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 Opednews.com, 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 of law was intended to be.
Rob Kall: Your book 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 200 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 our aspirational guiding principle. Well, really started happening with the Ford pardon of Nixon is that the political 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 phenomenon?
Glenn Greenwald: Well, I mean, well, all you have to do to 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 even having their day in court. So 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.