With Liberty and Justice for Some, Glenn Greenwald, 2011
Greenwald begins with a look at the founding fathers grappling with the question of how to constrain the absolute power of a monarch by creating a system, as Thomas Payne, noted, where the King is law. John Adams said in 1776; “The very definition of a republic is ‘an empire of laws, and not of men’…Good government is an empire of laws.” Payne and Franklin noted that the law must be equally applied to everyone, poor and rich, weak and strong, powerless and powerful. Hamilton in Federalist paper 71 noted that the president must be subordinate to the laws, and Madison in Federalist paper 57 emphasized that law must be applied equally to the politically elite. If not government will degenerate into tyranny. Washington as president declared that there would never be immunity for wrongdoing by high government while he was president; “The executive branch of this government never has, nor will suffer, while I preside, any improper conduct of its officers to escape with impunity.” Then in Marbury vs Madison in 1803, the Supreme Court clarified the roles of the three branches of government; Congress enacts laws, the president executes them, and the courts say what the law is. The court ruled that the executive branch had the duty to enforce the law on all citizens including high level officials of the executive branch itself. So what happened.
According to Greenwald, Gerald Ford Pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974, Nixon declared in an 1977 interview with David Frost that; “When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.”, the FBI wiretapper of Martin Luther King, Mark Felt (Deep Throat) was pardoned by Reagan in 1981, and Bush 41 pardoned Caspar Weinberger and stopped further prosecutions and investigations of Iran Contra crimes that would have implicated both himself and Reagan in 1992 after Bush had already lost election to Clinton, and Bush 43 commuted the conviction of Scooter Libby in 2007. Clearly the law no longer applies to high level government officials since 1974.
Then in 2005 it was revealed that the Telecoms had been cooperating with the administration in illegal wiretaps of American citizens. As court cases proceeded, the Telecoms put in an extraordinary lobbying effort to get Congress to enact a law giving them retroactive immunity from prosecution for this illegal activity. Obama promised a filibuster to defeat the wildly unpopular law, then instead voted to prevent a filibuster and voted for the law which passed overwhelmingly in the face of widespread public outrage and protest. Encouraged by this bizarre retroactive law, the banks in 2010 sought and got a retroactive law to protect them from their fraudulent foreclosure activities and bring to a stop the massive lawsuits that were moving through the courts.
Obama look forward not backward
Greenwald then explores the extraordinary efforts taken by Obama to thwart and prevent any investigations of illegality by Bush 41 and his administration. Some have come to light in the Wikileaks releases such as the pressure on Spain to stop prosecutions of torturers. A result is that both W and Cheney have publicly confessed to ordering torture. Obama’s actions amount to illegal interference and coverups making him and his administration accomplices in the crimes themselves. These actions pale compared to his torture of Bradley Manning on US soil, his assassinations and hit lists and other illegal activity.
At the same time Obama has used extreme effort to prosecute whistle-blowers such as NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake who exposed serious waste, abuse, and possible illegality at NSA. Obama has also moved against whistle-blower Shamai Leibowitz, an FBI linguist who leaked illegal activity and who was sentenced to a prison term even though the judge sentencing him was not allowed to know the nature and content of the leaks or how the leaks might impact national security. The pinnacle of this terrible legacy of suppression is the pursuit of Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange. The administration has driven the organization into hibernation through illegal cyber attacks and illegal banking restrictions.
Of course the Obama administration has prosecuted no one for the massive fraud leading to the financial meltdown of 2008. Obama again falls back on the weak “lets look forward” explanation while we all know the illegal behavior is being repeated right now with no change. The next financial crisis is inevitable.
But while the law no longer applies to government and private elites, laws continue to be applied in ever more draconian ways to the poor and dispossessed. The US can now boast that 25% of all the worlds prisoners are held in American jails, a depressing number of them for minor offenses like marijuana possession. When the Obama administration bailed out AIG, it make sure that 100% of CDS obligations to Goldman would be paid by the taxpayers while simultaneously requiring that auto bailout worker take drastic cuts in pay, benefits, and retirement. No executive bonus or pay was ever restricted or limited by Obama.
Greenwald concludes by showing how this two tier system of law and justice has allowed a massive redistribution of wealth to the top 1%. Does he have any remedies or suggestions about how to fix this mess? No. O’Bummer!