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COMMENT In a democracy, quasi or full-fledged, a certain mystique clings to people who wield power in an investigative/prosecutorial role but are impervious to the scrutiny the system invites.

Of attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail, the aura of invulnerability that has congealed around him resembles that which surrounded J Edgar Hoover, legendary director of the FBI in the US, whose capacity to ferret secrets and devious deployment of them against detractors made him a feared operator in the corridors of power.

Hoover was indispensable to five US presidents before a sixth, faced with a decision to cashier him on his reaching the mandatory retirement age, played safe by extending tenure.

Lyndon Johnson's reason for his decision enjoys an imperishable niche in a compendium of salty putdowns: "It is better to have him (Hoover) inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in."

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