The degeneration of the US judicial system

The Q&A with Edward Snowden has ended. While journalists all over the world were dying to directly interview him for an exclusive scoop, he chose instead to answer questions from ordinary people. And the questions and answers were very interesting. In response to one question about why he chose to make his revelations from Hong Kong, he replied that he felt that he could not get a fair trial in the US.

He is perfectly justified in having that fear because the corruption of the judicial system in the US has been severe, especially when it comes to so-called ‘security’ trials.

For example, with all the attention being focused on Snowden, we should not forget that Bradley Manning’s trial is still proceeding. Chris Hedges writes about what he calls a ‘judicial lynching’, where the system is heavily stacked against Manning. Hedges says that “The draconian trial restrictions, familiar to many Muslim Americans tried in the so-called war on terror, presage a future of show trials and blind obedience.”

Carol Rosenberg adds to that perception, writing how the trials at Guantanamo have descended into a level of secrecy that borders on farce.

When the war court reconvenes this week, pretrial hearings in the case of an alleged al-Qaida bomber will be tackling a government motion that’s so secret the public can’t know its name.

It’s listed as the 92nd court filing in the death-penalty case against a Saudi man, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was waterboarded by CIA agents.

And in place of its name, the Pentagon has stamped “classified” in red.

It’s not the first classified motion in the case against the 48-year-old former millionaire from Mecca accused of orchestrating al-Qaida’s October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole warship off Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed in the attack, and the prosecutor proposes to execute al-Nashiri, if he’s convicted.

Also on the docket for discussion this week is a classified defense motion that asks the Army judge to order the government to reveal information “related to the arrest, detention and interrogation” of al-Nashiri. By the time he got to Guantanamo in 2006, according to declassified investigations, CIA agents had held him at secret overseas prisons for four years during which, according to declassified accounts, he was waterboarded and interrogated at the point of a revving power drill and racked pistol.

But what makes the no-name government motion so intriguing is that those who’ve read it can’t say what it’s about, and those who haven’t don’t have a clue. Not even the accused, who, unless the judge rules for the defense, is not allowed to get an unclassified explanation of it – and cannot sit in on the court session when it’s argued in secret.

The motion was so secret that al-Nashiri’s Indianapolis-based defense attorney said members of the defense team would not characterize it over the phone. “Literally, I had to fly to Washington, D.C., to read it,” said attorney Rick Kammen of Indianapolis, a career death-penalty defender whom the Pentagon pays to represent al-Nashiri.

The Obama administration has severely subverted the judicial system in order to obtain convictions. So much for having a former constitutional law professor as president. As Micah Zenko writes, when Obama says that “What is absolutely true is that my first job, my most sacred duty, as president and commander in chief, is to keep the American people safe”, he is flat-out wrong. His oath of office requires him to the best of his ability to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

He is totally failing to keep his oath.


  1. CaitieCat says

    Sadly, yes. They’ve yet to show even a reasonable level of rational or legal cause for not just trying the terrorists in the US system already. The US already imprisons more people than anyone else in the world, why do they think it would be so hard to get convictions of ACTUAL FREAKING TERRORISTS in a USan court?

    Because they broke American law getting the conviction. Which means, under American law, that the accused get to go free, because the government fucked up the case. And to avoid the eminently just result that would be the consequence of their stupid, illogical use of torture, we have this farce of a trial. Frankly, these days, I’d take my chances with the Russian (not Soviet – but give it ten years, or a Republican president) penal system, or the Chinese, over the Guantanamo extra-dimensional one. At least they’re not pretending to be supermoral justice-and-liberty-preservers.

  2. says

    why do they think it would be so hard to get convictions of ACTUAL FREAKING TERRORISTS in a USan court?

    Part of the problem is that quite a number of the people in Gitmo aren’t actual terrorists, they’re people who were falsely accused by political enemies and profit-driven strangers. But Americans, especially the right, are so committed to the idea that we’re on the side of right, they can’t admit that we imprisoned and tortured totally innocent people for over a decade. plus which, even the ones who actually did do something can’t be convicted in an American court anymore because all the evidence is tainted by the fact of torture and extrajuducial imprisonment and is inadmissible. Basically, the rule of law is so totally screwed in this case that the closest we could come to upholding it would be to just let everyone go, and offer residency to the ones that can’t go home again (Not that I expect they’d be that thrilled by the offer, but I can’t think of any other way to even try to make amends).

  3. coragyps says

    “and offer residency to the ones that can’t go home again ”

    Offer them residency here in Texas, and Redneck Bubba would shoot them before the day’s over. And that wouldn’t be as bad, except that Redneck Bubba is likely an elected official down here.

  4. wtfwhatever says

    “He is totally failing to keep his oath.”

    What is the remedy for that again?

  5. says

    This is another valid problem, although there are parts of the country where it would be less of one. The thing is that a number of these people basically can’t go home again due to political shifts there, most of which are our fault, as is the fact that they were hauled away in the first place. We have no real power to get them residnecy anywhere but the U.S., so that’s the best I can think of. Possibly a few million dollars in cash and a promise not to look them up anywhere they can get residency? (And with a few million dollars, you should be able to find someplace decent to live that’ll let you stay).

  6. richardrobinson says

    If the treatment of Bradley Manning is any guide, throwing him in prison for the rest of his natural life.

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