At a 2011 press conference President Obama, in response to a question about Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, said “We are a nation of laws. We don’t let individuals make decisions about how the law operates.“
Is this really a nation of laws, though? There’s an old legal principle, “nemo iudex in causa sua,” which translated into English means “no one should be the judge of their own cause.” But in fact all the laws theoretically limiting the state’s power are interpreted by — wait for it — officials of the state.
The state is, in a very real sense, judge in its own cause. Consider what the security community’s classification system amounts to, stripped of its phony veneer of “public safety” and disinteredness. The U.S. government, to further the interests that control it, commits atrocities and crimes against the peoples of the world. It then decides for itself how much of its criminal activities it will allow its own domestic population — supposedly its sovereign masters to whom it is accountable — to know about. If one of its functionaries possesses the career-killing handicap of a conscience and feels morally bound to let the people know what kinds of criminal stuff “their” government is really doing, the same government that’s doing all these awful things also sets the criminal penalties for clueing in the American people to what it’s doing.
The commission of the actual military, intelligence and diplomatic crimes themselves, the classification of documents that evidence those crimes, and the setting of civil and criminal penalties for revealing wickedness in high places — all these things are done by officials of the same government.
During the administration of Richard Nixon, who was less vindictive toward whistleblowers than our current President, Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, a collection of classified documents showing how the United States had inexorably increased its involvement in Indochina ever since the French withdrawal, lying to the American people about the situation the whole time. That secret decision-making process, uncovered by Ellsberg after the fact, cost over 50,000 American and millions of Vietnamese lives, and turned most of south Indochina into a dioxin-soaked hell.
In 1953 the CIA helped overthrow Iran’s elected government — an act which eventually led to the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and thirty subsequent years of war and tension in the Gulf. It led indirectly to a bloody war between Iran and Iraq in which millions died, creating a regional political climate that at times threatened superpower war. It was only in the past month — sixty years after the fact — the CIA officially admitted it had written a check to be cashed with the a**es of the American people.
In the late ’70s, under Zbigniew Brzezinski’s foreign policy leadership, the U.S. began backing Islamic fundamentalist rebels against the Soviet-friendly government of Afghanistan, resulting in a Soviet-backed coup and subsequent invasion reminiscent of what the U.S. engineered in South Vietnam in 1963-1965. The explicit goal of Brzezinski’s move in the “Great Game” was to get the USSR bogged down in its own sucking chest wound of a counter-insurgency war, with the possible side-benefit of destabilizing control in the largely Muslim southern republics of the Soviet Union. Other unintended consequences of this brilliant chess move included the rise of al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks. Even after 9/11, though, Brzezinski still said it was worth it. Funny thing is — I never heard of the American people getting a vote on it.
The farce is made even more absurd by the fact that high-ranking officials like Obama do, in fact, break the law whenever they feel like it — with impunity. At the same press conference where he gave the quote above, Obama said: “… I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.” But Obama does that all the time. The movie “Zero Dark Thirty” is chock full of classified material leaked with the full complicity of the Obama administration. Last I heard, nobody was in prison, or holed up in an embassy, or had their plane forced down, pursuant to an effort to track down the leakers. Government illegally leaks classified information all the time, to smear its enemies or promote its propaganda line, and heads don’t roll for it. Because, you know, government.
That’s the way it works. The government commits crimes, classifies all the evidence of its criminal activity, and punishes anyone with the audacity to tell you about it. The government is judge of its own cause, every step of the way. This is not a government of laws. The state is the opposite of law.