'US desperately trying to hide the truth about breaking its own Constitution'
RT:This is obviously quite a shock to Verizon users
but does this come as a surprise to you?
Afshin Rattansi: I think one can get blasé about the fact
that the United States is repeatedly breaking its own
Constitution. Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke it, I
don’t know whether he’s on Verizon. He’s leaked this – this is
the FBI document. To Americans, what it says: “It is further
ordered that no person should disclose to any other person that
the FBI or the National Security Agency has sought to obtain
tangible things under this order.” So the order itself is trying
to deny itself, signed by Judge Roger Vincent. Who is he? I don’t
know, maybe the sunshine in Florida has got to his head or he’s a
Tea Party judge.
It’s very interesting and I think the way it’s going to play in
the United States, it will play quite big. Former vice president
Al Gore, under Bill Clinton, who hardly ever says anything
against Obama, has already tweaked him saying “Is this really the
state of things?” Implying is this what James Madison and Thomas
Paine, meant for the US Constitution? Is this leading up to
President Obama signing an order? It was signed ten days after
the Boston Marathon bombings.
RT:What about the man who leaked this? Are we looking
at another Bradley Manning case now?
AR: I was looking at Roger Vincent, the man who signed this document, and his term expires as judge of the United States Foreign Intelligence Court. FISA, those secret courts in the United States. They expire, as far as I saw, on May 4 of this year. Could he be leaking it? One wonders, certainly he’ll be in the spotlight now. But of course more seriously, as to your question, Glenn Greenwald, presumably, his phone will be bugged. Journalists will be bugged and that is going to stop these sources from leaking. The United States and the Obama administration is desperately trying to stop the truth about mismanagement, Constitutional mismanagement, getting through to the American public.
RT:Of course the US government has admitted this after
this report went public. It does make you wonder what else is
going on behind the scenes, doesn’t it?
AR: Exactly and I think that hopefully all the
whistleblowers, people that leak documents like this, will be
unafraid but the Obama administration has charged people with the
Espionage Act of 1917 more times than any other and it will be
great to see whether they charge the journalist that leaked this
Glenn Greenwald, presumably. President Obama won’t be happy with
the fact that he’s being revealed as being worse than McCarthy?
RT:The US government will say this is a necessary tool
to protect the people and national security. Is it not, then, a
case of people sacrificing their privacy in order to make the
world safer. It’s as simple as that isn’t it?
AR: Those are the exact words used by the Obama
administration in response. I think the odd thing about this
court document is that foreign calls made from the United States
weren’t liable to the same record keeping for the National
Security Agency and the FBI. Presumably they’re talking about
home-grown terrorists here because even under what you’re saying
“We need to monitor people’s phone conversations, times of calls,
and monitor where people are.” Surely, you know, isn’t the War on
Terror abroad? So basically if you’re phoning someone in Chechnya
your call wouldn’t be registered under this law. The whole thing
is a piece of incompetence dreamt up by people who obviously have
no respect for the Constitution.
RT:Some will say that sounds like an overreaction.
It’s only data that registers the telephone numbers, the time of
the call, also various other significant statistics but not
actually the content of the conversation. So if you and I are
being modest and saying we’ve got nothing to hide then why should
we worry about this?
AR: If it’s not that valuable then why do they want it? If one was going to make that argument then the government should release all these records. One can only just imagine what journalists would do trolling through all these records. Imagine the kinds of connections between lobbyists mobile phones and those of senators and congressmen. One could draw huge amounts of conclusions about billions, trillions of dollars and federal policy. There are no limits to what one could deduce or infer, at least related to these mobile and cell phone records.
RT:Do you think this type of thing is going on in the
AR: In Britain we have stricter laws, as far as I
understand. But Britain bans books. Britain recently banned a
book about Scientology and in fact someone just had a sting about
corrupt British politicians and the first thing David Cameron did
was not to look at the problem of lobbying but to stop
journalists from being able to be able to create fake lobbying
companies to “entrap” Britain’s lawmakers. So Britain is
desperately trying to cover up as much as they can, just as much
as our cousins over the pond.
RT:Should we be concerned? Do you think that prying
eyes will now turn to email and Internet traffic on personal
computers or are we actually naïve in thinking that’s not already
AR: President Obama just appointed Susan Rice as National
Security advisor, widely considered a terrorist in many
developing nations I’ve been to. You add up Obama’s program, this
piece of appalling legislation and court order, to the people
he’s putting together and this is a very dangerous
administration. Desperately trying to cover up whistle blowers,
assassinating people, I think people who saw the Nixon era and
the Reagan death squad era – all of those people and
contemporaries of that period – are saying that things have never
been this bad.
RT:Politically, the Associated Press scandal was very embarrassing for Obama. What about this? What does it do for his political standing?
AR: The thing about the Democratic Party, the big base of
party is that they always vote Democrat. Especially with the
split of the Republican Right with the Tea Party, President Obama
doesn’t really seem to have to care about the standing he might
have. Obviously he’s not seeking re-election but President Obama
is a former Constitutional law professor. He’ll go down in
history, presumably, as one of the most unconstitutional
presidents in US history.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.