One of the features of a totalitarian society is the absence of habeas corpus and any restriction on what can happen to someone in custody.
If you believe that we in the western world live in free societies then the recent report on the use of torture by the CIA is troubling.
I remarked to a stateside buddy last night that the biggest wound that the 911 suicide attackers inflicted on the most powerful nation on earth was the US Patriot Act.
That one piece of legislation butchered the Constitution of the United States of America.
The document is a work of enlightenment genius and Thomas Jefferson created a polity that had built in safeguards against what men in power will inevitably get up to.
I wrote ‘men’ because their women did not enter the mind of the Founding Fathers any more than did their slaves.
However the Constitution was a huge step forward for human political organisation and it has stood the test of time.
The case of Ernesto Arturo Miranda gave many TV script writers a wonderful line:
“Read him his rights!”
The thing is the accused DID have rights and had to be informed of them upon arrest.
George W Bush stated that Al Qaeda hated the USA “for our freedom”.
In that case the 43rd President of the United States made America a little less hateful to Bin Laden and his medieval buddies.
Even before the deployment of highly militarised cops in Ferguson Missouri the Snowden leaks about the National Security Agency (NSA) painted a very worrying picture.
Massive surveillance, arrest without due process by order of the President, secret prisons and torture.
All of this makes Jack Bauer look like one of the teletubbies.
The awful reality is that all of this human misery did not make America any safer, it thwarted no terrorist attacks or uncovered any plots.
Torture does not work as a means of gathering intelligence or tracking down bad guys.
I never thought I would write these words, but the USA is becoming a police state if it hasn’t already arrived at that grim destination.
If only Sinclair Lewis was here today to see the tanks blocking Main Street…
This side of the pond the British people should become acquainted with a dark chapter from the Dirty War in Ireland.
I was a teenager when I read the late John McGuffin’s brilliant book “the guinea pigs”.
It tells the story of what happened to twelve men during the Internment scoop up operation in 1971.
They were subjected to “interrogation in depth”.
It was a torture experiment.
For anyone interested in the torture CV of the British state I can recommend Ian Cobain’s “Cruel Britannia”.
I think my shock at the CIA report is a result of my naiveté.
Frankly I do not expect any better from the British state on these matters and they’ve never let me down.
However I had somehow hoped that the USA would be better, despite the evidence that was piling up.
I wrote at the time that Abu Ghraib was no aberration; it was part of a policy.
The only saving grace is that these abuses have come to light.
Is it involved the United Kingdom then a Royal Commission would quietly bury the crimes in state papers with a 100 year rule locking them way.
Now in the digital age we all collude in our surveillance in a way that makes the craziness of the 1970s Stasi in East Germany look like a golden age of freedom.
Many of us all have our personal secret policeman called a smart phone.
I am constantly tailed by a Samsung Galaxy S5 and it tells lots of databases where I am 7/24 as well as what I do and where I go in the digital space.
Being snooped on is one thing, being abducted and tortured is quite another.
This is what the greatest country in the world did to entirely innocent men.
That Guantanamo bay is an American Gulag in the Caribbean is now undeniable and is an affront to international law.
Those jihad chaps in the planes over New York and Washington that September morning in 2001 could have no idea of the damage they allowed the American state to inflict on the American people.
My revolutionary hero must be spinning in grave in Monticello.