Independence lost


On this July 4th holiday when the nation goes through the annual ritual of celebrating its history and praising itself for the freedoms it gained from the British 237 years ago, it is sobering to realize that it has, almost casually, allowed the government to gut those very freedoms leaving just a brittle, hollowed-out shell that looks good on paper but has little or no substance.

Take for instance, torture. It is universally regarded as a horrible crime worthy of condemnation and severe punishment for its practitioners. One of the biggest scandals is that not a single person who was responsible for the torture programs in the Bush and Obama regimes ever went to jail or suffered even the slightest consequences for committing torture, authorizing torture, sending people to be tortured in other countries, or providing the ‘legal’ cover for torture.

But there is one person who did go to jail over the torture issue and that is CIA officer John Kiriakou. But he was prosecuted not for committing any of those acts but for whistleblowing about them, revealing not only the existence of torture but confirming for the first time that the US government was committing the ghastly act of waterboarding. He was convicted of passing along classified information to a reporter and is now serving a 30-month prison sentence that began in February.

A little over a month ago, Kiriakou sent a letter describing what life is like for him in jail and the interactions he has had with other inmates. It provides a fascinating glimpse of life inside and the unexpected friendships and alliances that form within those walls.

Then a couple of days ago, he wrote an open letter to fellow whistleblower Edward Snowden giving him advice on what to do. Like the previous letter, it is handwritten.

He warns that the US is “devolving into a police state with the loss of civil liberties that entails” and thanks Snowden for trying to prevent it. He calls most members of Congress “mindless lemmings” that will follow “the national security leadership over the cliff” but that there are a few (unnamed) “clear thinkers” who should be cultivated.

He ends with the most important advice:

Finally, and this is the most important advice that I can offer, DO NOT, under any circumstances, cooperate with the FBI. FBI agents will lie, trick, and deceive you. They will twist your words and play on your patriotism to entrap you. They will pretend to be people they are not – supporters, well-wishers, and friends – all the while wearing wires to record your out-of-context statements to use against you. The FBI is the enemy; it’s a part of the problem, not the solution.

Kiriakou should know. Earlier, he had described how the FBI tried repeatedly to entrap him.

Even as I write this, I am astonished at what I am describing: a nation in which we are warned that the government is our enemy and that the law enforcement agencies are out to get us if we so much as look sideways at them and their criminal practices. It is astonishing that it has come to this under a president who is supposedly a professor of constitutional law, who promised transparency and commitment to the rule of law, and, most incredibly, is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Comments

  1. Lofty says

    I predicted much of this kind of thing would result as a direct consequence the US response to 9/11. It was pretty much the first thing out of my mouth when I heard the news: “There goes personal freedom” I said to my friend. Welcome to the future of 9/11. Big Brother wants to control everyone.

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    When did the USA ever live up to its own hype? Better for all if it had lost the Revolutionary War.

  3. Chiroptera says

    Even as I write this, I am astonished at what I am describing: a nation in which we are warned that the government is our enemy and that the law enforcement agencies are out to get us if we so much as look sideways at them and their criminal practices.

    Huh. I learned that growing up, and I often wonder why this is a surprise to anyone else. Am I the only one who was born and raised in the ’60s and ’70s?

  4. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    It is universally regarded as a horrible crime worthy of condemnation and severe punishment for its practitioners.

    Is it?

    Aren’t there cultures and people that celebrate it?

    Even here on Earth to say nothing of the entire cosmos

    I could be wrong but I think that statement is inaccurate.

    Maybe it should be that way and it may be regrettable to many that it is not the case but I am not so sure it is the reality or universal or even global.

  5. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @2. slc1

    Hey, Yasir Arafat, no democrat he, won the Nobel Peace Prize.

    Arafat was, disgustingly, awarded it for briefly pretending he was actually interested in a peaceful solution – not sure that’s the same as winning so much as obtaining by false pretences but yeah. You & #3 are correct there in my view and the Nobel prize committee should have done better.

    PS. You seem to contradict yourself here Mano Singham :

    Assertion A.

    Take for instance, torture. It is universally regarded as a horrible crime worthy of condemnation and severe punishment for its practitioners.

    meets just one line later fact B:

    One of the biggest scandals is that not a single person who was responsible for the torture programs in the Bush and Obama regimes ever went to jail or suffered even the slightest consequences for committing torture, authorizing torture, sending people to be tortured in other countries, or providing the ‘legal’ cover for torture.

    (Emphasis added.)

    If were true then B surely would not be the reality and since B is the reality it strongly suggests that A is false.

    Or maybe its more complex than that?

    It may be that definitions of torture vary or that sometimes it is seen as the lesser of evils with the temporary physical and /or mental pain inflicted on a specific particularly dangerous criminal or terrorist being ethically outweighed by the saving of innocent lives and thereby vastly diminishing the sum total of human misery and suffering perhaps?

    I think the above is a valid argument on utilitarian ethics whether one particularly feels inclined to agree with and adopt it as one’s own position or not.

  6. Bob Hope says

    Media are made up by people like Obama. They are all clueless socialists who think they know better. They defend dysfunction and corruption as long as it has a leftwing slant.

  7. Mano Singham says

    The idea that US media or Obama is a socialist or even left-wing is laughable.

  8. Chiroptera says

    Bob, let me give you a tip: words have meanings, and if you use words inappropriately you are in danger of exposing yourself as either ignorant or deluded.

    Neither Obama nor most of the media are advocating that businesses are owned outright by the state so that the state appoints the management and collects all the revenue; nor are they advocating that all businesses be turned into cooperatives run by worker councils. That means that they are not socialists.

    You’re welcome.

  9. TheDuhExcuse says

    This is the classic dismissive response to every major revelation of government criminality: “Well, duh, I knew that all along… are you really so surprised?” It is a way to feel both savvy and okay with not doing anything about it (I don’t know your personal circumstance, of course… maybe you’re secretly Daniel Ellsberg). Your comment is a mild form of the attitude I’ve seen expressed everywhere… often by people who wish to dismiss Snowden’s leaks or the leaks of other whistleblowers. It is, at best, a coping technique. If we lose the capacity for outrage, we lose any motivation. I don’t think many who have been paying attention are genuinely surprised… but they should be outraged. Also, the capacity for police state tactics is much much greater than in the 60s and 70s. Check out the recent Ellsberg editorial “Snowden Made the Right Call When He Fled the U.S.” for a good explanation of how many of the actions taken since 9/11 are unprecedented and uniquely dangerous.

  10. Shagata Ganai says

    This encroaching police state has been visible for years. The militarization of suburban police forces has been going on for a while. It is the ability that these “security” forces now have to go *back in time*, listed and read all about someone’s doings, apparently for YEARS, that scares me. This must be stopped.

  11. Andrew Harris says

    The U.S. is in no way Socialist. In fact, these days, we are bordering on Fascism. I agree with the other posters, you clearly have no idea what Socialism is.

  12. Mike T says

    I think “regarding as a horrible crime” and no one actually being held accountable (when they are the people in charge of hold themselves and their friends accountable) are two different things. Life does not work in logical argument 100%. We tortured people, Obama says we won’t look back but forward, but holds a CIA man accountable for blowing the whistle. That is pretty arbitrary use of the law. Clear crimes committed, but no one held accountable except the one to scare other offenders of the government.

    There is no ABC 123 logic in our politics, my friend, unless you are talking about money.

  13. Barbara B says

    What you are describing is Communism. Socialism is the successful medium between Capitalism & Communism. It works better than either extreme.

  14. sirlanse says

    So what did BHO do to get the Peace Prize?
    You may not agree with hat Kissinger did to get it, but he DID ALOT!
    BHO is a leftist.
    I Voted for Bush, and was surprised when he cut left, and I did not like the Patriot act.
    Local law enforcement immediately looked for ways to use it against local drug dealers.
    Now we have stories about NYC cops using the database to research other cops, ex-wives etc.
    Too much data in one place is too much temptation.

  15. Igor Serotila says

    As a law student in Europe, I couldn’t have phrased better the idea behind the last statement, which i share. I consider the Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the US are by far the most comprehensive and complete constitutional documents ever written and to see how authority alters the very nature of the documents is sad.

  16. thedude says

    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!:

    blockquote> Arafat was, disgustingly, awarded it for briefly pretending he was actually interested in a peaceful solution…

    Arafat actually tried to make peace, but it is difficult to make peace when your opponents are a bunch of genocidal fascists who breaks every agreement.

  17. Chiroptera says

    So what did BHO do to get the Peace Prize?

    If I recall correctly, he got it for not being McCain.

  18. Trouble in Paradise says

    The definition of torture is described under U.N. convention that the U.S. is party to. Thinking that Mengele’s different definition of ‘torture’ is meaningful is either Orwellian or beyond foolish.

    As for it’s utility, many claim it’s useful but their ‘proof’ never survives scrutiny. Torture’s blowback, however, can be measured in suicide bombers.

  19. says

    We, have been patting ourselves on the back because we have a constitution that we call fantastically good, and for about 220 years. I’ve changed my mind on the constitution. For 90 y ears it allowed millions of people in the U.S.A. to live as slaves. It is so weasel-worded that its majority can declared that a corporation can be considered as a human being, for certain purposes. And now we have the torture problem. I haven’t even heard a suggestion that we look at the Constitution for what it says about that problem. The second ammendment can only create a mess which is has done and which can only get worse. I suspect that the golden rule, standing alone, can do as good a job; it depends on how enlightened the supreme court justices are.

  20. B. De says

    Mahatma Gandhi did not receive the Novel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Prize has the same value as the value of a toilet paper in the bathroom. It is useful for some purpose, but otherwise worthless piece of junk.

  21. slc1 says

    Arafat turned down a deal offered him by former President Cllinton because accepting it would have meant dropping the demand that inhabitants of Palestinian Refugee camps be resettled in Israel, something that he was unwilling to do. That will be agreeable when New York City is returned to Native Americans from whom it was stolen and when ethnic Germans who were kicked out of the Sudetenland after WW 2 are allowed to return home.

    The Palestinians living on the West Bank and even the Gaza Strip are most fortunate that they aren’t living in Syria or Egypt.

  22. says

    BHO is a leftist.

    If only that were true and not the fevered imaginings of conservatives who wouldn’t know a true leftist if one of us bit them on the ass then offered them universal healthcare to treat the wound.

  23. Corvus illustris says

    Tom Lehrer, composer of Fight fiercely, Harvard and other hits of the 1950s: “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. “

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