The judicial procedures that Iranian officials are using in the criminal trial of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian remind us of our judicial system here in the United States. No, not the federal judicial system here within the United States but rather the U.S. judicial system that the Pentagon and the CIA have established and operate at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, in July 2014 Iranian officials took Rezaian into custody without notifying him of the charges against him. His access to a lawyer was restricted. He was placed into solitary confinement for long periods of time during the past year. Yesterday a judicial hearing was held but no one knows what happened because the public was barred from attending and Rezaian’s defense attorney has been gagged from telling what occurred.
Our American ancestors clearly understood that this is how totalitarian regimes operate. How do we know that they understood that? Because as a condition for agreeing to call the federal government into existence with the Constitution, they demanded that the Constitution be immediately amended by adding the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments.
What do those amendments do? They prohibit the federal government from doing the things that Iranian officials are doing to Jason Rezaian.
For example, those amendments guarantee a speedy and public trial, trial by jury, effective assistance of counsel, and due process of law. They require the government to formally notify the accused of the charges against him. They prohibit cruel and unusual punishments. They imply the presumption of innocence and the burden on the government to prove a person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. They provide the right to bail — i.e., the right to be free from incarceration until trial. There is the right to cross-examine adverse witnesses, especially to show that the government, either intentionally or not, is using perjured testimony in an attempt to convict and punish a person. And much more.
Of course, Americans conservatives have long condemned the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eight Amendments. They say that they are nothing more than constitutional “technicalities” that just let guilty people go free. In the minds of conservatives, our American ancestors made a grave mistake in enacting those four amendments.
And that is also the mindset of the national-security branch of the U.S. government, i.e., the Pentagon and the CIA.
Keep something important in mind here: Our ancestors enacted the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments for one reason — because they were certain that once the federal government was permitted to come into existence, federal officials would do the same types of things that Iranian officials are doing to Rezaian. If they didn’t believe that, they wouldn’t have enacted those amendments.
And our ancestors were right. If they had not enacted those amendments there is no doubt that Americans today would be living under the same type of judicial system that exists in Iran, one that presumes the accused guilty, limits the defendant’s ability to defend himself, subjects him to cruel and unusual punishments both before and after trial, and keeps the proceedings top-secret, on grounds of “national security,” of course.
How do we know that our federal judicial system would be like the one in Iran if it hadn’t been for the courage, wisdom, and foresight of our ancestors? Because whenever the Pentagon and the CIA have had the opportunity to create a new judicial system, they have always, without fail, created a judicial system that mirrors that of totalitarian regimes rather than one that mirrors the federal judicial system that our ancestors brought into existence.
Think Guantanamo. After the 9/11 attacks, why did the Pentagon decide to establish its new judicial system for prosecuting terrorism defendants in Cuba rather than here in the United States? One reason: They didn’t want to be subject to the provisions of the U.S. Constitution (which they take an oath to support and defend) and to the interference of the federal courts.
That’s because they knew that the judicial system that planned to establish at Gitmo was going to resemble the judicial system in Iran or, for that matter, the one in Havana — i.e., one in which the defendant could be incarcerated indefinitely without trial, where he could be tortured, where proceedings could be kept secret, where defense counsel and the press could be barred or severely restricted, where the accused could be presumed guilty, and where trial could be delayed for years or even decades.
Think Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon and the CIA succeeded in ousting the established governments in both of those countries and then proceeded to call into existence a new government. What type of judicial system did the Pentagon and the CIA create in those two countries? Not the type of judicial system our ancestors brought into existence here in America but rather the type of judicial system that resembles the one in which Jason Rezaian is being prosecuted in Iran.
Think Chile in 1973, where the CIA and the Pentagon worked together to bring into existence the Pinochet military dictatorship, which proceeded to round up people without charges, incarcerate them indefinitely, torture and rape them, and even execute them — all with the full support of Chile’s federal prosecutors and federal judges and of Pentagon and CIA officials.
We should be thanking our lucky stars that we Americans have the type of federal judicial system that our ancestors brought into existence rather than the type of judicial system that exists in Iran and Guantanamo Bay. By the same token, today’s Americans should be ashamed of themselves for permitting the Pentagon and the CIA to establish an Iranian-like, un-American judicial system in Cuba.