Rights? What Rights?

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Karen Kwiatkowski’s powerful and insightful commentary today reminds us that the raw power of the state really knows no particular ideology. It is clear that the purpose of the government’s tactics in holding Bradley Manning is to break him psychologically to a point where it would be impossible even for him to withstand a trial.

This hardly is new nor is it legal under the U.S. Constitution, yet we find that people in authority are permitted to misuse their authority whenever it suits them. Janet Reno used a similar tactic against a 17-year-old Honduran woman in order to gain a bogus conviction, and she was able to ride that conviction and others to serving as U.S. Attorney General for eight years. Judge Andrew Napolitano gives the following account about the Frank Furster case in the mid-1980s when Reno was the State’s Attorney in Miami-Dade County:

Political ambition can be a powerful motivating factor for government abuse of our rights. Consider one of the cases that helped propel Janet Reno to national stardom. In 1984, Reno faced a serious challenger in her bid for reelection as Dade County’s state attorney. In August of that year, Frank Fuster and his wife, Ileana Fuster, were arrested for sexually abusing more than 20 children who attended their home daycare center.

Reno began the case by soliciting Laurie and Joe Braga, both billed as “child abuse experts” with no psychology training, to interview the children. The Bragas used suggestive and misleading interview techniques to elicit false accusations from the children in the case. The children were brainwashed with fantasies of sexual abuse involving masks, snakes, drills, and other objects, and eventually came out of the interviews thinking they were victims.

Of all the children alleging sexual abuse against Fuster, Reno’s office only presented physical “evidence” that one child was abused. The prosecution invoked a laboratory test suggesting that a child had tested positive for gonorrhea of the throat. However, the lab test that was performed is very unreliable and often gives false positives. Reno’s agents tested for the family of bacteria to which gonorrhea belongs rather than specifically for gonorrhea; other bacteria that could have caused the false positive are harmless and are frequently found to live in children. Of course, the state ordered the lab to destroy the evidence three days later, thereby preventing the defense from challenging the state’s “evidence.”

Recognizing that the case against Fuster was weak, Janet Reno’s final straw was to torture Ileana Fuster physically and mentally to the point where she could be coerced into implicating her husband. Reno had Ileana isolated from the prison population and placed in solitary confinement, naked. Ileana described her treatment in a 1998 interview: “They would give me cold showers. Two people will hold me, run me under cold water, then throw me back in the cell naked with nothing, just a bare floor. And I used to be cold, real cold. I would have my periods and they would just wash me and throw me back into the cell.” Late one night, the naked Ileana, according to her lawyer, received a visit in her darkened solitary cell from an intimidating 6-foot-2 woman. The woman told Ileana that she knew that Ileana and her husband were guilty. “But how can that be? We are innocent,” Ileana proclaimed. “Who are you?” “I’m Janet Reno,” the woman said. Ileana repeatedly told Reno that she was innocent, and Reno kept repeating, “I’m sorry, but you are not. You’re going to have to help us.” Reno made several more solitary, nightly visits to the naked Ileana, each time threatening Ileana that she would remain in prison for the rest of her life if she didn’t tell Reno what she wanted to hear.

Finally, Reno hired two psychiatrists from a company called Behavior Changers Inc., who met Ileana 34 times in a one-month period. These psychiatrists claimed to be able to help individuals “recover memories,” but their technique was simply to hypnotize Ileana so that she could be brainwashed into believing that Frank Fuster was a child molester. The coercion eventually worked: with the psychiatrists present and with Janet Reno squeezing her hand, Ileana implicated her husband.

Ileana’s trial testimony against her husband put the final nail in Frank Fuster’s coffin. Reno won the conviction, her reelection bid, her name in the newspaper headlines, and a stepping stone to a position as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. However, Ileana Fuster has repeatedly retracted her confession and testimony, swearing that she and Fuster never abused any of the children, and that her confession was the product of brainwashing. Yet, thanks to Janet Reno, an innocent Fuster remains incarcerated for 165 years without the possibility of parole.

After seeing this, is anyone surprised that only a month into Reno’s tenure as AG, she authorized the worst government-caused massacre of innocents since Wounded Knee in 1890 when she ordered the assault at Waco in which 80 people were shot and burned to death? Nor should we be surprised that AFTER the massacre, Reno’s popularity in the USA soared.

I should add that Florida and U.S. courts have upheld this farce of a conviction despite the massive prosecutorial misconduct. THAT is the America that exists today, and there is none other.

Karen Kwiatkowski is right, but what she is saying is NOT something that will resonate with most Americans, who believe that David Koresh and the Branch Davidians got what was coming to them, and that Bradley Manning is a traitor, and Julian Assange should be summarily executed (although some believe the execution should come after a kangaroo court trial, just to make it “legal,” of course).

6:24 am on December 20, 2010