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Interview Transcript: Glenn Greenwald-- Liberty and Justice for Some

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From Glenn Greenwald
Glenn Greenwald by Gage Skidmore

This is a transcript of an interview with Glenn Greenwald done in 2011, broadcast on November 2, 2011. We started off talking about his book, With Liberty and Justice for Some.  unfortunately, we tried a new transcriptionist and the transcript was rife with errors. I finally got around to correcting it this past weekend.  Unfortunately, most of the things we discussed are still relevant, two years later. 

Rob Kall: Hey, welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, WNJC 1360 AM, sponsored by, and tonight, I'm very excited to have as my guest, Glenn Greenwald.  He is the author of a new book that is just skyrocketing.  It is just amazing how well it is doing and for good reason, it is the awesome book.  The book is With Liberty and Justice for Some. 

Glenn is a blogger and a columnist for Salon.  He's been a constitutional attorney.  Bill Moyers has described him as the most important voice to have entered the political discourse in years.  

Welcome to the show, Glenn.

Glenn Greenwald: Great to be here.  Thanks for having me. . 

Rob Kall: Yeah.  The last time we spoke, you were in Brazil.

Glenn Greenwald: Yeah.  Exactly.  I remember that.

Rob Kall: So, you've got this book that basically,  is describing a lot of what  people are occupying all across America about.  Give us a brief synopsis of what the book is about. 

Glenn Greenwald: Well essentially, if we look at the last decade, what we see is very serious and egregious crimes committed by the most powerful political and financial elites in the country, from the creation of  a worldwide torture regime, to spying on American citizens without the warrants required by law, to an  aggressive attack on Iraq and multiple episodes of obstruction of justice and in the private sector  of course, the systematic fraud that precipitated the 2008 Financial Crisis. And yet none of these crimes have provoked meaningful investigations of any kind, let alone prosecutions. And yet at the very same time that we've created this kind of  shield of immunity for elites, we have built up the world's largest prison system and one of the harshest and most merciless systems of punishment for ordinary Americans and this kind of two-tiered justice system where you receive total immunity if you are an elite and commit crimes but extremely harsh and merciless punishment If you are an ordinary American, is really the antithesis of what the rule law was intended to be.

Rob Kall: So, this - your book, it describes how this started with Watergate and Gerald Ford was the first to make the excuse.  Can you talk a little bit how this evolved?

Glenn Greenwald: Well, the idea really isn't that we've always, throughout history of course, he failed to completely adhere to equality under the law. .  In fact, we have violated it rather violently and severely throughout our history.  But at least for the first term of years, we, at least, affirmed the principle of equality under law so that - even when we're violating if we've still held it out as the principle that should be your aspirational guiding principle.  Well, really started happening with the  pardon of Nixon is that the protocol class began promulgating these arguments, this rational, to justify shielding elites from the rule of law.  Things that - like, like we need to look forward and not backward on that, it would be too disruptive to hold the political elites accountable on the same terms as ,ordinary Americans that it was more important that ,we get political harmony and that would be good for the nation.  And it was this template that was created during the attempt to justify the Ford pardon of Nixon that really became the justifying rational going forward for how political and then financial elites are shielded from consequence when they break the law. 

Rob Kall: Now, is this something that is a partisan issue or is it a bipartisan phenomena?

Glenn Greenwald: Well, I mean, well, all you have to do it.  You know the answer to that is to look at, hear with is that is protecting the Bush era, some prosecution and accountability and that of course, that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party.  So, it isn't just that, the Obama Administration has shielded Bush officials from domestic prosecution but also had to work very hard diplomatically to make sure that other countries like Spain and Germany not investigate.  They've gone into court and prevented the victims of the war on terror and all the crimes and abuses committed under from having their day in court. Sisano it is very much of a by-part mentality that shields, political elites. It is,  of course the Obama administration that has failed to hold accountable any of the banking executives or Wall Street elites as well.  And you see this over and over throughout the years from  both political parties.

Rob Kall:  Now, you've written that when the law is wielded only against the powerless, it ceases to be a safeguard against injustice and becomes the primary tool of oppression.  This sounds like some Banana Republic.

Glenn Greenwald: Well, interestingly, if you used to use terms like Banana Republic to apply to the United States, people would think you are being sort of fringe and marginal and yet if you look now at even the most mainstream establishment discourse you see people making that observation all the time some necklace or stuff, or example, the comments to the New York Times as well in semi-columns compare in the United States to a Banana Republic or third world country.  Simon Johnson who used to be the Head of the International Monetary Fund. wrote an article in the May 2009 issue of the Atlantic entitled The Quiet Coup, the coup being the takeover of American Democracy by its oligarchs.  And he described how the political process functions very similar to how  it did in emerging markets in Russia and Argentina and some of the Eastern Block countries when they had financial collapse as well.  And you are exactly right,  The United States has been sermonizing to the world that countries in which the elites are able to exempt themselves from the dictates of the law are essentially counties that don't  live under of law and cannot become first world nations until they correct that problem and yet we are the ones who do that as much as anybody now.

Rob Kall: You've written this book  and you are getting an incredible amount of coverage-- well- deserved.  What do you want to have this book accomplish?

Glenn Greenwald: Well, for one thing.  I think that any kind of meaningful social change, a pre-requisite to it is persuading one's fellow citizens to appreciate the depth of the problem and the severity of it and then the need to act and you know, the only reason to write a book, I think, is to draw attention to things that you think need more attention and yet aren't getting it.

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Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and website architect of, Host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM), and publisher of, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and an inventor . He is also published regularly on the

Listen to over 200 of Rob's Podcast interviews here.

Rob is, with the first media winner of the Pillar Award for supporting Whistleblowers and the first amendment.

With his experience as architect and founder of a technorati top 100 blog, he is also a new media / social media consultant and trainer for corporations, non-profits, entrepreneurs and authors.

Rob is a frequent Speaker on the bottom-up revolution, politics, The art, science and power of story, heroes and the hero's journey and Positive Psychology. He is a campaign consultant specializing in tapping the power of stories for issue positioning, stump speeches and debates, and optimizing tapping the power of new media. Watch me speaking on Bottom up economics at the Occupy G8 Economic Summit, here.

See more Rob Kall articles here and, older ones, here.

To learn more about Rob and, check out A Voice For Truth - ROB KALL | OM Times Magazine and this article. For Rob's work in non-political realms mostly before 2000, see his C.V..

And here's a one hour radio interview where I was a guest- on Envision This, on 10/23/13. And here is the transcript. 

And Rob's quotes are here.

To watch me on youtube, having a lively conversation with John Conyers, former Chair of the House Judiciary committee, click here Now, wouldn't you like to see me on the political news shows, representing progressives. If so, tell your favorite shows to bring me on and refer them to this youtube video.

Rob's radio show, The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, runs 9-10 PM EST Wednesday evenings, on AM 1360, WNJC and is archived at Or listen to it streaming, live at

Rob also hosted a health/mind/body/heart/spirit radio show-- the Rob Kall Futurehealth radio show. Check out podcasts from it at

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