Iran needs stern lessons in freedom

A plan to put two Americans on trial for espionage sparks non-ironic outrage

Published October 20, 2010 2:21PM (EDT)

(updated below - Update II)

Here is the latest Outrage of Evil from the Persian Hitlers:

Iran's intelligence minister confirmed on Wednesday that two U.S. citizens detained for more than a year will face trial, news reports said.

"The two Americans will be tried," Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency. "We will hand any evidence we have to the judiciary."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters on Tuesday that she had heard Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal would be tried on November 6 but she still hoped they would be released.

It's high time that we teach those Iranians about democracy and freedom.  All civilized people know that this is how a Free and Democratic Nation treats foreign detainees:

The Obama administration has decided to continue to imprison without trials nearly 50 detainees at the Guantánamo Bay military prison in Cuba because a high-level task force has concluded that they are too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to release, an administration official said on Thursday.

It's hard to put into words how paranoid and conspiratorial those Iranians must be, thinking that Americans who covertly entered their country without authorization were there for purposes other than accidental tourism.  What ever could have put such a bizarre idea into their heads?

U.S. 'secret war' expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role

Beneath its commitment to soft-spoken diplomacy and beyond the combat zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration has significantly expanded a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups, according to senior military and administration officials.

Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year. . . .

One advantage of using "secret" forces for such missions is that they rarely discuss their operations in public. For a Democratic president such as Obama, who is criticized from either side of the political spectrum for too much or too little aggression, the unacknowledged CIA drone attacks in Pakistan, along with unilateral U.S. raids in Somalia and joint operations in Yemen, provide politically useful tools.

Obama, one senior military official said, has allowed "things that the previous administration did not."

Just because we're covertly infiltrating and interfering in virtually every Muslim country on the planet -- and just because we're actively aiding rebel groups inside their specific country -- is no reason to suspect Americans who illegally enter their country of espionage.  That just goes without saying, and Americans would never harbor such untoward suspicions about Iranians caught illegally entering the United States.

Of course, none of this is new.  We previously witnessed the vast disparity in Freedom Values between the U.S. and Iran when the Persian Tyrants sparked a worldwide orgy of condemnation by holding an American journalist for a couple of months (after she was convicted in court of espionage) before an Iranian appellate tribunal ordered her release, in contrast to the way that the Leaders of the Free World imprisoned an Al Jazeera cameraman in Guantanamo without charges of any kind before swiftly releasing him after a mere seven years (along with numerous other incidents of due-process-free, years-long imprisonments of journalists in Iraq).  It goes without saying that the Iranian justice system is a travesty and a farce, but at least they go through the pretense of due process before putting people in cages.

* * * * *

Speaking of our need to teach Iran and other tyrannical nations about the values of Freedom and Democracy, note the following items:

(1) Electronic Frontier Foundation reports:

Last Friday, in a brief filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Obama Administration continued the government's half-decade-long battle to ensure that no judge ever rules on the legality of the National Security Agency's warrantless dragnet surveillance program, a program first revealed in 2005 by the New York Times and detailed by technical documents provided by former AT&T technician Mark Klein. . . . The government dedicates most of its brief to arguing the same thing it has been arguing for the past five years in every other warrantless wiretapping case: that any attempt by the courts to judge the legality of the alleged surveillance would violate the state secrets privilege and harm national security.

I spent this morning reviewing what Democrats and progressives said and wrote back in the day each time the Bush DOJ invoked the "state secrets" privilege in order to shield their illegal NSA surveillance program from judicial review.  I'll probably write about this in the near future, but the condemnation was quite vehement, without very many rhetorical limits.  It seemed to be a consensus that such behavior was the nadir of lawlessness and removal of political leaders from any semblance of the rule of law.

(2) Harper's Scott Horton examines the evidence of the secret prison the Obama administration is apparently maintaining in Afghanistan and the serious abuse that takes place there.

(3) Keith Olbermann and Jonathan Turley had quite a good discussion on Monday night of the Obama DOJ's efforts to shield all Bush officials from liability for their War on Terror abuses, their success in persuading the Supreme Court to review their immunity arguments, and what this likely means for democratic accountability and the rule of law.  It's well worth watching:

Anyway, about Iran . . . .


UPDATE:  Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny are two young, very smart political commentators who host an engaging radio show entitled "Citizen Radio," which can be heard here.  I was interviewed by them last week about a wide variety of topics (including Obama's civil liberties record, the Drug War, support for third parties, America's collapsing imperial status, and dogs).  The full 25-minute interview can be heard here (it begins at roughly the 28:00 minute mark of the episode), and an 9-minute edited video version is below.  Their guest this week is Noam Chomsky, and, for those interested, that discussion can be heard here.


UPDATE II:  Numerous emailers have written to make the case that these two Americans accused by the Iranians of espionage are, in fact, nothing more than hikers, and some have suggested that they may have been captured on the Iraqi rather than Iranian side of the border.  I did not state or intend to suggest that they were guilty of anything.  It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the U.S. were sending covert agents into Iran (in fact, it would surprise me if they weren't), nor would it surprise me in the least if the Iranian Government were making false accusations against people they wanted to detain.  The issue for me is the double standard used to discuss our own conduct versus those of the countries we wish to demonize, and the propaganda narratives which invariably shape how we understand our own actions as opposed to the Bad Nations.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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