Christie, Clapper and other Officials who should be in Jail instead of Snowden

(By Juan Cole)

The vindictiveness toward Edward Snowden in official Washington has nothing to do with law-breaking and everything to do with the privileges of power. The powerful in Washington may spy on us, but we are not to know about it. Snowden’s sin in their eyes was to level the playing field, to draw back the curtain and let the public see what the spies were doing to them The United States has become so corrupt that the basic principle of the law applying to all equally has long since became a quaint relic. We are back to a system of aristocratic privilege. If we had a rule of law and not of men, Edward Snowden would be given a medal and the following officials would be on the lam to avoid serious jail time.

1. James Clapper. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, was involved in massive and willful violations of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. He perjured himself before Congress, denying that the NSA was collecting masses of personal material from Americans. President Obama excused Clapper’s behavior on both accounts, saying he should be more careful. A-Rod should have been more careful. Clapper should not have told Congress a bald-faced lie, and shouldn’t have snooped into our metadata to begin with. Showing his fascist colors, he now wants to make journalists “accomplices” for publishing Snowden’s revelations. Clapper himself should be in the slammer, not Snowden.

2. Gen. Keith Alexander, outgoing head of the NSA, should also be in jail. Like Clapper, he violated his oath to uphold the constitution by collecting petabytes of personal data from Americans and storing it for 5 years. He also lied to Congress, about how many terrorist plots had been foiled by these methods (the real number is slim to none). Alexander should be in jail, not Snowden.

3. NJ governor Chris Christie defended the NSA spying against Rand Paul’s observation that it is unconstitutional. Christie shamelessly deployed 9/11, saying that Paul should ask the families victimized by it what they think. Actually, the question is why US intelligence did not foil 9/11 given that they were following Khalid al-Mihdar and had him under surveillance. Now it turns out that Christie may well have been involved in closing a major bridge for petty political payback, which was a security danger and a danger to patients needing ambulances, etc. If the latter is true, Christie should be in jail, not Snowden.

4. Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who rules the Sunday morning programs and has said profoundly bigoted things against Muslim-Americans, has also loudly defended NSA spying and attacked Snowden. King is a material supporter of terrorism himself, and should probably be in jail, not Snowden.

5. Former Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney (they always refer to felons by their full name) slammed Snowden. But Cheney lied us into a war on false pretenses and tried mightily to out Valerie Plame as a CIA operative (his team left material around that Richard Armitage saw, and it was his contact that broke the story. But Cheney and his staff were the ones actively pushing the story with the press. Cheney should be in jail, not Snowden.

Related video:

Euronews reports on the controversial around the nomination of Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize

49 Responses

  1. Only 5 names? We can easily bring that to 10 if we include certain Supreme Court justices. Or 11 if we include the man responsible for the extra-judicial execution of an teenaged American citizen.

    • “Only 5 names? We can easily bring that to 10 if we include certain Supreme Court justices.”

      Why stop there? If we applied the Nuremberg Principles to the United States we could add all the lead players in the Dubya Administration and about 70 percent of the members who were in Congress in October 2002.

  2. You’re getting at what I think is what really angers and threatens The Establishment about Snowden: That He Dared, and the example he sets for others, which is now set to erode the power our putative leadership has labored so mightily to hoard unto itself.

    Bradley Manning was bad enough just on the face of things. But its a different and entirely more dangerous threat when a mere “29 year old” Snowden (what would they say were he 59?) gives sensible and articulate interviews that make apologist arguments and lies look as lame and transparent as they are. At this point their rage becomes downright apoplectic.

    That he, Snowden, has been genuinely responsible and effective, and is essentially right, while with every comment the “authorities” are confirming their insincerity and incompetence in serving the true public interest….at best.

  3. In any country where a group of people are given power over the lives of others and immunity from prosecution they are likely to misuse their powers, and no organization has more power than intelligence organizations that hold the secrets about most individuals, including government officials. This is human nature, and the story of every secretive intelligence organization throughout the world. This is why the US Constitution was initially based on checks and balances to make sure that violations were brought to a minimum, but an organization that collects 200 million text messages a day is out of control. The entire structure of intelligence and security organizations need to be reexamined and reformed before it is too late. So far, Americans can still speak about these things, although some have to spend their lives in exile for their brave acts. We must fear the day when even that window is closed as has been done repeatedly in the past in a number of other countries.

    • The Guardian (UK) has an excerpt from what appears will be a fascinating book about Snowden: “How Edward Snowden went from loyal NSA contractor to whistleblower: He was politically conservative, a gun owner, a geek – and the man behind the biggest intelligence leak in history. In this exclusive extract from his new book, Luke Harding looks at Edward Snowden’s journey from patriot to America’s most wanted” by Luke Harding – link to theguardian.com

  4. Please do not ask;

    “Actually, the question is why US intelligence did not foil 9/11 given that they were following Khalid al-Mihdar and had him under surveillance.”

    because the answer is: “we did not have enough information to focus in on X. We need additional surveillance to give us that information.” That is the logic that got us into our current miserable situation. We need to say that it is police work that finds criminals and not massive surveillance.

  5. President Obama has said, “No one is above the law.” As Orwell might have put it, “We are all equal before the law. It is just that some are under it (less equal) and others are not (more equal).”

  6. The Nobel Peace Prize nomination for Snowden, and his suggestion that the NSA operation is actually a corporate espionage scam are two potentially huge breakthroughs. I found the interview in which Snowden alluded to the latter. It is tantalizing but there is little meat to it. Yet it is pretty clear that they aren’t apprehending terrorists. Just what is it that they are bee-hiving about at NSA? Can no one tell us? Congress, of course, should be digging into it but it is a broken institution and also a part of the problem. Sy Hirsh and Bamford are capable of it.

    • “…Yet it is pretty clear that they aren’t apprehending terrorists.”
      IMHO the central reason for (NSA, et al) spying is poitical blackmail. 2nd level priority is industrial/corporate/economic and last is “terrorism”. Better to keep us afraid by letting a few “acts of terror” happen and it helps them justify the continued surveillance. The whole thing is so dark, cynical and downright evil. The 3rd Reich could only dream of what’s been accomplished here.

      • “2nd level priority is industrial/corporate/economic”

        Who are the clients? With whom do the clients compete? What is the quid pro quo with NSA? How are the Israelis involved–they receive the raw data too.

        This appears to pretty much define “rogue”.

        • “Who are the clients? With whom do the clients compete? What is the quid pro quo with NSA? ”

          In such a secretive environment, who knows? One theory is that the NSA is working for whatever administration occupies the White House that is owned by the plutocracy. But given the moral bankruptcy of the whole bunch the NSA might be like the gunslinger in Western movies who was hired to protect the town and its people but eventually took over.

  7. It is definitely a mind boggle how Cheney et al escaped with impunity after having instigated (the war crimes of) a needless war and then committed torture…

    • I find it completely understandable.

      If the current President holds his predecessor accountable for apparent crimes,
      might his successor not do the same ?

    • It isn’t mind-boggling at all. Our national justice (sic) system is corrupt and based on Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” Some are just more equal than others.

      • “It isn’t mind-boggling at all. Our national justice (sic) system is corrupt and based on Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” Some are just more equal than others.”

        Too cynical. It has many faults which few with experience of it would be foolish enough to deny, but it’s the cleanest of the three branches. That is because of its structure, its professionalism and relative discipline.

        • What on earth are you talking about justice being the cleanest of the three branches? Justice is not a branch of government. It is a concept for a civilized society, and it is that society that is responsible for its proper administration. Congress, a key component of justice, has failed. The justice (sic) department operates on double standards, so it has failed. The Supremes keep coming up with split decisions when it comes to cases before them, so they are no help. And a majority of citizens who have a share in the responsibility for a just society even if they don’t know it either approve or acquiesce in this meretricious charade.

          Pay more attention. Justice is raped every day.

          “Crime doesn’t pay?: JPMorgan Chase begs to differ” by Richard Eskow – link to commondreams.org

        • “Too cynical.”

          I recall saying something similar on several occasions in the past when critics lambasted politicians in government. I look back at those times with considerable embarrassment at how naive I was then.

    • Let’s not get too righteous here. It really is a cruel world out there and Presidential prerogatives are best left intact, for when there is a borderline or downright illegal something that needs to be done in the (genuine and well-considered) national interest.

      Even if Bush was too immature/incompetent to know he was not using that leeway responsibility wisely, the authority at some level needs to be maintained.

      The question is how do you (we, the people) constrain necessary executive power and its inherent potential to be used foolishly, or even turned inward against us.

    • Cheney is like the little brat that uses a magnifying glass to burn ants and caterpillars to death before he goes in to dinner and cookies and milk, and burns holes in stuff like the front seat of Mom’s car and blames other kids or Dad for the damage.

  8. Christie is either guilty of being involved in the “dirty tricks” of closing the lanes in a very busy bridge; or he is guilty of extreme incompetence by having a staff that would do such a terrible thing. BTW, Christie has shown outrage that he is blamed for this; but has he ever shown any outrage over the fact that the wicked act was executed?

  9. This courageous suggestion brightens the day. There is indeed a long list of traitors wrapped in the flag, in the public offices of secrecy and discretion and immunity. But as they have no use for democracy and rights, they will have no objection to their own rendition, nor a decade in tropical Guantanamo, and would surely then agree to lives of community service in a country they have destroyed, or confinement in glass cages at the intersections in DC.

  10. “We are back to a system of aristocratic privilege.”
    Actually the riff-raffmof the usual suspects to which Professor Cole alluded to in his prep walk give even the narcissistic aristocracy a bad rap.
    You could find more decent and humane citizens in a homeless shelter.
    But the president, the commander-in-chief, sets the tone for the executive branch. So I think the professor is letting my main man Barry off with a mild slap on on the wrist.
    Obama is just another imperial president during wars – Afghanistan, Iraq and his drone wars – which had already gone south during the previous administration of former President George W. Bush.
    The long war on terror even after only a decade will probably be viewed by historians as the worst foreign policy debacle since the era of the Vietnam War, which undoubtedly as the dearly departed Saddam Hussein would say is “the mother of all foreign policy debacles.”
    So America continues its decline as a nation and a moral compass for the world since the sad denouncement when Saigon fell to the NVA on April 30, 1975.
    That’s really when our country crossed its constitutional Rubicon In the Mekong Delta. And it is still deeply lost in the triple-canopy of its grand delusions.
    As the wounded grunts used to say on the ward where I served as a medical corpsman, when you get eight miles into the jungle and finally realize what a terrible mistake you’ve made, it’s still eight miles you have to march back through to get out. So it looks rather grim and disheartening to say the least how far the country has drifted when our fearless leaders in both parties really thought we could somehow remain a republic when we became a military empire. There seems to be little prospect for optimism where all this will eventually end given how the war hawks are still beating their little tin drums for a war with Iran.

    • “The long war on terror even after only a decade will probably be viewed by historians as the worst foreign policy debacle since the era of the Vietnam War”

      They aren’t easily evaluated side by side, but the formal rationale for Vietnam at least made superficial sense. Our entanglements in the Middle-East have been crack-pot from the beginning.

      • The formal rationales for the Vietnam War were so superficial as to be non sequiturs. There was no concern for the underlying societal needs and inevitable anticolonial movement in progress, nor for the declared principles of the US. The US mass media and politicians of gold sourced the pressure to “contain communism”, a notion with no history or means of success. The US had no history of seeking benefits for the people there, nor of promoting democracy, which it opposed whenever that meant socialist democracy, as it usually did. The US entered the war on the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin Incident, similar to our pretext in Iraq, fraudulently “elected” Diem, and then had him assassinated for negotiating with the North. Including Korea and Cambodia, our adventure there killed six million innocents solely to gratify and enrich right-wing bully boys in the US. I would not give the scoundrels the respectability of even superficial sense.

        • Hello Joseph. Thanks for the response.

          I agree, there is still a lot of anger about Vietnam and will be at least until after that generation has passed from the stage. There are many reasons for it and you touch a few, all but one of which are extraneous to the point I raised.

          Here’s what I said: They (Vietnam and our Middle Eastern wars) aren’t easily evaluated side by side, but the formal rationale for Vietnam at least made superficial sense. Our entanglements in the Middle-East have been crack-pot from the beginning.

          I used the phrase “the formal rationale”. Yes, that was the doctrine of containment set forth in Foreign Affairs a couple of years after the end of WW II by “X”, George Kennan. It became something of a Western ideology during the Cold War justifying political and military blocking of the expansion of Marxist/Leninist, Stalinist, and Maoist regimes and their minor spin-offs. It had an applied history, substance, and a clear meaning. Yet you say: “The US mass media and politicians of gold sourced the pressure to “contain communism”, a notion with no history or means of success.”

          It had a history at least as old as the nation state and balance of power politics supplemented by formal alliances and military establishments, and far from having no means of success the measures it justified did in fact achieve major successes through those systems whatever might be thought of them politically. Two can be said to have been the liberation of Eastern Europe and the Baltics and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 and 1991, respectively. Another was the expulsion of the Red Army from Afghanistan by Charlie Wilson and his charming lady friend, both from Texas.

          And so, the formal rationale for Vietnam, containment of Marxist/Leninist/Maoist-type totalitarian systems at least made superficial sense. They were prima facie coherent. Our entanglements in the Middle-East since then have been crack-pot from the beginning as is proved by their formal rationale, the totally illogical “War on Terror”.

        • ” Yes, that was the doctrine of containment set forth in Foreign Affairs a couple of years after the end of WW II by “X”, George Kennan. It became something of a Western ideology during the Cold War justifying political and military blocking of the expansion of Marxist/Leninist, Stalinist, and Maoist regimes and their minor spin-offs.”

          I would not call the policy of containment an “ideology.” It was a practical response to Communist, particularly Soviet, attempts to expand and undermine Western and other non-Communist countries. That it was misapplied at times (the leading example being Vietnman) does not undermine containment’s basic premise. And in the end, with the collapse of Communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe, it proved its worth. In the final analysis, it worked.

        • Thanks, Joseph, for speaking up for those of us who are from that “generation that has not yet passed from the stage.” When we do, the stage will be clear for the sellers of the Dulles, Cheney, et seq. “rationales,” that nice cover for ongoing idiotic imperialism that has brought so many Iagos and Lady Macbeths out onto the proscenium. “A lot of anger about Vietnam”? And about “Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL),” and that contractor’s and corruptnik’s dream, “The War on Terror in Notagainistan and A Couple of Hundred Other Places.” All happily justified by people who would obscure the unhappy, horrific parallels between every foreign US Imperial adventure since Korea, and our earlier activities e.g., the Spanish-American Walkover. There’s a whole lot of serious historians who have blown away the nonsense about “containment,” that sweet-sounding single word that covers such a range of profitable idiocies. Yes,it’s a dangerous world, and there’s nowhere near enough space in blog comments to discuss all the reasons and behaviors and who-killed-how-many and what might have been avoided if we were other than failed creatures “in the image of G_D.” Many say, for example, that Stalinism and the Soviet Union could not have avoided “failing” much longer; like our own Empire, they were exquisitely corrupt, and also bled out internally — and the rag about Reagan spending them into oblivion is just bunk. As is the comforting grace-dispensing notion that a “formal rationale” was “coherent,” with all the destabilization and horror that it set up and executed. But there’s always that Mainline Narrative to protect, right? That’s what keeps the proles afraid, in line, and working hard to feed the Empire, and helps the cynical SOBs like McNamara and Kissinger and Powell and Wolfowitz and Clapper, etc., ad nauseam, sleep at night …

        • “Many say, for example, that Stalinism and the Soviet Union could not have avoided “failing” much longer; like our own Empire, they were exquisitely corrupt, and also bled out internally — and the rag about Reagan spending them into oblivion is just bunk.

          You are wrong on two counts. First, we in the West were not nearly as corrupt and venal as the Soviet Union. To think otherwise is just ignorance of how the USSR was ruled. Second, the USSR did not collapse as a result of Reagan outspending them, but you are wrong to think many actually believe that. It collapsed as a result of 45 years of ontainment applied by both Republican and Democratic administrations, as well as our NATO allies.

          You probably do not realize the final irony of the collapse of Communism. If you remember your Marx, he postulated that Capitalism would collapse as a result of its own internal contradictions. Instead, it was the internal contradictions of Communism that ultimate caused its collapse. Containment worked because it forced the Soviet Union to deal with its inherent contradictions.

        • Hi Bill– good conclusory recitation of the story of Capitalism vs. Communism as told by Exceptional Americanism. Just so people know, there of course is some significant debate about your assertions. Here’s two among many such bits of scholarship:

          link to arcaneknowledge.org
          link to historyorb.com

          Carrying forward the myths of “our” Inevitable Superiority as the basis for future policies is yet another ingredient in the recipe for accelerating collapse of our own Empire, and I do find it interesting that no one seems to dispute that the US is just another Empire. Also, tense matters — comparing then-US to then-Soviet might warrant the statement that the Soviets were MORE venal and corrupt at the time, also subject to a lot of footnotes. But compare our present complex corruptions, across the spectrum of values and institutions, to then-Soviet, and the scale of stuff like financial manipulations, idiotic Imperial wars-of-choice, global militarization and over-extension, outsourcing of our economy, the charade of republicanism and the franchise and assault on those Enlightenment “rights of man,” and the margin gets pretty small. In my view, of course.

        • Hello Hunter, I was not attacking your point about the superficial rationality of containment – just noting that it made no sense as applied in SE Asia. We could defend Western Europe against invasion, and hold the line in Korea after that debacle, but there was nowhere for Vietnam to expand even if it had the intention, and it was the peacemaker in Cambodia. Even Kennan disavowed his containment concept as applied there.

          I don’t think that our defense of Europe weakened the USSR as contained. We cannot be credited with its fall in the Baltics or the USSR collapse. It fell in part due to political faults but largely due to its vastly more difficult and entrenched cultural fragmentation.

          We have had no success at all it in dealing with our much smaller part of Central Asia’s problems, and I think the whole region would be better off today if we had stayed out of it. Democracy there needs a period of secular stability which the USSR may have had some hope and purpose to provide, although likely to have failed anyway. There was no idealism or realism in Reagan’s promotion of Al Qaeda there against the USSR; they were not “freedom fighters” and the admin had no concern for or understanding of Afghanistan.

          I would caution on celebrating the irony of communism collapsing in its internal contradictions. Capitalism has those too, and could go the same way. Both systems are potentially defective in addressing only one side in governing economic power, whereas beneficial systems of political power balance systemic power with individual rights. If we persist in refusing individual economic rights (which of course must preserve productivity incentives) then we might well go the same way.

          All of which I offer in the spirit of exploration and growth for purposes of justice, not ideology.

      • Admittedly the Cold War ICBMs and standoff in Europe, and the Korean War, gave the “stop communism” idea some credibility, but the US grossly exaggerated the threats, in Korea ignored the nationalist movements, and pretended that China was the cause although we threatened their industrial heartland by massing forces at the border. So the understandable misapprehension becomes the pretext for imperialism.

        • The dangers were in fact grossly underestimated for lack of access to the tightly held information. That’s because they they included the deaths of captive civilian populations. Between 1917 and the mid-1980s Marxist regimes murdered or otherwise caused the deaths of a hundred million people, not including deaths in warfare, so there is context at least if not justification for the six million deaths in Asia you mention above. (The Black Book of Communism, put together by four French scholars whom I understand to have been of the left)

          The U.S. IS an imperialist nation in the post-colonial sense. Who could deny it. Just look at our behavior in the Middle East since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

        • “The U.S. IS an imperialist nation in the post-colonial sense. Who could deny it. Just look at our behavior in the Middle East since the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

          Where in the Middle East is the United States exercising imperialist hegemony? Egypt? Libya? Tunisa?

          Oh, I get it, you must mean Iraq, where we cannot even remain with troops because the Iraqis will not approve the Status of Forces Agreement we wanted them to approve. Or could it be Afghanistan, where we are stymied by Mr. Karzai’s intransigence in approving the Security Agreement? Could it be Israel, which would seem to exercise hegemony over U.S. policy as applied to Israeli interests? If this is imperialism,. it is surely the weakest form of it that I have ever seen, either now or in the past. Some imperialism indeed.

        • We probably agree on many of these points. But comparing casualties would require not only difficult statistics but a comparison of the problems and rationales. In SE Asia the US thought China was to blame for North Korea and North Vietnam but apparently it did not want them heavily armed; the arms were from the USSR. The only viable defensive perimeter there was the sea anyway, and they had nowhere to go from there. And we had no intent to benefit the people there. So my point was only that the rationale was so superficial that six million deaths is a crime warranting revulsion of all those who promoted the war, and the extreme carelessness and irresponsibility of their thinking.

          I agree with you both, that we have been in the throes of imperialism, and that we have everywhere failed in it. There has been no benefit for anyone, nor any intent to benefit anyone, but the US right wing.

  11. a seriously silly argument. people aren’t free to commit crimes merely because other criminals have gone unpunished.

  12. The mindset behind administration persecution of Snowden demonstrates manifest psychological insecurities. It shouldn’t come as a surprise how the stridency of their attacks belies their fundamental irresponsibility with properly managing the surveillance programs.

    Yet another link to Techdirt and the revealing childishness of the administration’s behavior toward Snowden:

    link to techdirt.com

    • If they let up on Snowden they are admitting culpability, even admitting crimes. There is also the real struggle here between government hard-liners and the White House: implicit and probably real threats of mass resignations, leaks and various goings public which would tend to focus on what the President knew and when he knew it. He is a prisoner of the security state.

  13. Even in a penal colony like America, there aren’t enough jails to hold all the liars and law-makers that make up the ghoulish government!

  14. This is for Joseph and anyone who was following the exchange on the Soviet Union and the containment doctrine above. It is a C-Span interview of Dr. Judy Shelton, author of The Coming Soviet Crash. I watched it live the year her book was published and immediately thereafter bought it. It still serves to inform students of Soviet history as to how the system worked or more particularly how it failed to work. It features a woman who is, perhaps, the most charismatic economist since Adam Smith.

    link to c-span.org

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