOJ law enforcement personnel to infiltrate the District of Columbia or other locations to cause disruption and bodily harm to protesters and governmental personnel. Does the Department have a means to recognize non-law enforcement officers who are dressed in similar paramilitary tactical gear to prevent their incursion into secured areas? Any refusal or hesitation on your part to order DOJ personnel to immediately affix both personally identifying and institutionally identifying nameplates, insignia, and other markers on their uniforms will only further demonstrate your unfitness to lead the Department of Justice. We therefore look forward to your prompt and positive response.