Sunday, December 14, 2008
Bill Moyers interviews Glenn Greenwald
BILL MOYERS: You talked about Iraq, the present-going war. But then you come back and use the term "war" in response to a war on the Constitution?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, if you look at things that people have said who are responsible for what I call the war on the Constitution, before 9/11, what you find is that these ideas, including removing Saddam Hussein, but beyond that, wildly expanding executive power, erecting a wall of secrecy around our government such that transparency is virtually non-existent. Empowering the president to ignore literally laws that are passed by Congress in the name of national security.
BILL MOYERS: Well, you were saying they were discredited. But all wartime presidents expand the powers of the office. Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon. I mean, there's something inherent in war and the expansion of powers. Are you saying that Bush and Cheney took it further?
GLENN GREENWALD: I'm saying they took it to an entirely different level. What we have, in the last eight years, is not merely a case of individual and isolated law breaking. It's a declaration of war on the whole idea of a law itself, on the idea that our political leaders are constrained in any way by the limitations of the American people imposed through our Congress. The rule of law has essentially ceased to exist. And that I do think is quite new.
GLENN GREENWALD: You have. Let's just quickly describe in the most dispassionate terms, as few of euphemisms, as possible, where we are and what has happened over the last eight years. We have a law in place that says it is a felony offense punishable by five years in prison or a $10,000 fine to eavesdrop on American citizens without warrants. We have laws in place that say that it is a felony punishable by decades in prison to subject detainees in our custody to treatment that violates the Geneva Conventions or that is inhumane or coercive.
We know that the president and his top aides have violated these laws. The facts are indisputable that they've done so. And yet as a country, as a political class, we're deciding basically in unison that the president and our highest political officials are free to break the most serious laws that we have, that our citizens have enacted, with complete impunity, without consequences, without being held accountable under the law.
And when you juxtapose that with the fact that we are a country that has probably the most merciless criminal justice system on the planet when it comes to ordinary Americans. We imprison more of our population than any country in the world. We have less than five percent of the world's population. And yet 25 percent almost of prisoners worldwide are inside the United States.
What you have is a two-tiered system of justice where ordinary Americans are subjected to the most merciless criminal justice system in the world. They break the law. The full weight of the criminal justice system comes crashing down upon them. But our political class, the same elites who have imposed that incredibly harsh framework on ordinary Americans, have essentially exempted themselves and the leaders of that political class from the law.
They have license to break the law. That's what we're deciding now as we say George Bush and his top advisors shouldn't be investigated let alone prosecuted for the laws that we know that they've broken. And I can't think of anything more damaging to our country because the rule of law is the lynchpin of everything we have.
BILL MOYERS: But how do you investigate your own party? The fact of the matter is Democrats knew about this wire tapping without warrants that conducted by the telecoms. And then they voted to give the telecom communications companies immunity. Barack Obama opposed giving them immunity and then reversed himself on it. So how does an incumbent president or an incumbent party in Congress investigate itself?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, I think what you're getting at is the reason why the political class on a bipartisan basis is coming together to say, "Oh, no, we don't want to investigate these crimes. We think it's best to let it go." It's not because they're being magnanimous. It's not because they think it's important that Barack Obama be able to fix the economy undistracted by the controversies that would be created.
It's because exactly as you said. Top Democrats were complicit in these crimes and assented to them. I mean, it wasn't just the warrantless eavesdropping.
In 2002, as the WASHINGTON POST documented, Nancy Pelosi was brought to the CIA and along with Jane Harman and Bob Graham and Jay Rockefeller, the key Intelligence Committee Senators, were told about the torture program that the CIA had implemented, that we were going to water board and had water boarded certain suspects, that we were going to do things like hypothermia and stress positions and forced nudity and sleep deprivation. FULL TRANSCRIPT HERE.