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While there is little here which is new, I print below in full an editorial from the New York Times, printed today, which merely underlines that the United States of America has devolved into a full-fledged “legal” police-state.  To say, as described below, the President of the Nation may, on whatever evidence, however flimsy and false, declare some person a terrorist, or some other word, and on this assertion that person may be kidnapped by agents of the State, deposited in some secret place, tortured (or killed) and gosh darn, it’s all OK, legal, and the Supreme Court says that’s the way it is.  The cover for this is “state secrets” and of course anything illegal/horrendous/criminal which the State does falls under this curtain.  So it’s official, out-in-the-open, and declared by the Supreme Court of America, one of the alleged institutionalized systems of  “checks and balances” which we claim is a hallmark of our “democracy.”   America, beacon to the world, shining city on a hill, “the beautiful”, is a police-state, no different than Stalin’s Russia or Hitler’s Third Reich, or any other tin-pot dictatorship where your life is tolerated on the whim of a bureaucrat and a “leader,” whichever title they are accorded.   That it hasn’t reached you just yet is your luck or acquiescence or participation.

Malign Neglect

Published: May 21, 2011

President Obama has adopted the same legal tactic of using the secrecy privilege to kill lawsuits. So the only hope was that the courts would not permit these widely known abuses of power to go unchecked.

Last Monday, the Supreme Court abdicated that duty. It declined to review a case brought by five individuals who say — credibly — that they were kidnapped and tortured in overseas prisons. The question was whether people injured by illegal interrogation and detention should be allowed their day in court or summarily tossed out.

The court’s choice is a major stain on American justice. By slamming its door on these victims without explanation, it removed the essential judicial block against the executive branch’s use of claims of secrecy to cover up misconduct that shocks the conscience. It has further diminished any hope of obtaining a definitive ruling that the government’s conduct was illegal — a vital step for repairing damage and preventing future abuses.

The lead plaintiff, an Ethiopian citizen and resident of Britain named Binyam Mohamed, was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. The C.I.A. turned him over to Moroccan interrogators, who subjected him to brutal treatment that he says included cutting his penis with a scalpel and then pouring a hot, stinging liquid on the open wound.

After the trial court gave in to the secrecy argument, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the case should proceed. It said the idea that the executive branch was entitled to have lawsuits shut down with a blanket claim of national security would “effectively cordon off all secret actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the C.I.A. and its partners from the demands and limits of the law.”

Last September, the full appeals court, ruling en banc, reversed that decision by a 6-to-5 vote. The dissenters noted that the basic facts of the plaintiffs’ renditions were already public knowledge. But the majority gave in to the pretzel logic shaped by the Bush administration that allowing the torture victims a chance to make their case in court using nonsecret evidence would risk divulging state secrets.

The Supreme Court allowed that nonsense to stand.

It is difficult to believe there are legitimate secrets regarding the plaintiffs’ ill treatment at this late date. Last year, a British court released secret files containing the assessment of British intelligence that the detention of Mr. Mohamed violated legal prohibitions against torture and cruel and degrading treatment.

The Supreme Court should have grabbed the case and used it to rein in the distorted use of the state secrets privilege, a court-created doctrine meant to shield sensitive evidence in actions against the government, not to dismiss cases before evidence is produced.

But this is not the first time the Supreme Court has abdicated its responsibility to hear cases involving national security questions of this sort. A year ago, the Supreme Court refused to consider the claims of Maher Arar, an innocent Canadian whom the Bush administration sent to Syria to be tortured. In 2007, the court could not muster the four votes needed to grant review in the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen subjected to torture in a secret overseas prison.

As President Obama’s first solicitor general, Justice Elena Kagan was in on the benighted decision to use overwrought secrecy claims to stop any hearing for torture victims. She properly recused herself from voting on the case. Surely among the eight remaining judges there was at least one sensitive to the gross violation of rights, and apparently law. We wish they would have at least offered a dissent or comment to let the world know that the court’s indifference was not unanimous.

Instead, what the world sees is rendition victims blocked from American courts while architects of their torment write books bragging about their role in this legal and moral travesty. Some torture victims bounced from American courts, including Mr. Mohamed and Mr. Arar, have received money from nations with comparatively minor involvement in their ordeals.

The Supreme Court’s action ends an important legal case, but not President Obama’s duty to acknowledge what occurred, and to come up with ways to compensate torture victims and advance accountability. It is hard, right now, to be optimistic.

And so, as America goes about the world loudly preaching “freedom” and “democracy” its Executive and Legislative bodies, along with its final Judicial organ, all accept and authorize what is nothing but a police-state.   This once was done somewhat covertly, in “black sites” and hidden behind euphemisms such as “state secrets.”   It is now done openly, with the judiciary behaving like good Nazi judges, doing what was “legal.”  Under Obama’s administration this continues and is amplified:  Guantanamo remains open for business;  Bradley Manning, alleged source of Wikileaks State Department cables, is kept in inhumane conditions clearly designed to break him and the President signs off on it as “proper.”  Whistle-blowers are imprisoned.

Of course it is difficult for most Americans to believe and accept that their “shining city on a hill” and “land of the free, home of the brave” is in fact a police-state, though getting on a flight in the US should serve as a firm hint.  But it is.  Domestically it incarcerates its own citizens (admittedly with a distinct racial bias) in numbers far higher than other nations; it subjects its citizens to endless forms of control and surveillance; abroad it flies robot drones to kill at will, it invades countries on false pretexts, and stations its armed forces around the world.   This is the reality of the United States of America.  It is a militarized police-state acting at the behest of its corporate controllers, internally and externally.

If he had not been joking, Lars von Trier would feel quite at home here, in a country he has always refused to visit.

Randy Savage, dead professional wrestler

Addendum, May 23:  Quoted in the same paper of record, the retiring Secretary of Defense, reiterating that America’s ruling elite is intent on remaining the dominant imperial power for the foreseeable future, all of course, in the name of “national interests.”

“More than any other secretary of defense, I have been a strong advocate of soft power — of the critical importance of diplomacy and development as fundamental components of our foreign policy and national security,” Mr. Gates said. “But make no mistake, the ultimate guarantee against the success of aggressors, dictators and terrorists in the 21st century, as in the 20th, is hard power — the size, strength and global reach of the United States military.”

He warned, “the lessons of history tell us we must not diminish our ability or our determination to deal with the threats and challenges on the horizon, because ultimately they will need to be confronted.”

The US maintains 700 listed military bases throughout the world; “black” sites are of course a “state secret.”    Military spending as accounted (falsely) by the government consumes about 50 percent of annual expenditures.  I write “falsely” as budgeting deliberately tries to mask some military costs, for example putting our nuclear arsenal – very costly – largely under the Department of Energy budget.  Similarly other such expenses are not placed under the Pentagon’s budget, and of course the burgeoning systems of the Department of Homeland Security and the CIA are separate accounts.  The police-state imperial-minded military-industrial-media complex is alive and well in the America of the 21st century.

New York Times Logo inverted flipped

In response to an Editorial page item on the failure of communications during 9/11, and in their view the failure to fix that since, I wrote this which they declined to print:

The real communications failure of 9/11 was the curious failure of the defense system in the most highly-defended air corridor in the country. Curiously on that very same day it was conducting, under VP Cheney, an exercise in which fictional hi-jacked civilian aircraft were supposedly attacking. The Air Force was busy playing games, and had sent most of its planes far to the North. Confusion reigns. Indeed. Deliberate? The behavior of the government immediately after suggests something: they did not want an investigation; they stone-walled and testified not under oath when forced; they produced a white-wash of a paper that didn’t take testimony from inconvenient people who as engineers and architects questioned the official explanation for the collapse of WTC 1 and 2, and the curious demise of sensitive-office holding WTC 7, only very modestly damaged from the debris of the WTC towers.

This is the communications failure most pertinent to 9/11 and it should be fully and independently investigated so that the full truth of that event is told to the American people.

And another response, which unfortunately I did not save, regarding Israel’s position in current supposed peace efforts was also not printed.  I wrote that Israel exists as a consequence of European maltreatment of the Jewish people for several thousand years, based on Christian mythologies.   After WW2 and exposure of the Holocaust, the bad conscience of Europe off-shored the “problem” to the so-called Holy Lands, dispossessing the inhabitants – Palestinians – of their land and homes to do so.  Resolving this conundrum is really largely the responsibility of Europe and the US which were primarily responsible for inventing Israel as a concrete matter, at the cost of another people’s home.   Evidently for the Times such thoughts are impermissible.

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