Commentary on US Civil Liberties

Matt Taibbi:

But, they say, don’t worry, we’re not using any of those secrets, you can trust us. After all, we’re United States Attorneys. (And their paralegals. And legal assistants. And, perhaps, a few IRS or DEA or FBI agents, whose only job is to make cases against the types of people in those files. But still, don’t worry). Just because the whole concept of attorney-client privilege, as well as the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments — guaranteeing rights to free speech, against unreasonable searches, and to due process and legal counsel, respectively — were created to bar exactly this kind of behavior, they insist the state would never abuse this authority.

Taint team targets are unpopular. They’re accused drug dealers, terrorists, corporate tax cheats, money launderers, Medicare fraudsters, and, importantly of late, their lawyers. You can add Trump administration officials to the list now. In cases involving such people government prosecutors have begun making an extraordinary claim. As a citizen cries foul when the state peeks at attorney communications, the Justice Department increasingly argues that affording certain people rights harms the secret objectives of the secret state. 

The Trump case is almost incidental to this wider story of extralegal short-cuts, intimidation, improper searches, and especially, a constant, intensifying effort at discrediting the adversarial system in favor of an executive-branch-only vision of the law, in which your right to stand before a judge or jury would be replaced by secret bureaucratic decisions. “Trump has become the way they sell this,” says one defense attorney. “But it’s not about Trump. If you focus on Trump, you’ll miss how serious this is. And it started a long time ago.” When? “Go back to 9/11,” he says. “You’ll see.” 

What follows is a brief history of the cases leading to the controversial decisions in Donald J. Trump v. United States of America, as told by some of the key figures in those episodes. TV experts have told you Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision to appoint a Special Master in Trump’s case is an “atrocious,” “shady as fuck,” “utterly lawless” ruling by a “stupid” and “profoundly partisan” jurist, placing Trump “above the law.” Have you noticed these analyses almost always come from ex-prosecutors, that you’ve been trained to not even blink at headlines like, Ex-CIA officer calls judge’s ruling in Trump case “silly,” and that defense attorneys on television are rarer than pearls?

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