Three ominous events in the news last week show just how sharply fundamental rights are under attack:
Bradley Manning: Torture and Persecution of Whistleblowers
Bradley Manning, a 25-year-old U.S. Army private and intelligence analyst, was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq, accused of leaking classified documents that were published by WikiLeaks, and held for nine months under conditions amounting to torture. One of those leaked documents is a video showing U.S. troops in an Apache helicopter firing on and killing civilians in the streets in Iraq.
On February 28, Manning accepted responsibility for providing to WikiLeaks selected information about U.S. war crimes. He continues to plead not guilty to 12 major charges—including “aiding the enemy”—for which he faces a possible sentence of life in prison without parole. The torture and vindictive persecution of Manning are meant to serve as a severe warning against others from stepping forward to blow the whistle on the crimes of the U.S. government and military. A professor of military law at Yale University, quoted in the New York Times, said, “They’re trying to scare the daylights out of other people.”
Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Government Spying
In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, which vastly expanded the ability of the government to eavesdrop on people in the U.S. without warrants. Accepting the argument of the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ), the Court declared that the plaintiffs—who included lawyers, journalists, and human rights advocates—had no legal standing to bring the lawsuit. Legal analyst Glenn Greenwald explained the tactic of the government: “By draping what it does in total secrecy, it prevents anyone from knowing with certainty who the targets of its surveillance are. The DOJ then exploits this secrecy to block any constitutional or other legal challenges to its surveillance actions on the ground that since nobody can prove with certainty that they have been subjected to this eavesdropping by the government, nobody has ‘standing’ to sue in court and obtain a ruling on the constitutionality of this eavesdropping.” This ruling has ominous implications for legal challenges to the flood of fascistic laws passed since 9/11.
Scalia’s Racist Attack on Black Voting Rights
During last week’s questioning of lawyers in a case related to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that the law, which is a concession to the struggle in which many Black people and others gave their lives fighting for the right to vote, amounted to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” This and other outrageous remarks by right-wing members of the Court are signs that the Court might overturn a key provision of the voting law, which would enable states to make it more difficult for Black people to vote. Before the Voting Rights Act, one of the main forms in which Black people were oppressed, in addition to brutal sharecropping exploitation, open segregation, and KKK terror, was being denied the right to vote. While the reality is that no serious positive change has ever been, or can actually be achieved through voting, the fact that this basic right is under such blatant, heavy assault—including from the “highest court of the land”—shows that white supremacy and oppression of Black people, which are so foundational to this country, not only continue but are intensifying.
All these attacks—on Bradley Manning; on the ability to legally challenge repressive laws; and on Black and other “minority” peoples’ right to vote—must be resisted. More—all these attacks point to the need for a whole new system, one NOT based on exploitation and oppression. Check out the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party.
This article originally appeared on revcom.us in the March 10, 2013 issue.