The central principle of America's founding was that the rule of law should be the prime equalizing force, the ultimate guardian of justice.

When it came to the law, no inequality was tolerable. Law was understood to be the sine qua non ensuring fairness, a level playing field, and a universal set of rules.

It was the non-negotiable prerequisite that made all forms of inequality acceptable.

All are equal before the law. Justice is blind. Blah! Blah! Blah!

We are a nation of laws, not men.

Some unrestrained leaders are well intentioned and relatively immune from the corrupting influences of power (and even less plausibly, immune from the absolutely corrupting effects of absolute power.

Of course, the law itself wields tremendous power. The legal system's reach is unparalleled; it can deprive a person of property, liberty, even life. It may compel people to transfer their material goods to others, block them from engaging in planned actions, destroy their reputations, consign them to cages or even inject lethal chemicals into their veins. Unequal application of law is thus not merely unjust in theory but devastating in practice.

The true and only true basis of representative government is equal application of law to all citizens: rich and poor, strong and weak, powerful and powerless, landowner and tenant.

The notion of law simply makes no sense, and has no good purpose, unless all are bound by its dictates.

One point is vital to acknowledge; like all of the other principles espoused by the founders, equality under the law was not always observed in practice. In deed, it was often violently breached from the very beginning of the Republic. Slavery, the dispossession of Native Americans, the denial of voting rights to women and the granting of superior legal rights to property owners are a few of the more glaring deviations.

It is essential to the idea of law, that it be attended with a sanction; or in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws, will in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendations.

Our journalist class never tires of touting their vital role as intrepid adversarial watchdogs keeping a keen eye on the politically powerful. (Smells like bullshit to me!).

Cheney claimed that Article II of the US Constitution, by anointing the president commander in chief vests him with virtually absolute power in foreign policy-making; the other branches cannot restrict him even by duly enacted statutes of Congress.

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post stated

As any prosecutor knows, and Martha Stewart can attest - white collar types tend to have a morbid fear of jail. Of course, the blue collar types and poorer ones still, do not mind prison at all. Why should they? It's their natural habitat, where they belong. Prison is for people like them

Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government when it deserves it.

High members of the royal court are, first and foremost, defenders of the swamp. The most revered and highest ranking among them should not ever be punished, let alone imprisoned for practicing their black art, whether that comes in the form of illegal eavesdropping, illegal torture, illegal arming and funding of outlaw regimes, or illegal obstruction of justice.

Their power leads them to a consuming, blinding sense of entitlement.

Powerful people with powerful allies can and do commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing public trust.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveilllance Act (FISA) specifically barred government officials from intercepting electronic communications of American citizens, and of foreigners on US soil, without first obtaining a warrant from a specially created secret court. FISA's warrant requirements explicitly applied to survelillance of anyone believed to be engaged in international terrorism or activities in preparation therefor.

In language as clear as english permits, section 1809 of FISA provided that anyone who violates its mandates by eavesdropping without the requisite judicial approval has committed a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each offense.

Congress or the courts must put a stop to these unreasonable blanket seizures of data and end the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to secretly adjudicate the constitutionality of surveillance programs. Both practices constitute a present danger to popular sovereignty and the rights retained by the people.

Retroactive immunity makes complete mockery of the rule of law. Article I, Section 9, Clause 3 of the US Constitution, states that No ex post facto Law shall be passed.

Article II of the US Constitutiuon, which defines the powers of the executive states He shall take care that the Laws be faithfully executed

People in high offices don't really move from public office to the private sector and back again; that implies more separation than actually exists. Rather, the US government and industry interests essentially form one gigantic, amalgamated, inseparable entity - with a public division and a private one.

The rule of law is the universally accepted hallmark of an advanced civilized society. The rule of law is supposed to protect both the weak and strong and sees that everyone is treated fairly.

A legal system cannot demand the faith and fealty of the governed when rules are seen as arbitrary and deceptive. Our leaders have led us not to an economic crisis or an immigration crisis or an enviromental crisis or a civil liberties crisis.

They have led us to a crisis of faith where citizens no longer believe that laws have any determinant meaning. It is politics, not the law, that appears to drive outcomes - a self-destructive trend for a nation supposedly defined by the rule of law.

The political class tends to regard with contempt the notion that American leaders (as opposed to rulers in other countries) should be constrained in any way by things like international conventions and the pronouncements of UN officials. But compliance with treaties is not merely a matter of respect for international agreements. As Article VI of the US Constitution states,

All treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding

Compliance with the Conventions Against Torture, including its mandates that torturers be brought to justice is required by the dictates of America's own supreme law.

One forty-six page memo from from OLC chief Steven Bradbury, dated May 10, 2005, authorized the following acts to be performed on high-value detainees: forced nudity, dietary manipulation involving minimum caloric intake, correctve techniques such as facial and abdominal slapping, water dousing, stress positions designed to induce muscle fatigue and the attendant discomfort, and sleep deprivation.

Only the politically powerless could face criminal charges, a perfect expression of the culture of elite immunity that Washington has established for itself.

Illegal behaviour does not and cannot be converted into legal behaviour merely because political appointees in the Justice Department declare it to be such. The executive branch exists to carry out those laws - not to act as a unilateral tribunal dictating what the law does and does not allow. In fact, legal memos that authorize criminal conduct such as torture are, as many have argued, themselves criminal. They are written not to explain the law but to evade it.

The State Secrets privilege was created by the Supreme Court in 1953 in the case of United States V Reynolds by widows of air force pilots who died when their military jet crashed in a training mission. The widows contended that the air force was negligent in the maintenance of the jets. Release of the maintenance records would reveal secrets to enemies. In 2000, the records were released and no secrets were discovered in the maintenance records. The court had been lied to.

On April 7, 2010, the Obama administration had taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Awlaki's father brought suit in a federal court arguing that he planned assasination was unconstitutional and asking the court ot stop it. In response, the administration raised the state secrets privilege proclaiming that court was barred from even hearing the case. In other words, not only does the president have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions on who will be killed and why he wants them dead are state secrets that no court can review or even know about. The president thus asserts the power to be judge, jury and executioner.

There is no such thing in today's Washington as cynicism that is too extreme, nor elite criminality too egregious to enjoy a shield of immunity.

As Hamilton warned in Federalist 15: It is essential to the idea of law, that it be attended with a sanction; or in other words, a penalty or punishment for disobedience. If there be no penalty annexed to disobedience, the resolutions or commands which pretend to be laws, will in fact, amount to nothing more than advice or recommendations.

Not only are the nation's torturers, criminal eavesdroppers, and other chronic lawbreakers not in prison, but they are thriving, with their platforms undiminished and their reputations as honorable public servants fully intact.

In general, any level of secrecy and the corrupting influence of power will invariably lead to criminal behaviour.

Central to the Nuremberg principles was the imperative that crimes be punished regardless of the status, motives, or excuses of those who perpetrated them. War crimes are such that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive being repeated. The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power.

There is no doubt that the 2003 attack on Iraq by the United States was an aggressive war by every measure, and certainly by the standard codified at Nuremberg. Moreover, that attack resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, the displacements of millions more, and the total devastation of a nation of 26 million people.

But the very idea that American leaders responsible for it should be held legally accountable under the Nuremberg principles, or condemed as having done anything criminal, is violently rejected by the Washington consensus whenever the idea is brought up at all.

The Nuremberg trials also have relevance to a key claim repeatedly made by opponents of torture prosecutions, those in the media and the political class who oppose prosecutions for torture sanctioned by the Bush administration, namely, that it would be terribly unfair to punish people for having done something that DOJ lawyers had told them they could. That claim of course, is quite similar to the central argument of the Nuremberg defandants, who said that they were only following instructions from official government authorities.

However, Article 8 of the Nuremberg rules states...

The fact that the defendant acted in pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility.

Article 2 of the later Convention Against Torture states...

An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

The Two Tiered Justice System

The United States now imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation in the world, both per capita and in absolute terms. The numbers are staggering. The United States has only 5 percent of the world's population, yet nearly 25 percent of prisoners in the world are on American soil. We have become a nation of jailers. The American prison system has grown into a leviathan unmatched in human history.

The nation with the next largest prison population, China has 1.6 million in prison - which means that the United States, a nation of 308 million, imprisons 700,000 more of its citizens than a country whose population is 1.3 billion (four times the US population).

The United States also has the highest rate of inprisonment of any nation in the world, with 756 people in prison per 100,000 citizens. The next highest rates belong to Russia (629) and Rwanda (604). The rates in most of the world is far lower. The median imprisonment rate for South American countries is 154; for western Europe, 95; and for western African countries, 35. On a per capita basis, the United States is pratically in a league by itself.

Being tough on crime has been removed from the realm of the debatable. Today, it is commonplace for politicians at the federal, state and local levels to compete with another over who can advocate the most draconian punishments for ordinary Americans.

Putting someone in prison for a prolonged period, even when justified, devastates not only that person's life but also the lives of their families, especially their children. Growing up with a parent in prison is itself a predictor of later criminality. In other words, the very policies America has been implementing in the name of fighting crime - ever longer and more unyielding prison sentences - play a leading role in perpetuating the cycle of crime.

The high incarceration rate is the direct fault of each and every police officer, every court officer, every district attorney, every judge, every prison guard and every prison official. They will all claim that they are powerless cogs in a machine, but they use this as an excuse to do what they do.

The fact that the defendant acted in pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility.

What this country needs is a short interval of complete lawlessness when we can go after those identified corrupt lawless politicians, bankers, police officers, judges and district attorneys and give them a taste of capital punishment.

I'm not talking about this soft whiney capital punishment that this country practices, but the old fashion type. Crucifixions, upside down naked crucifixions, boiling in oil (feet first), decapitations (beheadings) with rusty saws or olive forks, good old hangings in the old town square, death by Spanish donkey, slow burnings at the stake, etc. Most of these practices in the past were brought to us by the graces of the ever loving Catholic church.

We could hang the offenders on light posts for weeks as a warning to others about the rule of law.

L'affaire Snowden has provided a glorious field day for all those "surrender monkey Commie pinko crypto-Marxist long-haired G8-loathing eco-friendly global-warming anti-free market anti-capitalist anti-McDonald's (anti-stereotype)" anti-Americans who just love to hate the "Land of the Free."

Extra-judicial assassination, drones, killer robots, extraordinary rendition, torture, harsh interrogation, water boarding, black ops, wet ops, psy-ops, silly ops, cyber-ops, global surveillance,... The world is a bit tired of all this sanctimonious American posturing, grandstanding, and self-serving banditry.

If there are no Snowdens, if there are no Mannings, if there are no Assanges, there will be no free press - Chris Hedge

The Fourth Amendment obliges the government to demonstrate probable cause before conducting invasive surveillance. There is simply no precedent under the Constitution for the government's seizing such vast amounts of revealing data on innocent Americans' communications.

It's time to call the N.S.A.'s mass surveillance programs what they are: criminal.

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