Saturday, March 28, 2015

Light years from justice or democracy

Glenn Greenwald reports on an appalling example of the subversion of justice, human rights, and democracy by the imperial security state:
A truly stunning debasement of the U.S. justice system just occurred through the joint efforts of the Obama Justice Department and a meek and frightened Obama-appointed federal judge, Edgardo Ramos, all in order to protect an extremist neocon front group from scrutiny and accountability.
The judge, at the DOJ’s request, has dismissed a private defamation suit brought by Victor Restis against an “independent” organization called United Against Nuclear Iran (“very likely a front for some combination of the Israeli and U.S. intelligence services. …The group was founded and is run and guided by a roster of U.S., Israeli and British neocon extremists”)* on the grounds that it risks exposing “state secrets.”
At least based on what they claim about themselves, UANI is just “a not-for-profit, non-partisan, advocacy group” that seeks to “educate” the public about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program. Why would such a group like this even possess “state secrets”? It would be illegal to give them such material. Or could it be that the CIA or some other U.S. government agency has created and controls the group, which would be a form of government-disseminated propaganda, which happens to be illegal?

What else could explain the basis for the U.S. government’s argument that allowing UANI to be sued would risk the disclosure of vital “state secrets” besides a desire to cover up something quite untoward if not illegal? What “state secrets” could possibly be disclosed by suing a nice, little “not-for-profit, non-partisan, advocacy group”?

We don’t know the answers to those questions, nor do the lawyers for the plaintiffs whose lawsuit the DOJ wants dismissed. That’s because, beyond the bizarre DOJ intervention itself, the extreme secrecy that shaped the judicial proceedings is hard to overstate….

…[T]he DOJ’s arguments about why “secrecy” compels dismissal of the entire lawsuit were made in a brief that only Judge Ramos (and not even the parties) gets to read, but even more amazingly, were elaborated on in secret meetings by DOJ lawyers in the judge’s chambers with nobody else present. Were recordings or transcripts of these meetings made? Is there any record of what the U.S. government whispered in the ear of the judge to scare him into believing that National Security Would Be HarmedTM if he allowed the case to proceed? Nobody knows. The whole process is veiled in total secrecy, labeled a “judicial proceeding” but containing none of the transparency, safeguards or adversarial process that characterizes minimally fair courts.

This sham worked. This week, Judge Ramos issued his ruling dismissing the entire lawsuit.... As a result of the DOJ’s protection, UANI cannot be sued. Among other things, it means this group of neocon extremists now has a license to defame anyone they want. They can destroy your reputation with false accusations in a highly public campaign, and when you sue them for it, the DOJ will come in and whisper in the judge’s ear that national security will be damaged if — like everyone else in the world — UANI must answer in a court of law for their conduct. And subservient judicial officials like Judge Ramos will obey the U.S. government’s dictates and dismiss your lawsuit before it begins, without your having any idea why that even happened. [emphasis added, links removed]
* I love how open UANI’s intent has been, up to and including the use of CIA language: “When launched,” Greenwald notes, “NBC described its mission as waging ‘economic and psychological warfare’ against Iran.” That 2012 NBC piece, by Richard Engel and Robert Windrem, is sadly funny:
Perched high above midtown Manhattan, behind security-locked doors in an unmarked office, a half-dozen 20-somethings sit at computers, looking for ways to inflict hardship on the Iranian government and the people it rules. The “war room,” as its occupants call it, is a mere 20 blocks from Iran’s Mission to the United Nations and even closer to the hotel where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stays during his visits to New York.

But this is not a U.S. government intelligence facility brimming with incoming feeds of classified data. The offices belong to the private nonprofit group United Against Nuclear Iran, and the computers contain a wealth of (mostly) open source economic data culled from Iranian and other sources.

UANI, as it calls itself, has one mission: to wage “economic warfare against the Islamic Republic of Iran ...The regime must be forced to choose between having a nuclear weapon or a functioning economy.”

That’s not to say the group doesn’t have roots in government. It is headed by Mark Wallace, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and former heads of the CIA, the counterterrorism office of the National Security Council and the Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, sit on its advisory board.

…U.S. officials welcome the private group’s efforts, telling NBC News that UANI’s “name and shame” campaigns complement the government’s efforts to enforce the sanctions, which are limited to pursuing civil or criminal cases when companies are found to be in violation.

…Wallace feels comfortable that he’s on the side of right and believes he has a unique opportunity to affect history by forcing Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, which Tehran insists are intended to meet its energy needs, not build nuclear weapons. In his view, that begins with “crashing the currency.”

…UANI has a modest budget -- less than $700,000 in 2010, according to federal records – that it says it raises only from U.S. donors. It declines to identify them, citing security concerns.

…In recent weeks, Wallace’s group publicly pressed European companies that it believed were supplying Iran with the special paper, inks and presses used to print Iranian currency to stop doing business with Tehran. In a letter early this month to the German company Koenig & Bauer AG, which had provided the Central Bank of Iran with presses in the past, Wallace demanded to know if the company was still supplying Iran, then raised the possibility that continuing work with Iran could threaten its business with the U.S. government.

…As a result of actions like these, “regime change” in Iran is now being discussed seriously in Washington policy circles. Wallace won’t say whether that is his specific goal, but acknowledges that virtually any alternative would be preferable to the current “theocratic regime.”

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