Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Jurisprudential Cesspool

by NORMAN POLLACK

When someone steals something, in this case a precious object, we call him a thief (to put it mildly), but when what has been stolen, and that by the highest officials of government and law, we can and should call them despots, for what has been stolen, most obviously, has been freedom of the press, and behind that, more important, freedom of speech, thought, organization, expression of a free people in all of its forms living in a democracy.  “Despot” is too good for those who deny freedom in the name of freedom, and deny the rule of law in the name of the law.  That is presently where we’re at, several baby steps away from peering directly into the abyss—a Police State under the fiction of protecting us, the people, from ourselves.  The Fetishism of Leaks, to Holder, DOJ, Obama, the internal subversion gnawing away at liberty (liberty for whom?), complements, and is a necessity in  the good fight of counterterrorism against our enemies apparently without limit, and therefore justifying a permanent-war doctrine and state of readiness.

Counterterrorism requires the authoritative, highly publicized, heavy-handed search for and prosecution of leaks—real and imaginary—to legitimize everything our government has become, trend lines starting in the aftermath of World War II, bipartisan and integral to maintaining unilateral superpower status, if  possible: a unitary historical process of counterrevolution to secure a globalized American capitalism, free from competing military-economic-ideological challenges, whether socialist and even alternative-capitalist modes.  Dissent is not wanted at home, impedances to absolute hegemony abroad.  Obama steps into a moving stream, but rather than divert it to reflect societal democratization, as his liberal-progressive mass followers claim (themselves unmindful of their own rightward shift and complacent burial of radicalism), accelerates its flow by removing any obstructions in its path (the elixir of market fundamentalism, deregulation, valued assistance to upper groups, and, his special contribution to the emerging structure of mature capitalism, its consolidation and monopolization, a systemic integration with militarism, witnessed in everything from staggering military budgets and modernization of the nuclear arsenal (now with attention to the weaponry deployed throughout Europe), to his trade-mark, targeted assassination.

Is punishment of so-called leakers surprising given this framework?  Does assassination conduce to respect for the law on other occasions?  Does “hit-lists,” an established fact of Terror Tuesdays as the National-Security gang sits around, at the Chief’s feet, planning summary executions from the skies, where habeas corpus, right to counsel, evidentiary preparation, are as remote as the 8,000-mile in distance from “pilot” of the drones to the victims, executed, vaporized, in plain sight.  The Obama Team is one set of tough cookies, not to be restrained by reporters, whistle blowers, soon perhaps, even demonstrators, as we saw when one CP writer, Medea Benjamin, was ejected from Brennan’s hearings for DCIA.  But now finally we are seeing some action in response to (a) abuses of the law, (b) the utter lack of government transparency, and (c) the chilling effect (a natural outcome of Obama’s own coldness with respect to civil liberties, as much else) on press freedom and the right to know in general, action, be it noted, taken by Republicans—not Democrats—and therefore easily dismissible by liberals, even when, as here, there is abundant merit in the criticism directed against government tactics in seeking to silence dissent and opposition.

Let’s look at the latest, the still developing story on DOJ’s subpoena for obtaining the calling logs of AP reporters to their phone lines, a subpoena that did not provide advance notice to AP (which might have enabled them to contest its issuance in court), obviously a slimy tactic.  Whether the Republicans on the House Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, Investigations, were motivated by partisanship, because the target of the investigation was James Rosen of Fox News, their letter, signed by Robert Goodlatte and James Sensenbrenner (the latter especially, not ordinarily one of my favorites), to AG Holder had in my judgment excellent arguments of a wider nature that could be applied to the Bradley Manning case and all who expose the secrecy and practice of overclassification of documents by government to shield itself from criticism of illegal acts—in foreign policy, categorized as war crimes.  Here Holder comes off badly.  Not least, we learn from the AP revelations, as a way of churning up the cesspool, that the search warrant for the e-mails of James Rosen occurred in May 2010, quite far back—with probably others unreported—in Obama/Holder’s tenure.  And the search warrant application came with the request that the court issue a non-disclosure order on Rosen (i.e., that the warrant not be disclosed), on the grounds that such disclosure “would endanger the life and safety of an individual, flight from prosecution, intimidation of potential witnesses, or otherwise seriously jeopardize the investigation.”

Hogwash, showing the Feds play hardball—secrecy to the nth power; yes, Rosen, but a formula, the non-disclosure order, that could be used against anyone, castrated into silence as Holder, DOJ, and Obama go about the management of the news.  But here, in the Goodlatte-Sensenbrenner letter, Holder is asked piercing questions about procedures, the clear implication being the unrestrained witch-hunting directed to the news media, and his own role in the search warrant application.  Because the search warrant referred to Rosen as a “co-conspirator,” he was therefore subject to prosecution under the Espionage Act—which these Republicans protested, while sadly, John Conyers, the outspoken liberal on Judiciary, covered for Holder, stating the investigation was troubling but not actionable.  What followed was the inevitable damage control, Holder offering to meet off the record with press representatives—he still defends secrecy as a way of life—presumably to tighten investigative standards, which the New York Times, but not the Washington Post, had the grace to refuse to attend, standing firm for public disclosure.

I suggest that 18 USC section 793d be spread across the entrance of the Department of Justice, or else stitched on Obama’s presidential attire—the frightening, and to me, evil, Espionage Act, which has for its purpose intimidation pure and simple, whenever government and its leaders are guilty of criminal activities and these crimes are threatened with exposure.  Secrecy and lack of transparency have no other purpose in a free society.  Kudos to Paul Gottinger, whose CP article, “Obama Hands Out the Hemlock,” May 30, assesses the significance of administration secrecy.  My New York Times Comment on the article discussing Holder and the Subcommittee’s Concerns (May 30) follows:

AG Holder and DOJ are currently our #1 enemy of press freedom and civil liberties in general, an out-of-hand menace that qualifies both by any common-sense definition to be home-grown TERRORISTS. Holder, always with Obama guarding his back, had trampled on habeas corpus rights affecting detainees; worse perhaps, he is responsible, along with his Boss, for employing the Espionage Act against whistleblowers, more than the combined total of Obama’s predecessors.

It’s time to clean the Augean stables. Holder is a disgrace to the rule of law. And Obama, given his signature weapon, armed drones for targeted assassination, clearly stands in violation of international law–possessing, no doubt, spurious legitimation from the Office of Legal Counsel and Holder. Why the extreme SECRECY which characterizes the administration, unless of course for fear that policies and practices would be disclosed showing Obama to be a war criminal?

Good riddance to lawbreakers who cloak themselves in the mantle of the law. The shame here is that only Republicans–and for their own partisan reasons–seem concerned about press freedom. Where can the people turn for honest, disinterested government?

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.

 

Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail