Citizens, Juries and other Balances

the farewell kiss you dog.jpgFollowing on my post on Parliaments, Dukes and Queens, I’d like to talk about other checks on the power of government, besides throwing tea into the harbor.

In Britian, “a jury has failed to clear police in the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.” The jury is the first group who, frankly, has not whitewashed the death. Investigations by Scotland Yard, The Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Crown Prosecution Service all failed to find any form of punishable fault by the armed police or their leadership.


In New York, a police officer who wrongfully arrested a bike rider and lied about what happened has been indicted, “Officer Is Indicted in Toppling of Cyclist.” Charges have not yet been revealed, but I’m hoping for perjury and assault. The interesting thing about this case, which I’ve followed a little, is what changed everything was video of the incident.

Meanwhile, one of the illegal wiretap (2005 variant) whistleblowers, Thomas Tamm, has come forward. In “The Fed Who Blew the Whistle,” Michael Isikoff writes:

At one point, Tamm says, he approached Lisa Farabee, a senior counsel in OIPR who reviewed his work, and asked her directly, “Do you know what the program is?” According to Tamm, she replied: “Don’t even go there,” and then added, “I assume what they are doing is illegal.” Tamm says his immediate thought was, “I’m a law-enforcement officer and I’m participating in something that is illegal?” A few weeks later Tamm bumped into Mark Bradley, the deputy OIPR counsel, who told him the office had run into trouble with Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the chief judge on the FISA court. Bradley seemed nervous, Tamm says. Kollar-Kotelly had raised objections to the special program wiretaps, and “the A.G.-only cases are being shut down,” Bradley told Tamm. He then added, “This may be [a time] the attorney general gets indicted,” according to Tamm. (Told of Tamm’s account, Justice spokesman Boyd said that Farabee and Bradley “have no comment for your story.”)

By now its obvious that individuals, empowered by technology are increasingly able to act as a counter-balance to some of the power of the state. This is relatively new and still nascent. The ability of random passers-by to video events is only a few decades old. The ability to get stories out there and draw attention to them has increased tremendously with the rise of Usenet, blogs, Facebook, etc. Of course, people have always stood up to the state, but I think the addition of video and networking make it easier and a more interesting balance than it has been.

This, of course, requires citizens to be active, engaged, and united. All the outrage over illegal wiretapping was effectively countered with propaganda alleging that illegal was the only way to wiretap, or that the law was outdated. It also requires the citizenry to be jealous guardians of their precious liberties.

I’ve been going back and forth on this post, in part because Muntazer al-Zaidi was beaten by jailers, and is facing a 7-15 year jail sentence for ‘offending the head of a foreign state.’

In unrelated news, the Obama transition team has done an internal review, which, shockingly, “Finds No ‘Inappropriate’ Contacts With Blagojevich