Human Events Blog

The Gibson Guitar Raid

The Justice Department raided the Gibson Guitar factory in Nashville on Wednesday morning.  From a Gibson press release:

On August 24, 2011, around 8:45 a.m. CDT, agents for the federal government executed four search warrants on Gibson’s facilities in Nashville and Memphis and seized several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. Gibson had to cease its manufacturing operations and send workers home for the day, while armed agents executed the search warrants. Gibson has fully cooperated with the execution of the search warrants.

This actually happened once before:

In 2009, more than a dozen agents with automatic weapons invaded the Gibson factory in Nashville. The Government seized guitars and a substantial amount of ebony fingerboard blanks from Madagascar. To date, 1 year and 9 months later, criminal charges have NOT been filed, yet the Government still holds Gibson’s property.

Why is the Justice Department invading Gibson’s factory and seizing its property, without filing any charges?  Do they think illegal materials might be hidden inside the guitars?  Or, given recent history, were they trying to hide illegal guns inside guitars headed for Mexico?

No, this is all about the wood the guitars are made from.  As the Wall Street Journal explains:

The question in the first raid seemed to be whether Gibson had been buying illegally harvested hardwoods from protected forests, such as the Madagascar ebony that makes for such lovely fretboards. And if Gibson did knowingly import illegally harvested ebony from Madagascar, that wouldn’t be a negligible offense. Peter Lowry, ebony and rosewood expert at the Missouri Botanical Garden, calls the Madagascar wood trade the “equivalent of Africa’s blood diamonds.” But with the new raid, the government seems to be questioning whether some wood sourced from India met every regulatory jot and tittle.

What jots and tittles would those be?  This isn’t some kind of environmental crisis.  I don’t suppose Gibson’s musician clientele would tolerate one of those.  According to the Gibson statement:

The wood the Government seized on August 24 is from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier and is FSC Controlled, meaning that the wood complies with the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council, which is an industry-recognized and independent, not-for-profit organization established to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC Controlled Wood standards require, among other things, that the wood not be illegally harvested and not be harvested in violation of traditional and civil rights. See for more information. Gibson has a long history of supporting sustainable and responsible sources of wood and has worked diligently with entities such as the Rainforest Alliance and Greenpeace to secure FSC certified supplies. The wood seized on August 24 satisfied FSC standards.

Well, it’s all about the Lacey Act, which the Memphis Daily News tells us “does not directly address conservation issues, but is about obeying all laws of the countries from which wood products are procured.”  In other words, if you’re going to buy wood from India, you have to be in full compliance with Indian law.

Which Indian law did Gibson allegedly violate?  Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz told the Memphis Daily News the government refuses to explain the charges to him:

But Gibson’s CEO says his company has not been told what it did wrong and that he assumes the allegation is that some of the wood being used to manufacture the company’s guitars is illegal.

“Everything is sealed. They won’t tell us anything,” Juszkiewicz said, never raising his voice but pulling no punches in his defense of the storied guitar maker.

However, a Reuters report includes some speculation that it might be a weird Justice Department interpretation of a law the Indian government has not asked the American government to enforce:

“(The government) has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of U.S. law, but because it is the Justice Department’s interpretation of a law in India,” Juszkiewicz said.

If the same wood from the same tree was finished by Indian workers, the material would be legal, he said.

In an affidavit, agent John Rayfield of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said U.S. Customs agents in June detained a shipment of sawn ebony logs from India.

The paperwork accompanying the shipment identified it fraudulently as Indian ebony fingerboards for guitars and it did not say it was going to Gibson, the affidavit said.

In July, agents observed Indian ebony and rosewood delivered to a storage facility for Gibson, according to the affidavit, which asked permission to seize Gibson’s business computers.

Juszkiewicz vented his frustrations to the Memphis Daily News:

“The federal bureaucracy is just out of hand,” Juszkiewicz said. “And it seems to me there’s almost a class warfare of companies versus people, rich versus poor, Republicans versus Democrats … and there’s just a lack of somebody that stands up and says, ‘I’m about everyone. I’m really about America and doing what’s good for the country and not fighting these little battles.’”

“We feel totally abused. We believe the arrogance of federal power is impacting me personally, our company personally and the employees here in Tennessee, and it’s just plain wrong.”

I can’t imagine why we have stagnant GDP growth and chronic high unemployment!  The Obama Administration is actively at war with every business they don’t choose to subsidize.

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  • TorchOnHigh

    Obama and his union goons try to destroy another American manufacturing company, an American icon, and an 80 year old American success story! Yes Obama and his endless plantation of jackasses shut down Gibson guitars for the second time since 2009 in an ongoing effort to take down a non-union right to work company in a RED state!

    They shut them down because they are looking for illegal wood! Yes, not illegal aliens but illegal wood! In 2009 they performed a raid and came up with nothing, they took finished guitars and exotic wood and never returned the property! (how many of these corrupt feds now have a Gibson guitar in the living room I wonder?)They went in again with full automatic weapons drawn and just did it again!

    Obama the Destroyer and his crony Eric Von Holder both need to be impeached!

    These orders are handed down right from the top from king jackass Obama! How many jobs did this create? Is this even America anymore?  2012 can’t get here soon enough..this is just sick!

  • bobby_b

    Bull. Responsibility for bad acts does not transfer away from the actor at any time.

    If you say that Juszkieee . . .  the CEO is to blame, that takes away blame from whatever rent-seeking bribe-taking shyteheaded goon at DOJ that started this strongarm robbery. This isn’t like being unprepared for a storm twice in a row. This is about your own friggen’ government trying to roll you twice.

    And, as for your “he should just leave – that’ll show them!” idea, no, no, no! This is OUR country. If anybody’s going to be leaving society, it’ll be the lying jerks brought in and set loose by Baraq.

  • Ray-Ray

    The outrageous and hypocrisy of these bureaucratic swines!!
    If one acre of wild forest is destroyed to make furniture or musical instruments then a million acres of wild forest is being destoreyed to make place for palm oil plantations for what:??  To make biodiesel to burn up when there are trillions and trillions of barrels of undrilled oil in the USA!! But these damn bureaucrat blockheads ignore biodiesel, why because it is political correct despite the fact that is is doing immeasurable harm to wild forest and the associate fauna and flora.

  • luredesign

    How in the world can this be reelection propaganda? Raid a classic American company on some vague technicality makes the administration look good? 

  • reddarin

    Hiya luredesign.

    As I said, specifics will be dropped and some statistic will be thrown out that looks favorable to the Obama Administration. Or they’ll just lie about it outright as they have so many times before.

    For example: When President Obama was giving a speech in El Paso to a pro-illegal immigration crowd he said the border fence was practically complete. An outright LIE. It is nowhere near complete but he made that statement plainly and went on do demonize sensible citizens that want something done about the flood of illegals coming across the border saying that we wouldn’t be satisfied even if we built a moat with alligators.

    Another example of an outright lie by President Obama – defaulting on the debt. There was no way that was going to happen even without an immediate debt ceiling increase. No way. Period. Revenues for August will be around $200 Billion dollars. Debt service cost $29 Billion dollars. A total lie by this partisan hack President. Not only that, he also said he couldn’t ‘guarantee’ SSI checks would go out without a debt ceiling increase. Another flat out lie. *He* is the one to direct who gets paid out of the $200 Billion dollars:

    Here’s the math of how this could work: For the period from Aug. 3 to Aug. 31, total revenue will be at least $173 billion. The combined costs of interest on the debt, Social Security, and the active duty military pay will be about $81 billion.

    As for the Gibson thing I can imagine that this lie will go something along the lines of ‘my administration has been out in front forcing companies to obey the law and not take advantage of the low wage workers they have off-shored jobs to and we’ve taken huge strides towards making these companies pay their fair share to the American people instead of just turning a blind eye as has been done this past decade’.

  • MeritocraSee

    Okay then. Keep looking up every post you can so you can froth at the mouth about it trolly boy.  Keep arguing to argue.  You’re not going to convince me of anything, and you’re obviously reading only to criticize other people. Hope you feel all superior wanking about here among your choir.

    And be sure to disagree with anyone else who tells you where they stand, and correct them about what their own views actually are. Apparently you have more fun attacking me if I’m “left” whatever makes you feel better.

  • Kraven

    One point I’d like to bring up is . . . Who was the federal judge who issued the four warrants to raid Gibson in the first place?  Oh yeah!  I forgot!  We’re under the Patriot act of 9/2011!!  We don’t need court ordered warrants!  We just raid whoever we want!!!  I Feel So Much Safer Now Under Big Brother!!!

  • Kraven

    And . . . My wood is harder than your wood!  Last time I checked wood, plants, salt from the sea (Ghandi) are all natural resources!!!  Should we all go to prison over things you can get from your own front yard?  What have we become as a society of “intellect”?  This is unbelievable!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • reddarin

    Kraven, that is just silly. Why the MSM and the rest of the Left were howling about the Patriot Act for years under President Bush. They carefully told everyone all the time what sort of abuses would happen under that Act.

    So, if Obama had not issued an EO to stop enforcement of so clearly an unconstitutional law the MSM would have been howling about it for the last two years.

    And Mr. Obama has shown that he is a man of uncommon conscience since he said DOMA was unconstitutional and he refused to support that. 

    Well. Hang on, he didn’t even need to go the extra-constitutional route of the EO. Democrats totally controlled Congress for 2 years so I’m pretty sure the first thing they did was repeal the Act that every (D) claimed was unconstitutional.

    Clearly after being so vocal about it under President Bush, Mr. Obama and the rest of the libs would have burned that document and danced on its ashes.

  • guitarman

    All of you far right/tea baggers you are making noise without knowledge of the market. I am a guitar builder.  I know the laws regarding wood imports and obey them.I know better than to ever buy Madagascar ebony AND SO DOES GIBSON. As far as moving to mexico gibson would go bankrupt as guitars are one of the few american products the whole world wants. Ebony is not the only fretboard wood. deal with it.

  • guitarman

    Also I make all of my guitars with forestry certified AMERICAN wood. 

  • duties

    Does anyone know if Gibson Guitar is a union shop?  Could it have anything to do with Obama and his henchmen putting the Chicagoland beatdown on any business that doesn’t pay union protection money?   What a scandalous band of thugs this administration is.  A page from the Soviet Union strong arm handbook.

  • foghat01

    Then sell your Gibson and buy a Taylor or a Martin.  Your a typical leftist flake, good riddance!

  • Joe Mando

    The wood is NOT from the rain forest.

    Sounds like you majored in ‘Jumping To Conclusions’ in college?

  • jeffrey melton

    The Chicago way is the same as the mafia. These federal crooks should be in jail not in the White House. Was the raid on Gibson Guitars politically motivated? You betcha.