The justice system is rigged against the common man. It is rigged in favor of the elite.
Equality before the civil law is a thing of the past. I think it has been since about 1789. But it surely ended in 1974, when Ford pardoned Nixon.
My father was in the FBI. He was outraged. “A pardon is issued after someone is convicted. Nixon was never convicted.” I knew he was right from that point on. But I did not see the full ramifications until I read this. It ended the American tradition of equality before the law.
The Ford pardon of Nixon changed that, radically and permanently. When President Ford went on national television to explain to an angry, skeptical citizenry why the most powerful political actor would be fully immunized for the felonies he got caught committing, Ford expressly rejected the rule of law. He paid lip service to its core principle—the “law is no respecter of persons”—but then tacked on a newly concocted amendment designed to gut that principle: “but the law is a respecter of reality.”
In other words, if—in the judgment of political leaders—it’s sufficiently disruptive, divisive, or distracting to hold powerful political officials accountable under the law on equal terms with ordinary Americans, then they should be exempt and the rule of law suspended, all in the name of political harmony, of “moving on.” But of course, it will always be divisive and distracting, by definition, to prosecute the most powerful political leaders, so Ford’s rationale, predictably, created a template for elite immunity.
The author of these words, Glenn Greenwald, his just had a book published: With Liberty for Some.
The rationale for Ford’s pardon of Nixon was subsequently legitimized, and it created a precedent for shielding the most powerful elites from the consequences of their lawbreaking. The arguments Ford offered are the same ones now hauled out over and over whenever it is time to argue why the most powerful among us should not be held accountable: It’s not just for the good of the immunized criminal, but in the common good, to Look Forward, Not Backward. This direct assault on the rule of law was pioneered by the pardon of Richard Nixon.
The law now protects the law-breakers. It penalizes the whistleblowers.
3. Whistleblowers in the era of Bush and Obama have been fired, harassed, and prosecuted under statutes like the Espionage Act with a hitherto-unknown vigor, especially when their disclosures suggested that government officials committed serious crimes. Is this prosecutorial zeal driven by the same factors that have created elite immunity?
Unquestionably. Take the case of the NSA eavesdropping scandal, the clearest-cut case of criminality during the Bush years. So egregious was the wrongdoing that James Risen and Eric Lichtblau won the Pulitzer Prize for exposing it in the New York Times. Bush officials were caught behaving in the exact way the law criminalized: eavesdropping on Americans’ communications without warrants. And the statute imposed a penalty of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine for each offense.
Yet not a single Bush official responsible for those crimes was ever investigated, let alone prosecuted. The nation’s telecom giants, which independently broke laws written specifically to bar telecom–government cooperation in illegal spying, were retroactively immunized for their crimes by an act of Congress.
Nobody paid a price for the NSA scandal, except one person: Thomas Tamm, the mid-level DOJ lawyer who learned of the illegal program and, in an act of conscience, picked up the phone, called Lichtblau, and told him what he had learned. Unlike the criminals themselves, Tamm was investigated, harassed, rendered unemployed, forced to hire a lawyer, and ultimately driven into bankruptcy and serious psychological distress. The only person to suffer from the NSA scandal was the person who blew the whistle on it.
We see this over and over, and it’s what the Obama war on whistleblowers is all about. The only real, cognizable crime—the only one the Obama DOJ displays any real interest in punishing—is committed by those who expose elite criminality, not those who commit it.
Each new President shields his predecessor.
If anything, it’s even more unlikely that he would hold elites accountable in his second term. In November, 2008, the New York Times explained why presidents have an incentive to shield their predecessors from prosecution: “Because every president eventually leaves office, incoming chief executives have an incentive to quash investigations into their predecessor’s tenure.” In other words, by shielding those who came before him, Obama ensures that he can commit crimes with impunity as well. That’s why all elites—political, financial, media—are motivated to defend and preserve this lawbreaking license for their class.
The justice system is rigged. We should never forget this. The basis of liberty is an honest legal system. We no longer have one.