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THE RULE OF LAW? January 24, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in US Politics.

The concerted action, by the prominent internet organizations appeared to have successfully stopped the passage of SOPA.

This was discussed by The Daily Kos’s alter ego on Keith Olbermann’s program (via Juan Cole at Informed Comment):

Then there is the case now before the court in Auckland in relation to Megaupload, along with the confiscation of money and property prior to any court decision. At the very least this suggests that existing laws were sufficient to obtain prosecutions in US courts. This opinion is supported by Glenn Greenwald.

The New Zealand Herald explained the process:

Kim Dotcom and three others were arrested in New Zealand after a request for “mutual legal assistance” by the United States Government – which plans to extradite the accused.

The men have not been charged by police in New Zealand and are being held in custody on the warrant issued by the US Government.

Extradition is the official process allowing for the surrender of a suspected or convicted criminal from one country to another.

Requests are made under the Extradition Act 1999, any relevant treaty and the law of the foreign country. New Zealand signed an extradition treaty with the US in 1970.

Normally, a formal request for extradition is received through diplomatic channels. The Minister of Justice may request an arrest warrant and then the District Court determines whether the individual is eligible for surrender.

The indictments on five counts were sanctioned by a Grand Jury in Virginia, which perhaps was guaranteed to approve the US Government’s action. It is one thing to arrest and charge a person; it is another to confiscate property prior to the judgement of a relevant court. I am not across the legal issues, but perhaps there are issues of extra-territoriality in play here.

Glenn Greenwald draws two conclusions that in their own way are a form of indictment:

1. It’s wildly under-appreciated how unrestrained is the Government’s power to do what it wants, and how little effect these debates over various proposed laws have on that power. . . It’s true that website-seizures-without-trials are not quite as lawless as indefinite detentions, since there are actual statutes conferring this power. But it nonetheless sends a very clear message when citizens celebrate a rare victory in denying the Government a power it seeks — the power to shut down websites without a trial — only for the Government to turn around the very next day and shut down one of the world’s largest and best-known sites. Whether intended or not, the message is unmistakable: Congratulations, citizens, on your cute little “democracy” victory in denying us the power to shut down websites without a trial: we’re now going to shut down one of your most popular websites without a trial.

2. The U.S. really is a society that simply no longer believes in due process: once the defining feature of American freedom that is now scorned as some sort of fringe, radical, academic doctrine. That is not hyperbole. Supporters of both political parties endorse, or at least tolerate, all manner of government punishment without so much as the pretense of a trial, based solely on government accusation: imprisonment for life, renditions to other countries, even assassinations of their fellow citizens. Simply uttering the word Terrorist, without proving it, is sufficient. And now here is Megaupload being completely destroyed — its website shuttered, its assets seized, ongoing business rendered impossible — based solely on the unproven accusation of Piracy.

Since US courts are now apparently performing no useful function perhaps they do can be closed, as is suggested for other government functions to save money. Court Martials could used to ensure that the correct conclusions were reached. The letter and spirit of the Constitution is now irrelevant, so that could be another cost saving. Then again as the parties to the action against the Megauploads and the authors of SOPA and PIPA would contend fictions and myths are essential to any national story, with the benefits worth more than a costs.


1. The rule of law in America today « All Tied Up and Nowhere to Go - January 25, 2012

[…] The Rule of Law? (wmmbb.wordpress.com) […]

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