Secret Courts and the Star Chamber

Transparency!

What’s old is new.

The New York Times reports that the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court, “has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come…” How is the FISA court like a shadow Supreme Court? Its interpretation of the constitution is treated by the federal government as law.

Of course, there are important differences. None of the judges of the FISA court were vetted by Congress. They were appointed by a single unelected official: John Roberts, the chief justice of the Supreme Court. And then there’s the fact that “the FISA court hears from only one side in the case—the government—and its findings are almost never made public.” A court that is supreme, in the sense of having the final say, but where arguments are only ever submitted on behalf of the government, and whose judges are not subject to the approval of a democratic body, sounds a lot like the sort of thing authoritarian governments set up when they make a half-hearted attempt to create the appearance of the rule of law.

According to the Times, Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, “said he was troubled by the idea that the court is creating a significant body of law without hearing from anyone outside the government, forgoing the adversarial system that is a staple of the American justice system.” I’m troubled, too.

What kind of message are we sending about the viability these democratic ideals—about openness, transparency, public participation, public collaboration? How hollow must American exhortations to democracy sound to foreign ears? Mr Snowden may be responsible for having exposed this hypocrisy, for having betrayed the thug omertà at the heart of America’s domestic democracy-suppression programme, but the hypocrisy is America’s.

America against democracy

Star Chamber

Trust me, I’m with the government. What could possibly go wrong?
(IRS, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, NSA, Obamagate, undeclared wars, …)

Ozymandias.

Forward!

Unfortunately, it seems that the future Aldous Huxley predicted in 1932, in Brave New World, is arriving early. Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline. However, we do need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT), learn what Members of Congress pay in taxes, and prosecute politicians and staff and their “family and friends” who profit from insider trading. Oh, and pay “public servants” what they are worth.

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