Glenn Greenwald mentioned an interesting bit of American hypocrisy over the weekend that relates directly to what is going on with Edward Snowden. In 2001, Muslim cleric Abu Omar was granted asylum by Italy because he was being persecuted by the Mubarak government in Egypt. Then, two years later, a group of CIA agents kidnapped him off the street in broad daylight. They took him back to Egypt, where he spent four years in prison being tortured. He was originally charged with belonging to an illegal group, but the charges were ultimately dropped.
In February of this year, four members of the Italian secret service were convicted of complicity in this kidnapping and were given six to ten years in prison. What about the American CIA operatives? In 2009, the Italian government indicted 23 of them, including Milan station chief Robert Lady. The United States would not cooperate (justice is for the little people and foreigners) so the Italian government had to convict them in absentia. Greenwald made three points about this at the time. First, such convictions would never happen in our country; government officials have done far worse and we just ignore it. Second, our government did everything it could to interfere with the Italian judicial process. And third, our lack of accountability is an indication that we don’t have a truly independent court system. The article is very good and well worth reading in full.
Since retiring, Robert Lady has lived in Latin America. Last week, while crossing the boarder into Panama, Lady was arrested at the request of Italy who wanted to extradite him to serve his sentence for the kidnapping. But on Friday, he was released following some negotiations with the US State Department. And that is probably as it should be. I think that countries ought to look out for their citizens, although as in this case, the United States has far too much power in this regard.
The problem is how hypocritical the United States is. When it comes to Edward Snowden the government and the supposedly independent media have been screaming about China and Russian not turning him over to the United States. Not only has Snowden not been convicted of anything, the charges against him are so trumped up as to make the government’s case against him look like nothing other than political crimes (which is what they are). What’s more, there are countries who want to give Snowden asylum. But they can’t because the United States government has effectively made him into a man without a country. Much the same thing has happened to Julian Assange.
It is one thing for all the different countries to position themselves and try to enact policies that they want. I don’t blame any of them for trying to do that. But the United States acts in a lawless fashion in its attempts, but then screams loudly when any other countries don’t follow the letter of their treaties (as the US sees it) in its interactions. What makes it far worse (and far easier for the government to get away with it) is our complicit media. That allows the public to not only think that we are the most powerful nation on earth, but also the most true and good. The reality is quite different. We use our power to make our misdeeds go unpunished and to punish anyone we don’t like. We should not be proud.
Update (22 July 2013 10:40 am)
Dean Baker wrote an excellent article discussing this very issue. He noted that the US government could make France refuse its air space to Bolivia President Evo Morales because he might have been carrying Edward Snowden (he wasn’t). Yet somehow the US government is impotent to do anything about the Cayman Islands’ use as a tax haven. It is laughable, of course. But it makes sense. Snowden is a little person who embarrassed the government. Those using tax havens are the big people who run the government.