Law as Farce



After reading this morning’s NYT report which revealed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court legitimized NSA metadata collection for more than seven years without providing a legal rationale I thought of: The Emperor’s New Clothes; The torture memos from Bush 43’s Office of Legal Counsel; Putin’s release of his high profile foes from prison; and light vs. dark (aka Snowden et al. vs. secrecy). Read on.

The releases of Putin’s high profile foes underscored the arbitrariness of the Russian justice system. The rule of law requires an engaged civil society with the breathing space to demand accountability of those in power, which in turn requires independent institutions serving the people. That Putin could so rapidly get Parliament to pass an Amnesty law and the Judiciary to order the release of prisoners exposes the travesty of Russian justice. As a Pussy Riot musician said, “They put me in, they let me out,” noting that the timing was “ridiculous” coming so close to the end of her sentence. Both released musicians said they asked to be allowed to finish their sentence, but were forced to leave prison as part of Putin’s PR campaign for the upcoming Sochi Olympics.

With Obama’s Jan. 17 speech on NSA Spy-Gate failing to quell civil unrest, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board today released its findings that NSA metadata collection is unlawful and should stop. Most revealing was Charlie Savage’s reporting that from May 2006 to August 2013 the FISC authorized Patriot Act Sec. 215 overriding the Electronic Communications Privacy Act without any legal opinion to support the clear violations of the ECPA, let alone the Fourth Amendment. Yes, secret law is an oxymoron – meaning lawlessness.

The torture memos by John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Steven Bradbury were written because CIA criminality was exposed by leaks, so the Bush cabal felt they needed legal cover. Had Jane Mayer and Dana Priest not used leaked information to write about the outsourcing of torture and secret CIA-run prisons in Europe, no such twisted law, logic and morality as evinced by those memos would be needed. Likewise, but for Ed Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, the FISC would still be the secret handmaiden of the national security state.

Belief in the “trust us” rationale for secret law-making requires belief that the world is black and white, with clear good guys vs. bad guys. Thanks to transparency abetted by technology, we see that all powerful states are dirty. And so, when the Emperor claims that he is well-robed in his language of democracy and rule of law, we clearly see him naked.

Judge Claire Egan’s August 29, 2013 opinion endorsing the legality of NSA metadata surveillance is an abdication of the duties of an independent judiciary. She calls the issue a political question, not a legal one: “a matter for the political branches to decide.” The statutory analysis in the opinion is flawed. Indeed, it is for the courts to decide when an act is unconstitutional. Three co-equal branches, right? And, the power of judicial review is the final constitutional check against abuse. Yet for more than seven years, the law was completely silent as the national security state accreted ever-greater illegitimate power. Her lame legal justification for NSA metadata collection was compelled by public protest.

It is indeed a ripe time for the people of the world to raise their voices. For we, are the ultimate check against tyranny. The evidence is clear that we are needed. Law demands accountability. Secrecy affords impunity. While big brother is zooming you, zoom on him and tell the world what you see. Let the sun shine in. From Sochi to your home state raise your voice at this travesty of justice, while you still can.

William A. Cohn is a member of the California Bar, lectures on law, ethics and critical thinking at the University of New York in Prague and is a visiting professor of jurisprudence at New York University in Prague where a Public Forum on NSA global surveillance will be held on February 19 at 6 p.m.

October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War
Kristine Mattis
GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science
Heidi Morrison
Well-Intentioned Islamophobia
Ralph Nader
Monsanto and Its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information
Arturo Desimone
Retro-Colonialism: the Exportation of Austerity as War By Other Means
Robert M. Nelson
Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster
Matt Peppe
Misrepresentation of the Colombian Conflict
Barbara Dorris
Pope Sympathizes More with Bishops, Less with Victims
Clancy Sigal
I’m Not a Scientologist, But I Wish TV Shrinks Would Just Shut Up
Chris Zinda
Get Outta’ Dodge: the State of the Constitution Down in Dixie
Eileen Applebaum
Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families
Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure
“Boxing on Paper” for the Nation of Islam, Black Nationalism, and the Black Athlete: a Review of “The Complete Muhammad Ali” by Ishmael Reed
Lawrence Ware
Michael Vick and the Hypocrisy of NFL Fans
Gary Corseri - Charles Orloski
Poets’ Talk: Pope Francis, Masilo, Marc Beaudin, et. al.
Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?