Sunday, October 27, 2013

Star chamber

Ceiling of the Star Chamber, Palace of Westminster. The decoration is said to be the reason for the room's name.
Human rights attorney Jesselyn Radack is a hero, but she is an attorney, and she's using some loaded attorney language here:

What exactly do you mean by "this", Counsel? I would say it is more precisely like the end of the Star Chamber. Because when Charles I was using the Court of Star Chamber in the 1630s to punish Puritan subversives he was definitely using techniques familiar to victims of [jump]
the special Bush-Cheney system for dealing with "unlawful combatants", including secret deliberations over secret evidence, confessions extracted by torture, and interpretation of a refusal to answer as an admission of guilt. But he never went and asked anybody if it was okay.*

In officially notifying the Uzbek terrorism suspect Jamshid Muhtorov that he will be tried using evidence obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Justice Department is not just giving Muhtorov a courtesy that it hasn't offered previous defendants. It is giving his lawyer an opportunity to find out whether that is legal or not (as solicitor general Donald Verrilli seems to have concluded it isn't) and take it to the Supreme Court to hear the case. To get to that point in England, they had to take Charles I's head off.

What is happening is that, with maddening legalistic slowness, the illegalities of the previous administration are being sort of dealt with, just as the criminals of Morgan Chase seem to coming at last to justice, and things are starting to get a bit better. Radack's "this" is a little retroactionary trick, very likely unconscious, to invert the causal sequence and make it sound as if this administration is in some magical way responsible for the horrors of the last.**

Speaking of retroaction, the Obama administration has just made what may be the first anti-retroactionary statement that has ever perhaps been produced by any administration anywhere:
"Der Spiegel" reported that National Security Advisor Susan Rice discussed the issue with Christopher Huizingen, a senior aide to Merkel. The United States, she told him, can stop such surveillance from taking place in the present and in the future – but not in the past. (Haaretz)
Really, Mme Bundeskanzlerin, we'd love to stop it in the past, but we just—wie soll man sagen?—can't get there from here.

*Actually the members of the court of last resort, the Privy Council, all sat in the Star Chamber, so he wouldn't even have needed to go anywhere.

**Much like the Guardian report on a 2006 NSA document in the Guardian in which Obama's name was mentioned 23 times and Bush's once. I'm still amazed at that.
From DC Comics' Shadow Cabinet.

The Radackian "this" is matched and beaten by a truly numb-nutted "now" from a historian called Steve Burnett:
Just no. You might want to go back and watch that movie again. The NSA does not have full-time informants stationed in every US workplace and housing complex. It has not been known to use the information it gathers to discredit or divide the people it spies on or to blackmail people into joining them. It does not employ one informant for every 6.5 members of the people. It does signals intelligence in foreign countries, that's it, and apparently a bit on agencies or persons in the US that have connections with foreign countries, and you're entitled to hate and fear it as much as you like but not to equate it with the Stasi, which was approximately 308 times as invasive as the Gestapo (calculations based on numbers from Wikipedia).

The reason I keep insisting on this, as I have said before and will no doubt say again, is that there is abusive intelligence behavior going on in the United States and its Bizarro outpost in Guantánamo, as Radack for one knows very well (it's to be assumed that unlike about 99.95% of the emo protesters she is personally on the wrong side of some of that surveillance, since her clients definitely are). But the NSA is very remote from it, and most of it is done by the FBI and local police departments, shaking down young black men and infiltrating the social lives of Muslims. NSA Derangement Syndrome is causing people to ignore these real cases.
Noel Coward's Star Chamber at the 2009 Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Doesn't Evan Buliung, the actor in the center, make you want to write, or at least see, Cruz: The Musical with Buliung as the Tartufferiffic Senator Ted?

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