India Flap derives from America’s Gulag Practices and Far-Right Supreme Court

(By Juan Cole)

The militarization of American police and humiliating practices of routine strip and cavity searches are the real culprits in the current diplomatic dispute between the United States and India. Police not only arrested the Indian deputy consul, Devyani Khobragade, who claims diplomatic immunity, on a minor visa and domestic labor charge, they put her in the general prison population and subjected her to a strip search.

Americans think of themselves as brave rugged individualists who enjoy the liberties of an Enlightenment constitution. In fact, they most often are timid and cowed in the face of the world’s most powerful government, which increasingly acts like a medieval tyrant. Americans don’t seem outraged that the government is spying on them. The government has put 6 million Americans either in prison or under correctional supervision, and has the highest per capita rate of incarceration in the world– more than Cuba, nearly twice that of Russia, and more than 4 times that of Communist China! Only 8 percent of inmates in Federal penitentiaries are there for violent crimes. In many states, former prisoners are stripped of the right to vote. These extreme penal practices of course primarily target minorities and function as a racial control mechanism. (Famously, penalties in the US for using cocaine powder, a favorite in the white suburbs, are much less than for crack cocaine, mostly used by poor minorities.)

Not only does the US have an enormous number of people in jail but they subject arrestees (people not convicted of a crime) to routine strip and cavity searches. Women are often forced to be naked in front of the other inmates and to spread their labia for a policewoman.

These practices have been challenged. The ninth district federal appeals court in California decades ago found LAPD routine body cavity searches unconstitutional. But last year, our Supreme Court– the same one that thinks corporations are people, that doesn’t think big money campaign donors should have to identify themselves, and thinks it is all right for traditionally discriminatory states to pass voter suppression laws against minorities– weighed in. It found constitutional routine strip searches even in minor traffic violations cases. A guy got a ticket. He paid it off, but it mistakenly stayed on his record. He bought a new house and went out with family to celebrate. He got stopped by police, who ran his registration and found the ticket. They handcuffed him in front of his family and hauled him off to six days in jail during which he was subjected to cavity searches. John Roberts thinks the whole thing perfectly reasonable. (The individual in question is an African-American).

So the strip search to which the deputy Indian consul in New York was subjected was just business as usual in the United States. She is not accused of carrying a weapon or being violent, but rather of underpaying her hired help. That charge is not frivolous, but it wouldn’t obviously call for a search in her internal organs.

While police in India sometimes mistreat prisoners, they are behaving illegally when they do so. To have the official policy be to humiliate people routinely is outrageous to people outside the United States, especially where it concerns a woman diplomat who functions as a symbol of the nation. Khobragade’s father said, “It is not Devyani’s insult, but of the nation as she is representing the country. Devyani has been made a target, a scapegoat…. It is the outcome of tussle going on between the Ministry of External Affairs and US State department for the last two years…”

The way our government treats Americans is no longer inspiring to other peoples but rather it appalls them.
The way our government treats Americans is no longer inspiring to other peoples but rather it appalls them. German Chancellor Angela Merkel accused Barack Obama of running a STASI domestic spying operation via the NSA. (The STASI were the feared East German domestic surveillance organization, which kept files on most citizens and encouraged their neighbors to inform on them). Indian crowds are protesting over having their diplomat strip-searched. The spectacle of the humiliation of once-free Americans by an increasingly tyrannical incipient police state is causing other democracies to cringe in disgust.

On the other hand, some measures taken by the Indian government in protest have been childish. It removed the barriers in front of the US embassy in New Delhi that prevent suicide car bombers from getting close to the building. It is one thing to tell people to drop dead, it is another to arrange for them to do so. India is a postcolonial rising global power, and the combination of growing pride and confidence and memory of being kept down for two centuries by supercilious Western white Christian colonialists can sometimes make it prickly. Most countries would just have expelled a US diplomat in retaliation, not put up a sign on the US embassy saying “al-Qaeda welcome here.”

NDTV has a video report on Indian retaliation against US diplomats in India

71 Responses

  1. The Americans think they are free. however, as the article points out, they are not and haven’t been for a very long time. Just because people get to carry guns around, they think they are free. They are far from it. The U.S.A. is not a country to be admired nor is it a country which has any moral authority to comment on other countries practises. The Americans in their own way are about as bad as it gets. O.K. they haven’t dropped barrel bombs on their own citizens, but there may come a day.

    • “…some measures taken by the Indian government in protest have been childish. It removed the barriers in front of the US embassy in New Delhi that prevent suicide car bombers from getting close to the building. It is one thing to tell people to drop dead, it is another to arrange for them to do so.”
      Desperate people\nations act childishly, Prof Cole – Usa and India; potus ignoring the 4th Amndmnt goes beyond childish to Treasonous, Traitorous and criminally Impeachable!
      Keep writing.
      Stop The Illegal and Immoral Wars!

    • John O’D, I’m an expat Brit living in the US for more than twenty years, and have never experienced human rights violations, or any disrespectful behaviour by any authority in this country.
      That doesn’t mean to say that I have never been charged with any infraction of the law (traffic violations) I have, but attitude and resistance to the implementation of the law goes a long way to how one is duly treated by police.
      Of course the instances of errant behaviour by law enforcement do happen, no doubt, but are the exception rather than the rule.

      • Resistance does not make any difference. The woman in this case repeatedly refused, and she was in handcuffs while the medical personnel performed what amounted to a rape at the behest of the CBP officers. And the result of her refusal was that the hospital billed her!!
        link to

        • “…medical personnel performed what amounted to a rape at the behest of the CBP officers.”

          Justice is raped around the world every day.

      • Thank you Mr. Steward. That is a breath of fresh air.

        While I’m here perhaps I can ask knowledgeable people how an arrest for underpayment of wages could EVER result in a strip search and cavity examination? I thought that such things were reserved for drug smuggling arrests and other contraband.

        Someone above mentioned probable cause as a requirement. Can one imagine that it is not? And if it is how can we judge this situation without knowing what the probable cause for the “search” consisted of?

  2. We’ve been living with the loss of our democracy for some 50 or more years. Why is anyone surprised when something like the subject of this post happens?

    We began to lose our democracy when Lyndon Johnson buffaloed Congress and the country with the Gulf of Tonkin sham. We tried to get it back by kicking Nixon out onto the street but then Jimmy Carter decided deregulation was a good idea so, whoa, Nelly, you could see democracy trying to bolt for the door as corporations started to take control. St. Ronnie the Dim helped the process by waging war on the middle class – a war that’s lasted far longer than Afghanistan, and has been much more effective.

    Bush The Elder was so removed from America he didn’t know grocery store cashiers were being replaced by scanners, Uncle Billy Bob Clinton triangulated his way into removing the last of the meaningful controls on banks and the financial services industry, and helped finalize Reagan’s hatred of the poor and working poor by taking away a key support. Bush The Younger stripped away the last pretenses of an American democracy by lying to Congress and the public about a war, driving us deeply into debt by cutting the taxes of people who could afford to pay a lot more, and he got the (un)PATRIOT Act passed through a combination of more lies, fear mongering and deceit. Sadly, the current president spent the first three or four years of his tenure hoping against all evidence that Republicans would actually act like grown-ups rather than trying to help us reclaim our birthright.

    We no longer lived in a democracy when Ray Kelly took over New York’s corrupt police department and turned it into a private army, allowing it to stop-and-frisk innocent people for no reason and, for good measure, opened up his own spy operations in the US and other countries.

    We lost our democracy when Republican-controlled state legislatures passed ‘Jim Crow’-type laws making it difficult if not impossible for minorities, the elderly and other people likely to elect Democrats to vote, and the Roberts Court thought that was just fine,.

    We lost our democracy when that same court came up with the novel legal concept that corporations are people, and thus could shovel as much money as they want into political campaigns to buy the most-compliant sycophants they could find.

    We lost our democracy when We the People stopped caring, when we lost faith in government, and government cared less about whether we had any faith in it.

    • Good rant, Charley. Only one thing we all ought to know. The doctrine that corporations are the legal equivalent of persons goes back long before I started law school in 1968.

  3. This rectum and vagina search procedure is bogus. How many people upon their arrest are hiding drugs or knives in their rectum or vagina? American police assume that someone stopped for DUI has also got a weapon shoved up their rectum or vagina. Are we the most paranoid nation or what?

    • We are one of the most paranoid nations, for sure. Did you happen to see “Bowling for Columbine”? One of the most telling segments in the film, for me, was Michael Moore’s contrasting the evening news as it is in Canada and other European nations with the U.S. Network news in the U.S. consists overwhelmingly of scare stories: giant snakes loose in a neighborhood, health scares, sordid accounts of stranger-on-stranger violence, and on and on.

      The fact that this sensationalism is endemic to the entire country and is disseminated by the 7-10 corporations that control 90% of the media in the U.S., is not a coincidence, imho.

  4. Juan, you are right, civil liberties are terrible here in the US. American exceptionalism has gotten way out of hand. The US attorney Preet Bharara and the US Marshals service strengthened your argument by confirming that the way she was treated are “standard arrestee intake procedures”. One has to wonder why they are “standard”. Sure, this “diplomat” probably did lie on a visa application and underpaid her nanny. That is deplorable. However, an offense like this does not rise to the level of strip searching someone and throwing them in a holding cell. What makes this incident so laughable is the last paragraph in the statement issued by the US Attorney about this matter; “Finally, this Office’s sole motivation in this case, as in all cases, is to uphold the rule of law, protect victims, and hold accountable anyone who breaks the law – no matter what their societal status and no matter how powerful, rich or connected they are.” Does anyone, anyone, really believe that statement?

  5. The unwillingness to admit wrong has become a staple of US exceptionality. The majority seem oblivious or applaud the police state we have become.

  6. The federal prosecutor in the case, Preet Bahara, vigorously defends the arrest of Ms. Khobragade, the Indian diplomat. His description brings into question the media descriptions of that arrest. He pointedly asks why the “perpetrator” of visa fraud is given more attention than the vicitim. Here’s the story from the NYTimes link to

    • Those of us criticizing the manner of this arrest – and indeed the fact that such demeaning treatment is now standard for us all, regardless of the fact that being arrested is not a judicial finding of guilt – are not excusing the apparent visa fraud or abuse of the maid!!

    • Margaret, the story appears to be more complex than the NYT (and other US MSM) has published so far. Please see my post later on, it is not clear to me who is the victim and of what. The maid in question appears to have had a well thought out plan to bring her husband and child to this country. Also, according to Indian media her parent-in-laws work in the US embassy / consulate!

    • Listen to both sides. The Khobragade story is that
      (1) the bulk of the wages were sent to the maid’s family in India
      (2) the maid was fine until she asked Khobragade to help her get permanent residence in the US, and K. said no.
      (3) the maid has parlayed her testimony against Khobragade into permanent residency for herself and her family.

  7. What is really bizarre about this case is how US demands not just its diplomats but also all armed force members overseas have the immunity from local prosecution claimed by the Indian deputy consul,

    American serviceman have raped, murdered and massacred and have had evaded local justice and frequently any accounting for the crime. Whole armies have been withdrawn under the fear US personnel could be arrested by local police. Yet when someone underpays the maid, US justice must come first even when the alleged criminal represents a foreign government.

  8. The African-American mentioned in the article, who was strip-searched in a minor traffic case, also had an official receipt showing he had paid the fine!

    But not good enough for the conservatives on the Court! The State cannot be challenged or questioned! Obey!

  9. Devyani Khobragade was attached to the Indian Consulate in New York and held a Consular title, as opposed to being assigned to the Indian Embassy in Washington with a Diplomatic title. Thus, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 0f 1963 applies in her case, not the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. Consular immunities are far less extensive than Diplomatic immunities. Under the Consular Convention, Ms. Khobragade was immune from local jurisdiction in New York only in cases directly related to her Consular functions. Otherwise she was subject to local jurisdiction.

    While I do not condone any inappropriate treatment that might have occurred in this case, it appears that Ms. Khobragade definitely lied to the State Department regarding the conditions of employment of her maid/nanny, and that she had no intention of fulfilling the basic requirements of an employer-employee relationship. She had drawn up two contracts: one presented to the State Department to obtain the nanny’s visa which stated a salary of $9.75 per hour, and a second just between her and the nanny with a salary of $3.31 per hour. Ms. Khobragade thus not only committed visa fraud in bringing the nanny to the U.S., she also was keeping the nanny in a position of near-indentured servitude.

    This is no minor problem. in the past there have been cases of foreign diplomats and consular personnel keeping their maids and nannys in virtual slavery, holding their passports and threatening to turn them in if they complain about their long hours and, many times, little or no pay. The State Department has been criticized by human rights groups for not being more aggressive in exposing and dealing with these cases. It is ironic (but not surprising) that in a case where the State Department has done the right thing, it has resulted in a diplomatic brouhaha.

    • Amen! Just because the US govt (an state and local Govs, which are legally separate – let’s not lump them all in together) frequently oversteps it’s bounds doesn’t mean that this India brouhaha is a ripe target for further excoriation. In this case the govt was doing what we want it to do – stop exploitation of the weakest in society. The Indian govt and its elite are mainly mad because their society applies the law very unequally to the elites and the poor. How dare the US actually apply its labor protection laws to the Indian elites!

    • If the law enforcement officers had demonstrated a little more discretion, we might actually be talking about the exploitation of low-wage workers instead of arrest procedures – but we’re not, and that’s a shame.

      • It isn’t the fault of the police. They have to follow standard procedure for everyone because NYC mandates that. It is the fault of the mayor who has everyone strip searched who is arrested.

        • Very true…and yet, we know that this goes well beyond this particular mayor. It’s not as if he was sticking his neck out in any way when he issued that mandate. Quite the opposite.

        • Ms. Khobragade was strip searched by the US Marshals’ service. Until 2010, at least, they had to have reasonable suspicion of contraband or weapons or security, escape or suicide risk in order to conduct a strip search; and they needed to file paperwork recording and justifying the strip search.
          See their directives here:
          link to

          It is the Supreme Court decision that has made possible strip searches for no reason and with no accountability.

          When you consider that the arresting authorities have considerable discretion on strip searches, and on where to hold the arrested – this was a deliberate effort to humiliate Ms. Khobragade, who stands accused of a white collar crime.

          Anyway, this is the Indian Ambassador to the US on twitter:
          link to

      • Some of us actually are talking about foreign diplomats and consular officials committing visa fraud and keeping their maids and nannies in virtual slavery, Joe. Just because law enforcement officers were following standard procedures (even if some of us object to elements of those procedures) does not prevent us from discussing the core issue that led to Ms. Khobragade’s arrest. That some cannot focus on anything but the arrest procedures suggests an inability to look at the wider picture.

        • Obviously a person who short changes an employee should be strip searched and detained for questioning mixed in with career criminals. LOL.

        • Bill, it is an assumption to imply that the maid in question was kept in virtual slavery. I have not read anywhere that she claimed that to be the case. The issue is not even her salary but rather the existence of two contracts and the alleged visa statement falsification (note: the counsel has made a ‘not guilty’ plea). The maid was hired in India, and I can attest that including boarding, lodging, food and clothing she was not being short changed by Indian salary standards. I bet she could not have made it on minimum wage $9 in NYC without boarding, lodging etc. As far as the wider picture is concerned, it is exactly as Prof. Cole has written in the column, it is militarization of our police and the loss of our fundamental rights which we have given up with the false expectation of security!

        • I daresay, Bill, that the people eliding the issue of law enforcement procedures in this country – the ones who can’t bring themselves to squarely discuss what happened here and use euphemisms like “following standard procedure” – are the ones missing the wider picture here.

          But be that as it may, this sudden, passionate concern that so many on the right are expressing about exploitive working conditions and inadequate compensation is music to my liberal ears, and doubly so because of the honest, principled place from which it comes.

        • The wider picture includes that the treated inflicted on the woman was so thoroughly regarded as the default setting that it clearly never occurred to anyone involved in the affair that it might have ramifications when applied to consular staff representing an important foreign nation.

          Not only are arrestees evidently are not only afforded the presumption of innocence, but are actually presumed to be irrationally dangerous. What other presumption can possibly justify a strip search and cavity search?

          So yeah. Labour laws are a matter of vital importance, but if the relationship between law enforcement and the community default to such abusive treatment then that must absolutely be a much more dire problem than an abusive relationship between employer and employees.

        • “The issue is not even her salary but rather the existence of two contracts and the alleged visa statement falsification (note: the counsel has made a ‘not guilty’ plea). The maid was hired in India, and I can attest that including boarding, lodging, food and clothing she was not being short changed by Indian salary standards.”

          You are most definitely wrong, Spiral. Law and regulations require foreign diplomatic personnel assigned to the United States to pay a minimum salary in US terms, including room and board and reasonable working hours. The Indian salary structure for maids and nannies does not apply under US law. Ms. Khobragade knew this, which is why she drew up two contracts with contrasting salaries.

        • “I daresay, Bill, that the people eliding the issue of law enforcement procedures in this country – the ones who can’t bring themselves to squarely discuss what happened here and use euphemisms like “following standard procedure” – are the ones missing the wider picture here.”

          No one (certainly not me) is avoiding discussion of law enforcement in this country, Joe. And you are the one who wrote, ” we might actually be talking about the exploitation of low-wage workers instead of arrest procedures – but we’re not, and that’s a shame.” I, and a few others posting here, are indeed talking about labor exploitation among diplomats and consular personnel.

          It is not a conservative or liberal issue; it is an issue of law and human dignity. There is no reason to use Ms. Khobragade’s case as a hobby horse solely to flog one’s personal views on law enforcement. Why not discuss all facets of her case, including the core issue that led to her arrest? Surely we are capable of looking at all facets of this incident.

        • “but are actually presumed to be irrationally dangerous. What other presumption can possibly justify a strip search and cavity search?”

          I am the wrong person to whom you should pose that question, Adam, because I am not justifying her treatment. Your question should be directed at the New York City Police Department.

        • ” That some cannot focus on anything but the arrest procedures suggests an inability to look at the wider picture”

          That some of us focus on what has become standard operation procedures for “law” enforcement shows a recognition of a problem that is becoming more invasive in the body politic; that is, people with authority and authoritarian attitudes abusing their power and the apparent consequences of such abuse. Power not only corrupts, but it apparently also induces paranoia, and if we allow ourselves to be ruled by paranoiacs, then the days of what is left of our democratic republic are numbered.

    • You have to remember that one cause of the great war in the Mahabharata epic was the attempted disrobement of the princess Draupadi.

  10. The hubbub in India is because US marshals didn’t respect her caste; she was treated the same as lower caste woman are in the US.
    The fuss is NOT about how Americans are treated when under arrest. As for Americans, they accept indignity as par for the course these days. More than a decade of air travel safety theater has seen to that.
    According to India Times, she was arrested by US State Dept. officers and turned over to US marshals. I would have expected that the suits at State Dept. would have done some homework first. I bet they hadn’t been arrested lately and didn’t know what happens and how it feels. Did she really need to be arrested in the first place? For underpaying an employee? Right.
    Imagine women on the upper west side getting hauled off for how they treat their nannies and cleaners. I can’t picture it.
    Some suits at State need to get fired, or at least trained to do the job.
    I doubt diplomatic intrigue; she’s a small fry.
    Not enough here to indict the whole country.
    Yes, the US seems more like a police state than ever. What else is new? It always looked pretty bad IF you looked at it. I think we just see better today. It’s a endless and thankless task to push police in a humane direction and try to discourage thuggish habits.
    Thuggish takes less effort. If you stop pushing for humane, it drops back down. There are many people in the US, pushing for humane, even inside law enforcement. Don’t hate me, I’m having a moment of hopefulness.

    • No need to bring caste in here. The diplomat in question was Dalit, i.e. from the lowest of castes, formerly called untouchables. I can see a nice fat lawsuit headed Preet Bharara’s way. There is the 1995 Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act which is invoked precisely against this sort of police highhandedness. The maid issue is more about class and the cozy system of diplomatic privileges that existed for years before this new unilateral interventionism began, threatening to rip apart long-practiced diplomatic norms. Don’t know if I necessarily mourn the passing of the old ways, just that it’s not a Cold War world anymore. Expect a massive pushback.

    • Surely she should, but that is not the point in this case. Numerous US wealthy and powerful people pay to little to their servants. Are they strip searched and thrown to jail when police investigates such incidents? I seriously doubt that. US as a state is demanding special treatment for their citizens (immunity from local justice system) not only for their diplomats. trying to force countries to make such bilateral treaties. Next time if a US diplomat is caught drunk driving or speeding in any country and the local police makes to him a couple of less tender “proctoscopies” before locking him in a jail let’s not complain and demand diplomatic immunity.

      • Remember the American Raymond Davis? He shot and killed a couple of Pakistanis in Pakistan, but “diplomatic immunity” (after the fact) saved him.

  11. “… they put her in the general prison population and subjected her to a strip search.”

    It could have been worse, and given the arrogance of our various branches of law enforcement it probably will get worse. If the victim of this assault had been from some Middle East nation where the people take a different attitude towards female “honor” that assault could have been a death sentence. As it probably was if, as reported, Iraqi women were raped in Abu Ghraib when our forces were bringing freedom and democracy to that now-horribly benighted land.

  12. I find my fellow Americans oblivious to anything. We are a compliant people totally devoted to being told what to do. Good bull shitters though.

    • Frightening is it not? We seem to be OK with an appalling Justice system with its private prisons (gulags) and outrageous police abuse which is unheard of say in a place like Scandinavia. As Professor Cole said above, in India police abuse is illegal and people get upset about it. There have been many cases of riots over local police abuse issues. Hence this reaction there about the diplomat. Here, we as an ostensibly wealthier nation with a higher literacy/human development index seem to be willing to bow down to sociopaths in uniforms and abuse/torture is accepted as a normal legal process. Now the NSA can get old emails, change them digitally and then build any case! And of course many of these people also sincerely believe that the prosecution is 100% right. I have difficulty in convincing my friends that this is the definition of fascism. With a corporate coup de tat in place, I wonder about the future that our children will face.

  13. Exactly, Professor.

    It’s more than a little embarrassing that our ordinary police procedures are so extreme that the Indians would assume that the diplomat had to have been singled out for egregious treatment.

    It’s like eating something in a restaurant, gagging on it, accusing the chef of trying to poison you, and then discovering that, no, that’s the way the minestrone soup always tastes there.

  14. Then there was Nannygate, the infamous incident when half-a-million-dollar-a-year lawyer Zoe Baird was caught not paying taxes on the minimum wage she paid to her two Peruvian helpers. No strip searches there, but she did have to abandon her chances for becoming Slick Willie’s attorney general. link to

  15. Thank you once again Prof. Cole for an informative article. I would just add to it the fact that the treatment meted out to someone arrested is determined by the said persons ability to pay for justice. As an example look at the lopsided population of US prisons, where the poor and often blacks are put away for a small quantity of marijuana, while a rich white goes free. (The recent “Affluenza” case as an extreme example).
    Now to the particulars of this case, it appears that the vice counsel may have violated some visa laws, but given that one is not guilty until a judge says so, this is a probable cause indictment. Nevertheless, as you say, I agree the treatment by state department police and the US marshals appears to be over the top. Some one at state dropped the ball or there is more to this and it was done on purpose.
    The case appears to be not as black and white as Mr Preet Bharara has made out to be. The spotlight in the western media has been on Ms Devayani, the vice counsel. However, the maid’s (Mrs. Sangeeta Richards) story has escaped scrutiny. Very little is mentioned that she apparently left the home of the counsel in June without notification with some missing material (?). It is mentioned in the Indian media (including Times of India) that she or at least some immigration lawyer on her behalf tried to black mail Ms Devayani and that she reported that fact to the US authorities. It also appears that they ignored that as they were busy building a case of human-trafficking and in-spite of the fact that the Indian government informed the US embassy in India that her husband’s (Ms Richards husband Philip) passport had been cancelled, he and his children were secretly given a human trafficking visa and brought to USA (this was stated by Mr Bharara, who by the way is an American/Indian, born in India). This all seems very fishy to me, it appears there could be a case of some personal vendetta or there is more to this story than is known so far. Some bloggers in the NY/NJ have suggested that Mr. Bharara may be trying to raise his profile in preparation for a political role in the future.
    I find it amazing that the US attorney’ s office would expend so much energy in pursuing this case when he has given up on criminal cases against ANY of the executives responsible for the banking debacle.
    Finally, this may be the ‘last straw that broke the camel’s back’. India and Indians have felt very slighted by the heavy handedness of the US authorities when their Ex president , or a movie hero were detained just because they happened to have a name like Khan. The treatment of VIPs is always a reciprocal affair and one may find that some of the privileges that American diplomats and politicians take for granted when they travel to India may be affected and I for one do not consider it to be childish.

    • “I find it amazing that the US attorney’ s office would expend so much energy in pursuing this case when he has given up on criminal cases against ANY of the executives responsible for the banking debacle.”

      On the other hand many people would be more than amazed if our justice (sic) department pressed charges against the banksters.

  16. The newsmedia are emphasizing the “strip search” aspect, but the salient issue is finger-rape. Obama would surely change his tune if he were forced to watch his daughters spread-eagled and violently probed. But Americans have grown accustomed to bending over for the government. They should just be honest about it, and formally repeal the Bill of Rights. If “unreasonable searches and seizures” does not include digital rape, what DOE$ it include?

    • I’m not entirely clear what President Obama has to do with this case, or what his “tune” is.

      BTW, President Obama is a black man who grew up in the United States, so it’s probably a safe bet that he’s quite familiar with the problem of police mistreatment of arrestees.

      • Obama is the US head of state who refuses to apologize, either to India or to the American people. He grew up on the mean streets of Honolulu, before packing up to go to ritzy schools.

        • OK, “Bei Dawei,” please tell us some more about the absence of racism experienced by a black kid in Barack Obama’s position. Really, give us the benefit of your obviously broad experience.

  17. “Some measures taken by the Indian government in protest have been childish. It removed the barriers in front of the US embassy in New Delhi that prevent suicide car bombers from getting close to the building. ”

    Prof. Cole, What makes you think Indian Police are not capable of handling Al Qaeda? In fact, it is George Headley the perpetrator of Mumbai terrorist attacks was on FBI/CIA payroll. If anything, Indians should be protected from the CIA operatives inside the US emabssies.

    Why do you think US embassy should get special privileges by blocking roads to the common traffic? Would you recommend putting up barriers in Manhattan to protect the Indian embassy?

    Does Preet Bharraar going to prosecute Zoe Baird? Or does he need the Clintons to advance his career.

    No matter what, winning the hearts is more than a prosecution. Preet Bharara with his arrogance lost a lot of goodwill for India.

    • An al-Qaeda affiliate shot up the Indian parliament in 2002. The police are capable enough, but you never really are prepared for an operation like that. Blast walls highly desirable.

  18. Things are, most certainly, screwed up somewhere else. Many Indians are already angry on the U.S. since long as the man expected to lead India in 2014 is not legally allowed to enter the United States. The reason: his involvement in anti-Muslim riots that killed more than 2,000 people. The travel restriction is insulting to many Indians and threatens future U.S.-India relations. Now, added to that latent inferno was to arrest the Indian deputy consul Devyani Khobragade on a minor visa and domestic labour charge, and putting her in the general prison population and subjected her to a strip search.
    I’m with Prof. Cole that the U.S. police might have become militarised and they do humiliating practices routinely with many of its citizens. But this may not be as simple a case as it looks. Police, almost everywhere, gets militarised, and they do these things routinely everywhere with their ’common people’, not with the powerful ones, and obviously not with foreign diplomats. It’s maybe a case of politically-charged high voltage ‘setting off’ activity that is directed to make the Indians angry more and more while their general elections are approaching…

  19. from wikipedia:
    Preetinder Singh “Preet” Bharara (born 1968) is an Indian American attorney and the current U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.[1] In 2012, Bharara was named by Time magazine as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World,” and by India Abroad as its 2011 Person of the Year.[2][3][4] Bharara was also featured on a cover of Time Magazine entitled “This Man is Busting Wall Street” for his office’s prosecutions of insider trading and other financial fraud on Wall Street.[5][6] Bharara was included in Bloomberg Markets Magazine’s 2012 “50 Most Influential” list as well as Vanity Fair’s 2012 and 2013 annual “New Establishment” lists.

    Preet soft on Indians? Not a chance! Although India Abroad may not be so happy with him now.

    • ‘soft on Indians’, on the contrary most of his recent high stake successes have been against south asians (Rajaratnam and rajat gupta, neena(?). He opted to give cohen of SAC a pass at criminal charges against him (not the company).

  20. One-time Pakistan Ambassador to the US writes:
    link to

    Quote: As Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, I found myself at the center of a similar but much worse row in January 2011 when Raymond Davis killed two men in a crowded street in the city of Lahore.

    The U.S. claimed that Davis carried a diplomatic passport and therefore enjoyed diplomatic immunity. Pakistan’s Foreign Office found that Davis’ name had been included on the list of diplomats serving in Pakistan only after he had committed the murders, which did not extend him immunity under the Vienna Convention.”

    “The ends of justice would not have been compromised if Khobragade had been treated with courtesies similar to those extended by Pakistan to Davis. American diplomats are extended considerations over and beyond the law in most countries.”

    “Pakistan’s government could not free a killer without due process. But once he had been identified as a U.S. government functionary, our government ensured that Davis was treated with courtesy. American officials were immediately provided access to Davis and he was not subjected to a strip search. Once The Guardian revealed that he was, in fact, a CIA contractor, special arrangements were made for his security in prison in case other inmates might attempt to hurt him.”

  21. It is interesting that the incident we are discussing here appears to be a non-story in the mainstream media that is so much more intrigued with the statements of a TV personality many consider a bigot.

  22. I have long found the US version of judicial justice and the dismal prison system here reprehensible, to the point that I will not serve as a juror. Strip searches are bad but just the tip of the iceberg in the US. Prison rape, three strikes you’re out, 1000 year sentences and the power of money to buy lawyers and verdicts all bespeak a dystopic justice system. The issue of the strip search here is interesting because it raises the issue of what is accepted standard treatment, according even to the Supreme Court. It doesn’t seem to register with some Americans how abysmal this is. They are only concerned it be applied equally to all. How American.

    The objection from India in this case, or at least one thread seems to be more about the expectation of privilege accorded to the powerful. Ironically the recipient in this instance is a women and a Dalit, two groups in India that have historically suffered because of their inferior status.

    I agree with those that lament that many of the Indian protests fail to acknowledge the allegedly criminal treatment this maid endured, long hours, unlawful, sub minimum wages, no paid days off and of course the matter of the alleged misstatements by Khobrogade regarding the visa.

    I also suspect that India’s own justice system is out of balance in favor of the powerful, perhaps even more than in the US. The recent rape cases in India and the initial reaction of the authorities has been telling, often victimizing the victim.

    Finally I can’t help but wonder if Dominique Strauss Kahn was treated to a similar experience upon his arrest for rape allegations by an immigrant hotel maid in NYC a few years ago.

    • A good comment.. Justice systems all around the world have been and still are tilted toward the rich/powerful. The US is the worst because we have the resources to be truly fair. Instead we use the law as a weapon. India has a limited budget for law enforcement and a judiciary, but they could do better by taxing at a higher rate (the 40 odd dollar billionaires!) and use the funds for social/structural improvement. Like here the wealthy can afford all the lawyers and get the very best defense. Or as we have seen in the US recently, they get away without any arrest. From my examination of the many cases of screw ups by diplomats, she is the first one to be arrested strip searched etc. (after a public arrest). Many other cases involving Western powers have been hushed up despite offenses of a much more serious nature. The US has always had a selective enforcement system both in domestic and diplomatic cases. Lastly, we have not heard the whole story yet the media including the wretched NYT has pretty much declared her guilty. There is no chance of her getting a fair trial. Prosecutors have become persecutors and Americans think that his claims have to be true. This is true only in a fascist State. Logically then, why have a court proceeding at all? One can just put people away. Many jurisdictions do just that by railroading the indigent on the basis of false testimony and perjury by police, rampant prosecutor misconduct, forced confessions/plea bargains etc. I could go on, but for an industrialized country our system is shameful. No democratic country on earth has the equivalent of the Patriot act and the NDAA. Martin Luther King said it best “The USA is the worst purveyor of violence in the world”…a country that spends more on its military than social uplift is a country that has lost its soul. Have we become a global racketeering enterprise? Or maybe we were always that way…

      Thanks Dr. Cole for your nice article.

      End of rant….

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