Glenn Greenwald commented on the blog post A Smattering Of Things And Also Too: Shakira’s Ass
From Glenn Greenwald
Hey TBogg – someone just emailed me about this. You’re right that you are blocked from my Twitter account, but I can assure you I didn’t do that on purpose. In fact, I had been seeing your tweets in my feed quite recently – I’ve followed you from early on after creating a Twitter account – so the only thing I can think of, other than some autonomous Twitter mischief, is that when I looked at something, my wayward fingers accidentally clicked “blocked”.
I trust you know that I wouldn’t block you and then deny it. If I had a reason to block you, I would just block you. I don’t. I don’t agree with all your views of course – I don’t agree with all of anyone’s views – but I’ve always enjoyed your writing and still do.
I need to run to go catch a train – all flights to NYC are snowed out today – but I really appreciate FDL’s sponsoring the discussion, Jonathan Hafetz for being such a great host (and for his great work as a laywer in this field), and to everyone who came and participated.
. My concern is that the same type of popular protest will not happen in the area of torture, for example, which does not affect mainstream American society in the same direct way.
I agree, though I do think that what’s driving the movement is a generalized anger over how the most powerful are exempt from rules – it shouldn’t take economic issues to trigger anger over what happened with the WoT abuses, but anything that sheds light on these inequities is to be welcomed (not suggesting you’re disagreeing with that . . .).
Firstly: Is your chat earlier today with Chomsky going to be put up online?
C-SPAN recorded it and will broadcast it – not sure when – someone else taped it and will likely put it online first. It was great – that he’s 83 is just amazing.
Secondly: I think there should be a youtube channel that is just videos of you reading sections of the book to President Obama, kind of like a bedtime story or something cozy like that.
That sounds a bit creepy, even to me.
Glenn–In addition to the Occupy movement, do you see any positive signs towards breaking the cycle of elite immunity?
That said, my book is doing even better than we anticipated – I think this issue resonates for a lot of people – when you really crystallize it this way, I think people get how profound (and dangerous) of an injustice it is.
This question goes to both of you. In scanning the comments so far there has been a lot of talk about the pernicious Executive; I am just as interested in the harm emanating from a neutered and lackadaisical Congress that will not enforce its prerogative and protect its Article I power. Not only are they ineffective as legislators (which is bad enough) but they have abdicated almost entirely their check and balance duties. This goes from investigation of Executive criminality to War Powers Resolution on and on and on.
How does this play into the force of Glenn’s book and how can it start to be remedied?
When there is rampant criminality, all institutions designed to be checks — the courts, the Congress, the media, the citizenry — have the responsibility to act to stop it. Congress is very much part of the ethos of elite immunity, and thus has refused to. There are barely any rumblings even of trying, even when the Democrats had control of both houses for two years.
That said, the President takes an oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution and is mandated by Article II to faithfully execute the laws. When Congress fails to act, Congress deserves blame, but that doesn’t mitigate Executive Branch lawlessness.
One might term this the underside of “American exceptionalism”. Sadly, the United States does not believe that the laws that bind other nations apply to it. The U.S. government’s embrace of the “war on terror” framework–which maximizes state power at the expense of individual rights–has facilitated this accountability gap.
Absolutely – the two-tiered justice system was really pioneered in the foreign relations context before it was imported so fully into the domestic context. This is one my favorite examples – here.
And Marcy Wheeler enters the room to well-deserved cheers…
By whom, or by what mechanism? I know you’re not trying to guess motivations here.
By the people who argue for this immunity – I chronicle examples extensively in this book.
The immunity seems to me to be selective across classes of crime. It still seems plausible to me that if Jamie Dimon were arrested for shoplifting or DUI, he would face charges
I’m not convinced of this. I start Chapter 3 – Too Big to Jail – with a case in Colorado where a hedge fund manager who drove his car into someone on a bike, seriously injured him, and then fled the scene without even calling an ambulance, was charged only with a misdemeanor, not a felony, because the DA said a felony charge would harm his career given what he does.
Still, even these class-of-crime immunities are class-based because certain crimes (eavesdropping, financial fraud, mortgage fraud) on that level are ones committed only by political and financial elites.
Glenn, how would you compare the record of other Western democracies compare on holding elites accountable, whether for human rights violations or other illegal acts?
One thing that is so striking is that torture and other War on Terror victims have received substantial accountability in other countries. Canada paid Maher Arar $9 million and profusely apologized; Britain paid Binyamin Mohamed $1 million and apologized for its role in his torture; Australia has done the same; Norway and Sweden investigated its role in these abuses; Eastern European countries have embarked on investigations of the rendition and black site program.
In the U.S. – the country most responsible for these abuses – not a single War on Terror victim – including ones the Government admits were innocent – has even had a day in court. The courthouse doors were slammed in their faces based on secrecy and immunity claims or other accountability shell games. Meanwhile, not a single one of the perpetrators has been held accountable (other than “rogue” Abu Ghraib-type scapegoats).
The same is true in terms of the financial crisis. A Parliamentary Commission recommended that the former Prime Minister and his top aides be indicted for their complicity in the financial crisis, and the PM will be. That sort of accountability is unimaginable here.
Glenn, I’m halfway through the book and loving it despite all the righteous outrage it provokes. And I’m thrilled at how the timing of publication coincided with the Occupy movement. For once, I’m pleased at those long legacy publisher lead times. :)
The Occupy movement is really the perfect living embodiment of what the book is about – soon as the book came out, I was deluged with invitations to speak at Occupy events because the protesters recognized that.
The Occupy movement is, to me, the most exciting and inspiring thing to happen in American politics in years – I have infinite respect for the people who have been out there.
But…but, if you don’t vote for Obama, you’re helping the Republicans!
If you say you think it’s wrong to assassinate American citizens without due process, then this means you love Michele Bachmann.
Do you see any progress being made in educating folks?
Is there anything we can do to assist?
Should #Occupy focus more on this?
I think in an incohate but very real way, this is the crux of Occupy:
Glenn, I think this certainly describes the dynamic on national security policy. What’s been striking is the extent to which Obama has continued the policies of his predecessor, such as indefinite detention and the use of military commissions, while changing the perception of most Americans, who believe that much has changed in this area.
One of my favorite quotes of the last three years: here.
Sorry the Boston torrential rains interferred with your plans to speak with them today.
I was sorry, too – was really looking forward to it – they asked me to re-schedule so there’d be more people.
Coincidentally, I”m in the train station in Boston now where the Occupy orgniazers are meeting and they just came over and said hello right as I was writing why I find the movement inspiring – like some weird destiny thing.
Glenn — in your research for the book, did you find other eras in our history when we went through periods of lawlessness, only to come back with better accountability — and we seem to be repeating lots of the economic history of the 30s — So is there a pattern of how a nation gets out of this? What should we be nourishing to bring that about?
There have, of course, been instances where elites and powerful people got away with crimes. Being rich and powerful has always been an advantage in the legal system. The difference is this is the first time when the principle of equality under the law is no longer affirmed – before it was violated but affirmed – now it’s explicitly renounced and repudiated.
There’s a clear split between state AGs that are trying to reach settlements with banksters without completing investigations and state AGs like Schneiderman, Biden, perhaps Coakley who want to pursue more investigations. How do you see that sorting out? Will the same forces that have compromised the Department of Justice also limit what the smaller “rule of law” AGs are trying to do?
I think it remains to be seen how clear this split is. Partisan and institutional forces are very, very strong – especially when applied to young politicians who aspire to higher office – I think Schneiderman and Biden seem sincere, but sincerity is not always enough.
The question, then, is why. We all know the CPAC world-view. Does Obama share it?
Motives are notoriously hard to assess — even our own — but I’m sure a big part of it is that there is a big political cost and risk to challenging these policies and the factions that want them, and he’s unwilling to incur it (despite his promises to the contrary).
I also think that leaders who perceive of themselves as good and magnanimous – as I think he does – are often more attracted to abuses of power – they believe that because they’re Good, they don’t need checks, accountability and transparency and are accustomed to finding justifications for even malignant acts (since I’m devoted to the Good, what I do is justified by the good ends toward which I’m striving).
Did you see it coming and how useful do you find that backdrop when discussing the issues your book raises? Already just the discussions of your book have helped me better explain to others the intense anger and frustration of the supposed “success” of the 1%, in terms of cheating to success vs earning it.
I really think that what is fueling the Occupy movement more than anything is not inequality per se, but the sense that it is fundamentally illegimate, precisely because the “winners” are not bound by the rules to which everyone else is subjected – I wrote about that here:
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