Jan 242014
 

ATBanner

I couldn’t think of a better excuse to start over for the new year.  We had a decent offer on the domain, “theintercept.com”, so this will be the opportunity to roll out another blog exploring the hypocrisy and origins of the war on terror.  Receive updates for the upcoming movie of the same name.  The new  domain will  be www.americanterrorist.com.  Join us or die!

Jun 032013
 

The Blaze
Jason Howerton

A high-ranking Mexican drug cartel operative currently in U.S. custody is making startling allegations that the failed federal gun-walking operation known as “Fast and Furious” isn’t what you think it is.

It wasn’t about tracking guns, it was about supplying them — all part of an elaborate agreement between the U.S. government and Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa Cartel to take down rival cartels.

The explosive allegations are being made by Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, known as the Sinaloa Cartel’s “logistics coordinator.” He was extradited to the Chicago last year to face federal drug charges.

Sinaloa Cartel Operative Jesus Vincente Zambada Niebla Makes Explosive Allegation About Operation Fast and Furious

Zambada-Niebla claims that under a “divide and conquer” strategy, the U.S. helped finance and arm the Sinaloa Cartel through Operation Fast and Furious in exchange for information that allowed the DEA, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other federal agencies to take down rival drug cartels. The Sinaloa Cartel was allegedly permitted to traffic massive amounts of drugs across the U.S. border from 2004 to 2009 — during both Fast and Furious and Bush-era gunrunning operations — as long as the intel kept coming.

This pending court case against Zambada-Niebla is being closely monitored by some members of Congress, who expect potential legal ramifications if any of his claims are substantiated. The trial was delayed but is now scheduled to begin on Oct. 9.

Zambada-Niebla is reportedly a close associate of Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and the son of Ismael “Mayo” Zambada-Garcia, both of which remain fugitives, likely because of the deal made with the DEA, federal court documents allege.

Based on the alleged agreement  ”the Sinaloa Cartel under the leadership of defendant’s father, Ismael Zambada-Niebla and ‘Chapo’ Guzman, were given carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago and the rest of the United States and were also protected by the United States government from arrest and prosecution in return for providing information against rival cartels which helped Mexican and United States authorities capture or kill thousands of rival cartel members,” states a motion for discovery filed in U.S. District Court by Zambada-Niebla’s attorney in July 2011.

A source in Congress, who spoke to TheBlaze on the condition of anonymity, said that some top congressional investigators have been keeping “one eye on the case.”  Another two members of Congress, both lead Fast and Furious Congressional investigators, told TheBlaze they had never even heard of the case.

One of the Congressmen, who also spoke to TheBlaze on the condition of anonymity because criminal proceedings are still ongoing, called the allegations “disturbing.” He said Congress will likely get involved once Zambada-Niebla’s trial has concluded if any compelling information surfaces.

“Congress won’t get involved in really any criminal case until the trial is over and the smoke has cleared,” he added. “If the allegations prove to hold any truth, there will be some serious legal ramifications.”

Earlier this month, two men in Texas were sentenced to 70 and 80 months in prison after pleading guilty to attempting to export 147 assault rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition to Mexico’s Los Zetas cartel. Compare that to the roughly 2,000 firearms reportedly “walked” in Fast and Furious, which were used in the murders of hundreds of Mexican citizens and U.S. Border Agent Brian Terry, and some U.S. officials could potentially face jail time if they knowingly armed the Sinaloa Cartel and allowed guns to cross into Mexico.

If proven in court, such an agreement between U.S. law enforcement agencies and a Mexican cartel could potentially mar both the Bush and Obama administrations. The federal government is denying all of Zambada-Niebla’s allegations and contend that no official immunity deal was agreed upon.

To be sure, Zambada-Niebla is a member of one of the most ruthless drug gangs in all of Mexico, so there is a chance that he is saying whatever it takes to reduce his sentence, which will likely be hefty. However, Congress and the media have a duty to prove without a reasonable doubt that there is no truth in his allegations. So far, that has not been achieved.

Zambada-Niebla was reportedly responsible for coordinating all of the Sinaloa Cartel’s multi-ton drug shipments from Central and South American countries, through Mexico, and into the United States. To accomplish this, he used every tool at his disposal: Boeing 747 cargo planes, narco-submarines, container ships, speed boats, fishing vessels, buses, rail cars, tractor trailers and automobiles. But Guzman and Zambada-Niebla’s overwhelming success within the Sinaloa Cartel was largely due to the arrests and dismantling of many of their competitors and their booming businesses in the U.S. from 2004 to 2009 — around the same time ATF’s gun-walking operations were in full swing. Fast and Furious reportedly began in 2009 and continued into early 2011.

According Zambada-Niebla, that was a product of the collusion between the U.S. government and the Sinaloa Cartel.

Sinaloa Cartel Operative Jesus Vincente Zambada Niebla Makes Explosive Allegation About Operation Fast and Furious

The claims seem to fall in line with statements made last month by Guillermo Terrazas Villanueva, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state government in northern Mexico who said U.S. agencies ”don’t fight drug traffickers,” instead “they try to manage the drug trade.”

Continue reading »

May 242013
 

Harford Courant
Jon Lender, Edmund H. Mahony, Dave Altimari

The staffs of the state’s top prosecutor and the governor’s office have been working in secret with General Assembly leaders on legislation to withhold records related to the police investigation into the Dec. 14 Newtown elementary school massacre — including victims’ photos, tapes of 911 calls, and possibly more.

The behind-the-scenes legislative effort came to light Tuesday when The Courant obtained a copy of an email by a top assistant to Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, Timothy J. Sugrue. Sugrue, an assistant state’s attorney, discussed options considered so far, including blocking release of statements “made by a minor.”

“There is complete agreement regarding photos etc., and audio tapes, although the act may allow the disclosure of audio transcripts,” Sugrue wrote to Kane, two other Kane subordinates and to Danbury State’s Attorney Stephen Sedensky, who is directing the investigation of the killings.

The bill that’s being crafted has not been handled under routine legislative procedures — it hasn’t gone through the committee process, which includes a public hearing, for example. Sugrue’s email Tuesday indicated that a draft of the bill was being worked on by leaders in both the House and Senate, and might be ready as soon as the end of the day.

He wrote: “I just received a call from Natalie Wagner” — a member of the legal counsel’s staff in the office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“She believes that draft language will be forthcoming today (the work of both houses) in the form of a special act. …” Sugrue wrote that Wagner “will send me the draft in confidence when she receives it, and I will immediately forward it.”

However, late Tuesday, the legislation proposed by Kane wasn’t ready to be acted on in either legislative chamber, said Malloy’s director of communications, Andrew Doba. He said he did not know when that might happen.

“A lot of people, including our office, have heard the concerns expressed by the families of Newtown victims, and are exploring ways to respect the families’ right to privacy while also respecting the public’s right to information,” gubernatorial chief of staff Mark Ojakian said in a statement released by Doba.

A major question yet to be settled is whether the legislation would apply only to the Newtown case, or to documents from other criminal cases that are now subject to public disclosure. A report on the police investigation into the Newtown shooting is expected to be released in June.

As envisioned by Kane, the bill wouldn’t be limited to the Newtown file.

“We are seeking legislation to protect crime scene photographs protecting victims and certain 911 tapes,” Kane told The Courant Tuesday. “It is something that I have been concerned about for years and years and the situation in Newtown brings it to a head. I don’t want family members seeing pictures of their loved ones publicized in a manner in which these are subject to be published.”

He said as he sees the legislation, it would apply to “basically crime scene photographs depicting injuries to victims and recordings, 911 recordings displaying the mental anguish of victims. Things like that, of that category. And it seems to me that the intrusion of the privacy of the individuals outweighs any public interest in seeing these.”

Sugrue said in his email that the “forthcoming” language would be “in the form of a special act, not an amendment to the [state's Freedom of Information Act].”

As originally discussed behind the scenes, the proposed legislation would have amended the state’s freedom of information law by adding a blanket exemption to disclosure of any “criminal investigation photograph, film, videotape, other image or recording or report depicting or describing the victim or victims.”

Colleen Murphy, the director of the state’s FOI Commission, said Tuesday that her staff had argued against the idea of such a blanket change. She said a couple of weeks ago the office of House Speaker Brendan Sharkey provided her agency with a draft including the blanket exception. She said she was advised that this draft would not be put to a vote, but she knew nothing abut the contents of the “forthcoming” draft.

Murphy said she’d urged that lawmakers be “thoughtful and careful about any legislation” and to “not be reactive to one situation” by making changes that could have long-term, unintended effects.

Murphy was unaware of Sugrue’s email when The Courant told her about it late Tuesday afternoon. She said she and her staff had not been receiving detailed updates. Asked if she would have liked to have been kept aware of developments such as Sugrue’s email, she said yes.

The killing of 20 first-graders and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown has sparked a number of legislative proposals this year to protect the privacy of the victims’ families and spare them further pain. One example is a bill that would exempt the death certificates of minors from public disclosure for six months.

Continue reading »

May 072013
 
Richard FalkRedress Online
Lawrence Davidson
Shortly after the 15 April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, published an analysis of the episode entitled “A Commentary on the marathon murders.

Richard Falk tells the truth

In this analysis Falk pointed out that there are “serious deficiencies in how the US sees itself in the world. We should be worried by the taboo… imposed on any type of self-scrutiny [of US foreign policy] by either the political leadership or the mainstream media.” This taboo essentially blinds us to the reality of our situation. Falk continues: “The American global domination project is bound to generate all kinds of resistance in the post-colonial world…. Especially if there is no disposition to rethink US relations with others… starting with the Middle East.”

It seems obvious that if Washington wants to prevent future attacks, it is not enough to pursue alleged terrorists and beef up “homeland security”. It seems logical that one needs to also perform a foreign policy review, preferably in a public manner, to determine if any American policies or behaviors are unnecessarily provoking animosity. For instance, will continued unqualified US support of Israeli oppression of Palestinians increase or decrease future violent anti-American episodes at home or abroad?

As long as Tel Aviv has the compliant ear of the American political establishment those who wish for peace and justice in the world should not rest easy. (Richard Falk)

 

Yet, this critical aspect of any response to terrorism has apparently never been performed. As regards the administration of George W. Bush, this comes as no surprise. Bush and his neoconservative supporters were (and still are) ideologically driven and so are incapable of the objectivity necessary for such a self-critical review. That is why Bush came up with a range of cockamamy reasons, including the famous “they hate our values”, for the 9/11 attacks. President Barack Obama, on the other hand, seemed, at least at first, capable of corrective insight.

Back in 2009 Obama went to Cairo and made a speech which suggested that a rethinking of American relations with the Muslim world and the Middle East in particular was in order. Yet the theory represented in the speech was never turned into practice. Why not? Continue reading »

May 022013
 

World Socialist Web Site
Barry Grey

KNXV_Boston_lockdown__20130419052325_JPGAt a White House press conference Tuesday, President Barack Obama praised the April 19 police-military lockdown of metropolitan Boston and dismissed questions regarding links between the suspected Boston Marathon bombers and US intelligence and police agencies. He went on to repeat the increasingly discredited official line that the alleged bombers had been “self-radicalized” and acted alone.

Even as Obama spoke, federal officials were announcing that they were seeking to question at least half a dozen “persons of interest” both in the US and Russia who may have been involved in the twin bombings near the finish line of the marathon in downtown Boston. That criminal act killed three people and wounded more than 160 others.

On Wednesday, the British Daily Mail reported that Saudi Arabian officials in 2012 sent a written report to high officials in the US Department of Homeland Security detailing their concerns about one of the Boston bombing suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and warning that he might be planning a terrorist attack.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was shot dead by police on April 19. His younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, is in federal custody in a prison hospital in Massachusetts.

A “highly placed source,” according to the British newspaper, said the information on Tsarnaev was based on intelligence developed in Yemen. The letter explained that the Saudi government had denied an entry visa to Tsarnaev in December 2011, when he was seeking to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Saudi official told the Mail that the information was “very specific” and warned that “something was going to happen in a major US city.”

The newspaper further reported that a US Homeland Security official on Tuesday confirmed the existence of the 2012 letter.

Later on Wednesday, the Saudi embassy in Washington DC denied that the Saudi government had made any such warning to the US about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Its statement was followed by denials from the White House and the Homeland Security Department.

The alleged Saudi warning on the activities of Tsarnaev adds to the evidence of multiple warnings from foreign intelligence authorities and US government acknowledgment of extensive contact between American security and intelligence agencies and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

The US government has admitted that Russian intelligence sent a warning to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in March of 2011 about Tamerlan Tsarnaev and followed six months later with a warning to the Central Intelligence Agency. The Russians said they were concerned that Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen, had become a radical Islamist jihadist and was planning to travel to the Russian Caucasus and meet with the separatist underground there.

Despite the fact that the elder Tsarnaev brother was put on several terrorism watch lists and was questioned by the FBI, he was allowed to travel unhindered to Dagestan in the Northern Caucasus in January of 2012 and remain in the highly explosive region for six months, returning to the US in July of last year.

NBC News has reported that the Russian internal security service also gave the FBI a case file on Tsarnaev in November of 2012, after his return to the US and five months before the Boston bombings, concerning his activities while in southern Russia. NBC reported that the police witnessed Tsarnaev meeting six separate times with a known Islamist terrorist at a Salafi mosque in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan.

In recent days, US officials have said they are investigating such contacts. The New York Times reported Monday: “Two Russian government officials said Tamerlan Tsarnaev exchanged notes over the Internet with William Plotnikov, a boxer who moved with his parents from Russia to Canada before joining militants in the North Caucasus. And they said Mr. Tsarnaev met several times in early 2012 with Mansur Makhmud Nidal, an alleged militant from the Russian province of Dagestan and suspected jihadist recruiter.”

Both Plotnikov and Nidal were killed by Russian security forces while Tamerlan Tsarnaev was in Dagestan.

Also on Wednesday, federal authorities arrested three students, classmates of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, and charged them with obstructing justice and making false statements to federal investigators. The criminal complaint does not allege that the students, two Kazakhs and one US citizen, had foreknowledge of the bombings or played any role in them. Rather, it alleges that they disposed of potentially incriminating evidence from Tsarnaev’s dorm room after the FBI had released video footage showing the two Tsarnaev brothers at the scene of the bombings and declared the two to be prime suspects.

At the Tuesday press conference, Obama responded to a reporter who cited Republican charges that the police and intelligence agencies had failed to share intelligence on Tamerlan Tsarnaev that might have prevented the bombings, saying, “I think that all our law enforcement officials performed in an exemplary fashion after the bombing had taken place.”

He then acknowledged that Russian intelligence had alerted US agencies “about the older brother as well as the mother, indicating that they might be sympathizers to extremists,” but went on to whitewash the fact that the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security Department took no steps that could have prevented execution of the terror plot.

“It’s not as if the FBI did nothing,” he said. “They not only investigated the older brother; they interviewed the older brother. They concluded that there were no signs that he was engaging in extremist activity… based on what I’ve seen so far, the FBI performed its duties; Department of Homeland Security did what it was supposed to be doing.”

Obama then implied that the two bombing suspects were “home-grown” terrorists who had acted alone. “One of the dangers that we now face,” he said, “are self-radicalized individuals who are already here in the United States, [who] in some cases may not be part of any kind of network…”

In a further effort to explain away multiple warnings from Russian intelligence about the radical jihadist sympathies and potential terrorist ties of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and the fact that the family was well known to US intelligence agencies, Obama added that “all of this has to be done in the context of our laws, due process.”

It is difficult to capture in words the scale of Obama’s hypocrisy and cynicism. In one breath he hailed an unprecedented police-state operation involving thousands of troops and heavily armed police, as well as armored vehicles and military helicopters, carried out to enforce a “shelter in place” order and conduct warrantless house-to-house searches of entire neighborhoods—all in search of one 19-year-old youth—and in the next he claimed to be upholding “due process.”

Not only did this de facto state of siege violate virtually every civil liberty inscribed in the Bill of Rights, but Obama’s Justice Department decided not to read Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda rights to remain silent and have a lawyer present at any interrogation. The Los Angeles Times reported that the interagency High Value Detainee Interrogation Group ignored repeated requests for legal counsel from the severely wounded suspect during 16 hours of questioning.

Obama’s attempt to portray the alleged Boston bombers as lone-wolf terrorists who operated without any external help or foreign ties is consistent with the official line given out by the White House since the killing of Tamerlan and capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It appears that this claim is motivated by a desire to divert attention from the connections of the suspects with US intelligence agencies.

In addition to the multiple warnings cited above and evidence of direct contact between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and reputed terrorists in Dagestan, other facts belie the official story that the elder brother dropped below the radar of the FBI, CIA and Homeland Security Department due to a “failure to communicate” on the part of the agencies.

After his return to Boston from Russia last year, Tsarnaev, according to the Washington Post, “assembled an extensive playlist of jihadist videos online.” And he was ejected from his mosque in the Boston area after making inflammatory anti-American statements. As one media source recently noted, since 9/11 the FBI has maintained a program of surveillance and the use of informants in mosques across the US.

In every major terror event in the US for more than a decade, it has emerged that the alleged perpetrators were well known to US police and intelligence agencies, which had been given multiple advance warnings of their activities. The explanation given in each case was that the authorities simply “failed to connect the dots” or “failed to communicate.”

Such was the case in the attacks of September 11, 2001. Such also was the case in the failed attempt by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day 2009 to ignite a plastic explosive device as a Northwest flight made its final descent toward Detroit. In that case, the father of the perpetrator had visited the US embassy in Nigeria one month earlier to warn authorities about the terrorist connections of his son in Yemen, and American authorities had received warnings of plans by Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to attack the United States.

So too in the Boston Marathon bombings. If this were merely yet another staggering security failure on the part of US police and intelligence agencies, why have those officials responsible not been named and removed from their posts? Why is Robert Mueller, the head of the FBI at the time of the 9/11 attacks, still running the agency?

Claims of mere incompetence or “lapses” are not credible. The most elementary precautions, according to the official story, were somehow not taken. It is claimed, for example, that the FBI never informed the Boston police of its dossier on Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Given the fact that the city was holding a mass public event—the marathon—there is no innocent explanation for such a “mistake.” One would assume that in the run-up to such an event, the authorities would be tracking every move of such an individual.

More plausible, given what is already known, is the likelihood that the brothers, particularly Tamerlan, were being developed as assets for use in US imperialism’s operations in Chechnya, Dagestan and Georgia. Washington has maintained a longstanding relationship with Islamist extremist groups operating in Chechnya. Russia laid siege to the region in two devastating wars following the breakup of the Soviet Union in order to suppress separatist movements. In 2008, the US supported nearby Georgia in a war with Russia over the breakaway province of South Ossetia.

Chechen separatists and Islamic fundamentalists, moreover, have been recruited by the US and its allies to participate in the US-backed war for regime-change in Syria, whose shock troops are being provided by forces linked to Al Qaeda.

The Boston tragedy is but the latest example of US imperialism’s intrigues and crimes around the world becoming the breeding grounds for attacks on innocent people at home. Continue reading »

May 012013
 

There is zero legal or ethical justification for denying a suspect in custody this fundamental right
Guardian
Glenn Grenwald

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Photograph: Reuters

(updated below – Update II [Tues.])

The initial debate over the treatment of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev focused on whether he should be advised of his Miranda rights or whether the “public safety exception” justified delaying it. In the wake of news reports that he had been Mirandized and would be charged in a federal court, I credited the Obama DOJ for handling the case reasonably well thus far. As it turns out, though, Tsarnaev wasn’t Mirandized because the DOJ decided he should be. Instead, that happened only because a federal magistrate, on her own, scheduled a hospital-room hearing, interrupted the FBI’s interrogation which had been proceeding at that point for a full 16 hours, and advised him of his right to remain silent and appointed him a lawyer. Since then, Tsarnaev ceased answering the FBI’s questions.

But that controversy was merely about whether he would be advised of his Miranda rights. Now, the Los Angeles Times, almost in passing, reports something which, if true, would be a much more serious violation of core rights than delaying Miranda warnings – namely, that prior to the magistrate’s visit to his hospital room, Tsarnaev had repeatedly asked for a lawyer, but the FBI simply ignored those requests, instead allowing the interagency High Value Detainee Interrogation Group to continue to interrogate him alone:

“Tsarnaev has not answered any questions since he was given a lawyer and told he has the right to remain silent by Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler on Monday, officials said.

“Until that point, Tsarnaev had been responding to the interagency High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, including admitting his role in the bombing, authorities said. A senior congressional aide said Tsarnaev had asked several times for a lawyer, but that request was ignored since he was being questioned under the public safety exemption to the Miranda rule.”

Delaying Miranda warnings under the “public safety exception” – including under the Obama DOJ’s radically expanded version of it – is one thing. But denying him the right to a lawyer after he repeatedly requests one is another thing entirely: as fundamental a violation of crucial guaranteed rights as can be imagined. As the lawyer bmaz comprehensively details in this excellent post, it is virtually unheard of for the “public safety” exception to be used to deny someone their right to a lawyer as opposed to delaying a Miranda warning (the only cases where this has been accepted were when “the intrusion into the constitutional right to counsel … was so fleeting – in both it was no more than a question or two about a weapon on the premises of a search while the search warrant was actively being executed”). To ignore the repeated requests of someone in police custody for a lawyer, for hours and hours, is just inexcusable and legally baseless.

As law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky explained in the Los Angeles Times last week, the Obama DOJ was already abusing the “public safety” exception by using it to delay Miranda warnings for hours, long after virtually every public official expressly said that there were no more threats to the public safety. As he put it: “this exception does not apply here because there was no emergency threat facing law enforcement.” Indeed, as I documented when this issue first arose, the Obama DOJ already unilaterally expanded this exception far beyond what the Supreme Court previously recognized by simply decreeing (in secret) that terrorism cases justify much greater delays in Mirandizing a suspect for reasons well beyond asking about public safety.

But that debate was merely about whether Tsarnaev would be advised of his rights. This is much more serious: if the LA Times report is true, then it means that the DOJ did not merely fail to advise him of his right to a lawyer but actively blocked him from exercising that right. This is a US citizen arrested for an alleged crime on US soil: there is no justification whatsoever for denying him his repeatedly exercised right to counsel. And there are ample and obvious dangers in letting the government do this. That’s why Marcy Wheeler was arguing from the start that whether Tsarnaev would be promptly presented to a federal court – as both the Constitution and federal law requires – is more important than whether he is quickly Mirandized. Even worse, if the LA Times report is accurate, it means that the Miranda delay as well as the denial of his right to a lawyer would have continued even longer had the federal magistrate not basically barged into the interrogation to advise him of his rights.

I’d like to see more sources for this than a single anonymous Congressional aide, though the LA Times apparently concluded that this source’s report was sufficiently reliable. The problem is that we’re unlikely to get much transparency on this issue because to the extent that national politicians in Washington are complaining about Tsarnaev’s treatment, their concern is that his rights were not abused even further:

“Lawmakers were told Tsarnaev had been questioned for 16 hours over two days. Injured in the throat, he was answering mostly in writing.

“‘For those of us who think the public safety exemption properly applies here, there are legitimate questions about why he was [brought before a judge] when he was,’ said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), a former federal prosecutor who serves on the House Intelligence Committee.

“Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the committee, wrote Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. asking for a full investigation of the matter, complaining that the court session ‘cut off a lawful, ongoing FBI interview to collect public safety information.’”

So now the Washington “debate” is going to be whether (a) the Obama DOJ should have defied the efforts of the federal court to ensure Tsarnaev’s rights were protected and instead just violated his rights for even longer than it did, or (b) the Obama DOJ violated his rights for a sufficient amount of time before “allowing” a judge into his hospital room. That it is wrong to take a severely injured 19-year-old US citizen and aggressively interrogate him in the hospital without Miranda rights, without a lawyer, and (if this report is true) actively denying him his repeatedly requested rights, won’t even be part of that debate. As Dean Chemerinsky wrote:

“Throughout American history, whenever there has been a serious threat, people have proposed abridging civil liberties. When that has happened, it has never been shown to have made the country safer. These mistakes should not be repeated. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be investigated, prosecuted and tried in accord with the US Constitution.”

There is no legal or ethical justification for refusing the request for someone in custody to have a lawyer present. If this report is true, what’s most amazing is not that his core rights were so brazenly violated, but that so few people in Washington will care. They’re too busy demanding that his rights should have been violated even further.

UPDATE

In March of last year, the New York Times’ Editorial Page Editor, Andrew Rosenthal – writing under the headline “Liberty and Justice for Non-Muslims” – explained: “it’s rarely acknowledged that the [9/11] attacks have also led to what’s essentially a separate justice system for Muslims.” Even if you’re someone who has decided that you don’t really care about (or will actively support) rights abridgments as long as they are applied to groups or individuals who you think deserve it, these violations always expand beyond their original application. If you cheer when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s right to counsel is denied, then you’re enabling the institutionalization of that violation, and thus ensuring that you have no basis or ability to object when that right is denied to others whom you find more sympathetic (including yourself).

UPDATE II [Tues.]

For those who are still having trouble comprehending the point that objections to rights violations are not grounded in “concern over a murderer” but rather concern over what powers the government can exercise – just as objections to the US torture regime were not grounded in concern for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – perhaps the great American revolutionary Thomas Paine can explain the point, from his 1795 A Dissertation on the First Principles of Government:

“He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

That’s the same principle that led then-lawyer-and-revolutionary John Adams to vigorously defend five British soldiers (of the hated occupying army) accused of one of the most notorious crimes of the revolutionary period: the 1770 murder of five colonists in Boston as part of the so-called Boston Massacre. As the ACLU explained, no lawyers were willing to represent the soldiers because “of the virulent anti-British sentiment in Boston” and “Adams later wrote that he risked infamy and even death, and incurred much popular suspicion and prejudice.”

Ultimately, Adams called his defense of these soldiers “one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.” That’s because Adams understood what Paine understood: if you permit the government to trample upon the basic rights of those whom you hate, then you’re permitting the government to trample upon those rights in general, for everyone.

This is not a platitude they were invoking but an undeniable historical truth. Governments know that their best opportunity to institutionalize rights violations is when they can most easily manipulate the public into acquiescing to them by stoking public emotions of contempt against the individual target. For the reasons Paine and Adams explained, it is exactly in such cases – when public rage finds its most intense expression – when it is necessary to be most vigilant in defense of those rights. Continue reading »