First Circle: Liberty Has Been Lost

I had just finished reading the
uncensored edition of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn`s book, In The First Circle

(Harper Perennial, 2009), when I came across Chris
Hedges article,

“One Day We`ll All
Be Terrorists”
(Truthdig, Dec. 28, 2009). In
Hedges` description of the U.S. government`s treatment
of American citizen Syed Fahad Hashmi, I recognized the
Stalinist legal system
portrayed by Solzhenitsyn.

Hashmi has been held in solitary
confinement going on three years. Guantanamo`s practices
have migrated to the Metropolitan Correction Center in
Manhattan where Hashmi is held in the Special Housing
Unit. His access to attorneys, family, and other
prisoners is prevented or severely curtailed. He must
clean himself and use toilet facilities on camera. He is
let out of solitary for one hour every 24 hours to
exercise in a cage.

Hashmi is a U.S. citizen but his
government has violated every right guaranteed to him by
the Constitution. The U.S. government, in violation of
U.S. law, is also subjecting Hashmi to psychological
torture known as extreme sensory deprivation. The bogus “evidence”
against him is classified and denied to him. 

Joseph K
. in Kafka`s

The Trial,  Hashmi is
under arrest on secret evidence. As the case against him
is unknown or non-existent, defense is impossible.

Hashmi`s rights have been abrogated
by his government with the allegation that he is a
potential terrorist or perhaps just a terrorist
sympathizer. Another American citizen, Junaid Babar
stayed with Hashmi for two weeks and allegedly delivered
ponchos and socks to al-Qaida in Pakistan. Allegedly
Babar used Hashmi`s cell phone to reach others aiding
terrorists. The U.S. government says that this suffices
to implicate Hashmi in Babar`s activities.

Babar made a plea bargain to five
counts of
“material support”
for terrorism, but is working off
his prison sentence by testifying as a government
witness in other terror trials, including in Canada and
the U.K., and as the U.S. government`s only evidence
against Hashmi.

Hashmi`s real offense is that he is
a Muslim activist defending Muslim civil liberties and
making provocative statements about the U.S. As Michael
Ratner, president of the
Center for
Constitutional Rights,
has pointed out, federal
courts have given the U.S. government wide latitude to
use Hashmi`s exercise of his constitutionally protected
rights to free speech and association as evidence of a
terrorist frame of mind and, thereby, of intent to
commit terrorism.

Brooklyn College professor

Jeanne Theoharis
warns us that an American citizen
can now be tried on secret evidence.
“You can spend
years in solitary confinement before you are convicted
of anything. There has been attention paid to
extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib with
this false idea that if people are tried in the United
States things will be fair. But what allowed Guantanamo
to happen was the devolution of the rule of law here at
home, and this is not only happening to Hashmi.”

Indeed, Hedges reports that
“radical activists in the environmental, (anti)-globalization,
anti-nuclear, sustainable agriculture and anarchist
movements are already being placed by the state in
special detention facilities with Muslims charged with
Hedges warns:
“This corruption
of our legal system will not be reserved by the state
for suspected terrorists or even Muslim Americans. In
the coming turmoil and economic collapse, it will be
used to silence all who are branded as disruptive or
subversive. Hashmi endures what many others, who are not
Muslim, will endure later.”

The silence of bar associations and
law schools indicates an astounding insouciance to
Thomas Paine`s

: “He
that would make his own liberty secure must guard even
his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty
he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

Some of my Republican and conservative acquaintances are
even gleeful that, finally, we are going to get tough
and deal forcibly with
“these people.” They
naively believe that they themselves will remain safe
when law ceases to be a shield of the people and becomes
a weapon in the hands of government.


A Man For All
Sir Thomas More cautions against

cutting the law down in order to chase after devils,

for with the law cut down, where do we stand when the
devil turns on us?

Clearly, these fundamental
questions are of no concern to the U.S. Department of
Justice (sic),
to Congress or the White House, to the
to the American people, or even to very much
of the federal judiciary.

Glenn Greenwald pointed out in Salon (Dec.
4, 2009
) that the Convention Against Torture,

championed and signed
by President
and ratified by the U.S. Senate, states:
“Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are
found in its territory or to extradite them to other
countries for prosecution. No exceptional circumstances
whatsoever, whether a state of war or threat of war,
internal political instability or any other public
emergency may be invoked as a justification of torture.
Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture
are offenses under its criminal law.”

Two decades later the U.S.
government tortures at will. Justice (sic) Department
officials write memos authorizing torture despite the
ratified Convention Against Torture, U.S. law, and the
Geneva Conventions. The Pew Poll reports that 67 percent
of Republicans and 47 percent of Democrats support the
use of torture.

And Americans think they have
freedom and democracy and live under the protection of
the rule of law.

The law is lost, and with it
American liberty.

Paul Craig Roberts [email
] was Assistant
Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan`s
first term.  He was Associate Editor of the
Street Journal.  He has held numerous academic
appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair,
Center for Strategic and International Studies,
Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded
the Legion of Honor by French President Francois
Mitterrand. He is the author of

Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider`s Account of
Policymaking in Washington
and the Soviet Economy

Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy
and is the co-author
with Lawrence M. Stratton of

The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and
Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name
of Justice
. Click

for Peter
Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts
about the epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.