Tom Engelhardt of TomDispatch.com provides this to-the-point overview of the Orwellian “Freedom is Slavery,” “War Is Peace” world we have descended into in America today. This is very much in the vein of the kind of work that has been reported by the likes of Glenn Greenwald with his must-read book With Liberty and Justice For Some, as well as the work of Jonathan Turley and many others.
Everyone knows that in the United States if you’re a robber caught breaking into someone’s house, you’ll be brought to trial, but if you’re caught breaking into someone else’s country, you’ll be free to take to the lecture circuit, write your memoirs, or become a university professor.
As if to make the point, the Supreme Court recently offered a post-legal ruling for our moment: it a lower court ruling that blocked a case in which five men, who had experienced extraordinary rendition (a fancy globalized version of kidnapping) and been turned over to torturing regimes elsewhere by the CIA, tried to get their day in court. No such luck. The Obama administration claimed (as had the Bush administration before it) that simply bringing such a case to court would (that is, state secrets) — and won. As Ben Wizner, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued the case, , “To date, every victim of the Bush administration’s torture regime has been denied his day in court.”
The realities of our moment are simple enough: other than abusers too low-level (see and ) to matter to our national security state, no one in the CIA, and certainly no official of any sort, is going to be prosecuted for the possible crimes Americans committed in the Bush years in pursuit of the Global War on Terror.
Here is the reality of post-legal America: since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the National Security Complex has engorged itself and grown at a remarkable pace. According to , a Washington Post series written in mid-2010, 854,000 people have “top secret” security clearances, “33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001… 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks… [and] some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.”
Just stop a moment to take that in. And then let this sink in as well: whatever any one of those employees does inside that national security world, no matter how “illegal” the act, it’s a double-your-money bet that he or she will never be prosecuted for it (unless it happens to involve letting Americans know something about just how they are being “protected”).
Think of the National Security Complex as the of the present moment. In the areas that matter to that complex, Congress has ever less power and, as in the case of the war in Libya or the Patriot Act, is ever more ready to cede what power it has left.
So democracy? The people’s representatives? How quaint in a world in which our real rulers are unelected, shielded by secrecy, and supported by a carefully nurtured, toward security and the U.S. military.
The National Security Complex has access to us, to our lives and communications, though we have next to no access to it. It has, in reserve, those enhanced interrogation techniques and when trouble looms, a set of what might be called enhanced legal techniques as well.
Theoretically, the National Security Complex exists only to protect you. Its every act is done in the name of making you safer, even if the idea of safety and protection doesn’t extend to your job, your foreclosed home, or aid in disastrous times.
Welcome to post-legal America. It’s time to stop wondering whether its acts are illegal and start asking: Do you really want to be this “safe”?