Saturday, April 25, 2020

Arbitrary Law Enforcement in the US

Arbitrary Law Enforcement in the US


Glenn Greenwald wrote that “the most extremist power any political leader can assert is the power to target his own citizens for execution without any charges or due process, far from any battlefield. The US administration has not only asserted exactly that power in theory, but has exercised it in practice”. This is the power of a dictator. (1)
Paul Craig Roberts put it very well when he wrote,”The US government claims it is unaccountable if proceedings for controversial actions are secret, that if something is “secret”, the government needn’t prove that it’s legal.
This has created a body of US law, the ultimate effect of which has been to completely insulate the executive branch from legal challenges and judicial review for anything it deems a national security matter. If the White House declares any policy a classified national security secret, no one will ever be able to have standing to challenge it before a court of law. From this, nobody has standing to sue in court and the government avoids any ruling on the constitutionality of its actions. (2) The American system of government is totalitarian at its core, what NSA employee William Binney called a “turnkey totalitarian state”. (3) (4)
It is true that the US President can imprison for life, or execute, any individual in any country with a complete absence of evidence, charges, lawyers or courts, simply on his whim, without any recourse. But it goes much deeper and farther than this, well beyond matters of national security or terrorism, extending to the daily actions of life, and most especially directed against those who are critical of the government, who investigate government malfeasance and who publish revelations of official crimes. But perhaps the real danger is not that the elected Congress has been omitted from the loop, but it is those of secret government rather than the President who are making these decisions.

We are rapidly approaching the time where anyone critical of the government or the American political-capitalist system, or of the FED and its owners is, by virtue of the fake ‘war on terror’, automatically deemed a terrorist and guilty of felonious breaches of national security. This is no more than a relative handful of powerful individuals criminalising any protest directed at them. Many of those arrested during the Occupy Wall Street protests were charged with precisely such crimes, having been labeled as terrorists simply for protesting against the bankers reaping billions in bonuses and trillions in bailouts for causing tens of millions of people to lose their homes.
The government, through the police and prosecutors, can lay all manner of charges against a citizen and obtain a conviction without ever being required to produce any evidence, simply by informing the court that the very production of evidence “would compromise national security”. In some cases, the individual is not even informed of the details of the crime he is assumed to have committed. This is McCarthyism again, in all its misguided glory. As noted earlier, even for a simple matter as being placed on the government’s ‘no-fly’ list, officials at all levels will hide behind their veil of secrecy, will tell unlimited lies to the courts, and will pursue their cause far beyond the ability of most individuals to cope. Only the wealthy with access to the best legal representation will have any hope of escape, but these people are seldom charged.
The constitutional guarantees of habeas corpus and due process of law no longer exist in government-sponsored prosecutions. Lies and secrecy are now standard, as are military tribunals that avoid public trials and conduct their affairs entirely without oversight. Secret evidence is now standard, evidence which will not be disclosed to the person being charged or even to the judge conducting the trial, as are secret witnesses who can neither be identified nor cross-examined. Indeed, even the laws themselves are now stated as secret.
To a great extent, it is the wildly arbitrary capriciousness of US law application and enforcement that becomes truly frightening. Here is one such example, courtesy of William Blum: (5)
“In October 1976 the well-known terrorist Orlando Bosch organised – with the help of the CIA – the explosion of a bomb on a Cuban civil airliner, killing all 73 people on board. The US government refused to extradite Bosch to stand trial and a Miami TV station aired a live interview where Bosch not only admitted responsibility for the aircraft bombing, but revealed intentions of continuing terrorist activities against Cuba. Five Cubans travelled to the US to investigate this and other acts of sabotage and terrorism originating from the US, and obtained positive proof of not only the aircraft bombing but many other terrorist acts. Upon presenting this evidence to the US government, the FBI arrested the five Cubans on charges of terrorism (!) and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from 15 years to life. The convictions were unique in the world of law, having been obtained by the US government without presenting any evidence whatever in court of the mens’ guilt of anything.”
Virtually all of this state-sponsored oppression is directed to the control of political dissension and civil unrest, including the “crimes” of investigating and exposing corruption and illegality at the highest levels of government. US courts have repeatedly affirmed that it is illegal and a threat to America’s national security for anyone to disclose acts of corruption, lawbreaking or treason by US federal authorities. Under President Obama, the US has harassed, bankrupted and sent to prison more whistleblowers than criminals. Those who expose the crimes of the government and its agencies are imprisoned or killed, while the perpetrators of the crimes suffer no consequences.
Wherever we look, we have firm evidence of the existence of a fascist police state, largely under the excuse of the government’s war on terror and with the full support of the compliant media. It is true these powerful laws are not universally applied, and we can all point to individuals who contradicted the government and escaped unharmed, but this is not an accident and in fact is a feature of the system. It is precisely the capricious unpredictability of enforcement that creates the fear to compel obedience. If the law is clear and well-known, and enforced uniformly, we can cope and find ways to work around it, but if enforcement is arbitrary and the penalties severe, the risk is unquantifiable and the consequences potentially disastrous. It is this that creates an overall climate of fear in which few will dare to act. The Patriot Act in the US is especially frightening because it’s a door that opens onto a one-way street where citizens are spying on each other with no court oversight. The neocons and the political Right-Wing will tell us they are protecting their country, but that claim is made by every fascist dictatorship.
When one assembles the multitude of pieces of information on the general subject of ‘homeland security’ in the US, it is clear the government is determined to suppress by harassment, imprisonment or death those who speak out against the illegal acts and atrocities of their own government. It is determined to crush, violently if necessary, peaceful public assemblies that petition the government for redress. Today, any person (who can be physically taken into custody by US officials) can be detained indefinitely if considered a “high value detainee”, which definition is so vague and arbitrary as to be universal.
If the authorities deem by their secret standards that a person “poses a threat” to civilian or military facilities, is a member of a “terrorist” group (like Occupy Wall Street), has “potential intelligence value” or qualifies for “such other matters as the President considers appropriate”, he or she is a candidate for disappearing into a system without charges or trial, without recourse or oversight.
Among the “crimes” for which citizens can today be labeled a “low-level terrorist” and imprisoned in the US are: protesting near the President or other designated individuals, investigating or reporting on crimes committed by the NSA, CIA, FBI or Homeland Security, speaking out against government policies, participating in a public protest, criticising the use of drone aircraft to kill innocent civilians, investigating either the FED or the Wall Street Bankers, taking video of police officers or the military engaging in civilian brutality or other illegal acts, investigating commercial crimes and felonies committed by the major multinationals, investigating factory farming and criticising the government’s current wars. (6) (7)
It is apparent from the above that virtually anyone might fit any of these definitions, and their categorisation as such – and their infinite detention, torture or death – are not subject to any protections from either the constitution or the courts. For this legislation, we can thank US Senators Joseph Lieberman and John McCain, two notorious protectors of freedom and human rights.
In all the politically Right-Wing nations, including the US, Canada and the UK, it has become illegal to take video of police officers when they are brutalising civilians or committing other crimes. Even being in possession of a visible mobile phone or camera with a police officer nearby will often result in the device being confiscated or smashed by the police, often accompanied by criminal charges, with police claiming they are “intimidated” by being photographed, a claim readily accepted by the courts. In these countries, there have been so many cases of police brutality often resulting in serious injury or death that have come to light only because a civilian was on the scene with the presence of mind to take video. In every case, the police lied about the circumstances and it was only the video that revealed the truth. Therefore, it is now illegal to take video.
The Militarisation of the Police
The militarisation of America’s police forces is an alarming development that seems to have escaped the attention of the media. Many authors have noted the US now has a multitude of domestic police forces that look, think, and behave more like an invading and occupying military than a civilian body created to protect the public. The public is now the enemy of these paramilitary forces, with displays everywhere of military-style Robocops with devastating high-tech military equipment that includes armored vehicles and automatic weapons. This abundance of weaponry has resulted from a planned disposition of surplus war gear from the US military to local police forces.
An article in the NYT by Matt Apuzzo reported that
“according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft. The equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units.”
They also have $500,000 MRAP vehicles that are bullet-proof and meant to withstand explosives. The equipment is ostensibly to be used in “counter-terrorism operations” but the US has no domestic terrorism and the equipment is used only against the public – primarily to suppress public protests at the brutality of this same group. (8)
In August of 2014, the US experienced one of the more egregious and unjustified killing of an unarmed black youth by a white police officer, resulting in a great deal of media attention and civil riots, looting and brutality. The photos from this event are particularly frightening, displaying evidence of US local police forces using armored vehicles, extensive high-tech military gear, snipers with their guns trained on the civil population, and much more. These events are becoming common in America, most cities having experienced these military assaults on innocent civilians, and almost always launched on peaceful demonstrations.
Matthew Harwood wrote an article in the Huffington Post where he said, “Welcome to a new era of American policing, where cops increasingly see themselves as soldiers occupying enemy territory, often with the help of Uncle Sam’s armory, and where even nonviolent crimes are met with overwhelming force and brutality”, and where the police are virtually immune to accountability. That is an unfortunately accurate description of the US today. (9)
Apuzzo again:
“During the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011, the police response was so excessive, and so clearly modeled after battlefield tactics, that there was no doubt that deterring domestic dissent is one of the primary aims of police militarization. The reason the US has para-militarized its police forces is precisely to control this type of domestic unrest, and it’s simply impossible to imagine it’s not being deployed in full against a growing protest movement aimed at grossly and corruptly unequal resource distribution. Law enforcement officials and policy-makers in America know full well that serious protests – and more – are inevitable given the economic tumult and suffering the US has seen and will continue to see for the foreseeable future.”
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Larry Romanoff is a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. He can be contacted at: 2186604556@qq.com
Notes
(5) The Anti-Empire Report #144 – March 11th, 2016; https://williamblum.org/aer/read/144
(8) What Military Gear Your Local Police Department Bought; https://www.nytimes.com/…/data-on-transfer-of-military-gear-to-police-departments.html
(9) The Logic of the Police State | HuffPost; https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-logic-of-the-police-state_b_8849984

Larry Romanoff,

contributing author

to Cynthia McKinney's new COVID-19 anthology

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