The Caligulan American Justice System -
U.N. intervention is necessary
by John Stanton and Wayne Madsen
John Stanton is a Virginia-based writer on national security
affairs and Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative
journalist who writes and comments frequently on civil liberties
and human rights issues.
The U.S. justice system (courts, enforcement agencies, rule
and law making bodies) was the last venue of hope for America's
censored, oppressed, disenfranchised, and falsely accused. Indeed,
the authors of the U.S. Constitution recognized that the third
branch of government, the judicial branch, must be the stable
and incorruptible anchor of American government and society
as the other two branches-executive and legislative - would
be subject to the whim and whimsy of special interests and the
public whose opinions would invariably reflect those special
interests. But what was once the envy of the world is now gangrene
on the public body of a once proud nation, and it is the site
of squalor, death, exploitation, rape, abuse, experimentation,
and profit and loss.
At this critical moment in U.S. history when the American
justice system is needed to stem the tide of American totalitarianism,
it finds itself incapable of doing so. What a tragic commentary
on a once novel and enlightened system that ended segregation,
gave the convicted rights, ensured a free press and dissent,
enforced a women's right-to-choose, and checked the imperious
power of the executive branch. Now, however, it is extraordinarily
politicized and corrupted at every level, and wealthy ideologues,
corporations and defendants with money to burn far too easily
manipulate it. It is a system that is suspect by the general
public and daily mocked by shows like Judge Judy. High school
students in America know that the right amount of money and
influence can buy a favorable decision, a legislative loophole,
timeshare at a low security Federal Prison Camp, and even the
US presidency as the Election of 2000 demonstrated.
With the collapse of the American justice system, the United
States stands on the precipice of the totalitarian state. Indeed,
the evidence is there to show that the US is in the initial
stages of some form of mutated capitalist totalitarianism. And
in one of the most stunning bits of irony, the very system of
justice that steered the country away from dalliances in State
totalitarianism, is leading America there.
The War on Drugs - based on ill-conceived presidential directives,
legislation passed by a deaf, dumb and blind Congress, and public
paranoia and panic fueled by self-serving interests - increased
the U.S. prison population by approximately 3 million people between
1990 and 2000; the collateral damage being innocents behind
bars, ruined reputations, federal interagency squabbles and
further erosion of the Bill of Rights. The War on Terrorism,
designed with equal simple-mindedness and expediency, seems
destined to perform in similar fashion and will undoubtedly
produce fresh crops of productive inmates for the American
justice system. Scylla and Charybdis, those quaint legends of
yore, have now been replaced by the War on Drugs and the War on
Terrorism. The notorious Roman emperor Caligula would have marvelled
at the viciousness of these monstrous creations and relished
he opportunity to wield these weapons against the population.
Drugwarfacts.org reports 89% of police departments have
paramilitary units, and 46% have been trained by active duty armed
forces. The most common use of paramilitary units is serving
drug-related search warrants (usually no-knock entries into
private homes). 20% of police departments use paramilitary
units to patrol urban areas. The U.S. National Guard currently
has more counter-narcotics officers than the DEA has special
agents on duty. Each day, the National Guard is involved in
1,300 counter-drug operations and has approximately 4,000 troops
on duty. Without warning or prior notification to civilian authorities,
the U.S. military will "mock" invade communities
across America, often causing panic, and in some cases, death.
On February 25, 2002, in North Carolina, for example, undercover
U.S. Army personnel-engaged in a training exercise--attempted
to disarm an on-duty civilian deputy sheriff. The officer shot
them both. Why would the military attempt to disarm a civilian
law enforcement officer? On March 13, 1999, without notification
to the bulk of its customers, on orders from the U.S. military,
Alabama Power cut off power to Anniston, Alabama, so that 800
military personnel could mount an assault on the local town
The power company told the populace it was "for repair
purposes" and not that it was part of a military exercise.
Finally, on March 16-17, 1999, Operation Laser Cup was conducted
against residents in Beaver and Westmoreland Counties in Pennsylvania.
Twelve Black Hawk, Pave Low, and MH6 helicopters "attacked"
an area near a local mine in support of special operations
troops in search of certain materials.
The local enforcement offices of both counties were overwhelmed
with 911 calls from panicked citizens, and, according to reports,
a fire truck and ambulance were unnecessarily dispatched during
the ensuing panic. According to one exasperated local official,
"I would prefer they [the military] notify us so we can
tell the people who call. But [the military] doesn't have
to tell us anything. They're Federal and we're County. There's
nothing we can do about it."
According to groups as diverse as the Christian evangelical
Operation Starting Line and Human Rights Watch, the American
Panopticon houses 6 million people in some form of "correctional
supervision-incarceration, probation or parole". Roughly
2 million of those are behind bars in infamous Supermax prisons
and the rancid facilities that pass as federal, state and local
penitentiaries. According to Linda Evans and Eve Goldberg in their
work titled Prison Industrial Complex and the Global Economy,
those numbers give the U.S. the horrific distinction of having
the "highest per capita incarceration rate in the history
of the world".
The disproportionate number of minorities' living and working
in the American Panopticon is nothing short of criminal. Clearly,
the system targets these individuals from the moment they are
born into hunger and poverty in cities and towns across the U.S.
According to drugwarfacts.org, the incarceration rate for African-American
women was 205 per 100,000, and for African-American men 3,457
per 100,000. The rate of incarceration for Hispanic women is
60 per 100,000, and for Hispanic men the rate is 1,220 per 100,000.
The rate of incarceration for white women is 34 per 100,000,
and for white men the rate is 449 per 100,000. The United States
spent a whopping $146,556,000,000 in 1999 to incarcerate and
monitor its 6 million captives.
Yet you'd be silly to opine that that $146 billion was a
waste of money. Corporations ranging from pharmaceuticals to
telecommunications view the American justice system as a productive
source of labour and a test bed. Even the Pentagon is a customer.
In 2000, UNICOR's slave labour force accounted for net sales
to the private and public sectors of roughly $600 million dollars
(UNICOR is a subsidiary of the US Department of Justice). The
products they produce are as diverse as guided missile components
for the Pentagon and clothing for the likes of Eddie Bauer.
The electronics guiding the missiles used against American
opponents and innocents in Afghanistan and Colombia, and the
upscale apparel in the shop window or on your back, could be
the product of U.S. slave labour.
The Bush administration's frenzy to privatize traditional
government responsibilities has seen a concurrent increase in
profits for corporations that have got into the private prison
business. The biggest corporate predator is Wackenhut Corporation,
a company that owes its very existence to the maniacal former
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Founded in 1954 by former FBI
agent George Wackenhut, Sr., the company got its kick start
from Hoover who was convinced a private company could get away
with things the FBI was constitutionally barred from doing.
Wackenhut has spun off a prison industry subsidiary, Wackenhut
Corrections, an operation that, according to The Washington
Times, earned $562.1 million during 2001, an increase of $27
million over its 2000 revenues. While many companies saw the
bottom drop out of their stock values, since September 11, Wackenhut
Corrections saw its stock price dramatically increase. And
there is little reason to wonder why. Wackenhut has a virtual
monopoly on U.S. immigration detention centres - the places
where more and more suspicious aliens will be interred as America
spirals downward into a post-constitutional Kafkaesque society.
Currently, Wackenhut runs 36 detention, prison, and juvenile
facilities in the United States, including Immigration and Naturalization
Service detention centres in the Borough of Queens and Aurora,
Colorado. The lion's shares of Wackenhut prisons - twelve --
are in George W. Bush's home state of Texas. And perhaps seeing
some sort of perverse benefit in combining Pavlovian tenets
with criminal incarceration, Wackenhut has embarked on running
psychiatric hospitals throughout the United States, a frightening
prospect when considering the company was founded as a virtual
front operation in order to engage in political surveillance
and chicanery on behalf of a sheepish J. Edgar Hoover, himself
a known deviant. The most worrisome prison operated by Wackenhut
is the Taft Correctional Institution in rural Kern County,
California. It is a 1,767-bed, low security Federal Correctional
Institution (FCI), which is adjacent to a separate adjacent
512-bed minimum security Federal Prison Camp - and the 380,000
square feet facility has a lot of room for expansion. The federal
government supplements the camp with UNICOR slave labor factories.
Adolf Hitler certainly saw the benefit in having minimum-security
prison camps like the one in Kern County. The ghetto camp in
Terezin (Theresienstadt), Czech Republic, was one such camp.
It was used by the Nazis to fool International Red Cross inspectors
who were naturally more interested in the welfare of famous
political prisoners like former French Premier Leon Blum, German
Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller, and Czech feminist leader
Milana Horokova, than in the plight of non-notable prisoners
like the hundreds of thousands who were dispatched, via their
stay in Theresienstadt, to their ultimate fate in Nazi death
Wackenhut plans to open other private prisons throughout
the United States. And it is, by no means, alone in that respect.
Other private prison corporations seeing tremendous profits
in incarcerating Americans include Correctional Corporation
of America (CCA) and Correctional Services Corporation (CSC).
CCA operates 64 prison facilities in 21 states. The company
saw a near threefold increase in revenue from 2000 to 2001.
CSC boasts 13 prisons and 33 juvenile centres in 18 states and
Puerto Rico. CSC specializes in military boot camp-style "Shock
Incarceration" facilities - camps that engage more in sociopolitical
re-engineering of drug-dependent inner city minority youth than
in traditional norms of juvenile rehabilitation.
Considering the fact that the Bush administration installed
John P. Walters as Director of the Office of National Drug Control
Policy, investors can look upon private prisons and their population
as a growth industry - a definite "buy" in Wall Street
parlance. Walters told the neo-conservative Weekly Standard
that "what really drives the battle against law enforcement
and punishment, however, is not a commitment to treatment,
but the widely held view that (1) we are imprisoning too many
people for merely possessing illegal drugs, (2) drug and other
criminal sentences are too long and harsh, and (3) the criminal
justice system is unjustly punishing young black men. These
are among the great urban myths of our time." However,
the greatest urban myth is that the United States is winning
the so-called "War on Drugs."
Like his predecessor, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Walters seems
more interested in recruiting more slave laborers for America's
prison-industrial complex. Consider the fact that last year,
the U.S. sprayed twice as much herbicide on Colombia's coca
fields than in the previous year. The net result was, according
to the State Department, an increase in coca production.
However, the Central Intelligence Agency, oddly charged
with determining the production output of a narcotic for which
it has a sordid history of trafficking and distributing, stalled
on issuing its own Colombian production report. Perhaps that
is because in its own "wilderness of mirrors" it must
show a decrease in production to demonstrate its phony war
is working. With such cooked books, the future for America's
yet-to-be imprisoned youth looks very bleak indeed.
And the Caligulan madness doesn't end there.
In The Prison as Laboratory, Silja J.A. Talvi quotes the
Nuremberg Code in 1947: "The voluntary consent of the human
subject is absolutely essential." The code was drafted
in direct response to the sheer barbarity of Nazi-era medical
experiments on Jews and other captive groups. "[The] person
involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should
be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice,
without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit,
duress, over-reaching or other ulterior form of constraint or
Yet in a convenient disassociation from the ethical implications
of the Nuremberg Code, the United States became the only nation
in the world to officially sanction the use of prisoners in
experimental clinical trials. From the '40s through the early
'70s, American doctors regularly injected and infected inmates
with malaria, typhoid fever, herpes, cancer cells, tuberculosis,
ringworm, hepatitis, syphilis and cholera in repeatedly failed
attempts to "cure" such diseases. Doctors in prisons
pulled out prisoners' fingernails and inflicted flash burns
to approximate the results of atomic bomb attacks and even conducted
various "mind-control" experiments using isolation
techniques and high doses of LSD, courtesy of the CIA."
While those practices were outlawed in the 1970's, Talvi reports
that there is evidence that inmate experimentation may be resuming
Considering Bush's own Texas gubernatorial record of carrying
out more executions than any of his predecessors (and his appointment
of suspected human rights abusers to positions of power in the
US State Department and Pentagon), the situation for America's
burgeoning prison population-and the general populace--can only
get worse. His glibness on the death penalty and death in general
(on Bin Laden--"Dead or alive"; On a tax increase--"Over
my dead body") could easily result in America's condemned
being harvested for their organs - something for which we
currently condemn China.
With recent revelations that the Bush administration set
about to create a secret shadow government in two underground
bunkers near Washington (assumed to be one operated by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] at Mount Weather, Virginia,
and another operated by the Defense Department at Raven Rock
Mountain [Site R], near Waynesboro, Pennsylvania), it is worth
looking at the history of U.S. government list keeping and plans
to incarcerate political subversives.
And that history, ironically or perhaps not, involves Wackenhut.
In 1977, the U.S. Privacy Protection Study Commission discovered
that Wackenhut had compiled a list of 2.5 million U.S. citizens
it considered to be "subversive." In addition to people
who had been subpoenaed to appear before the now-defunct (soon
to be resurrected?) House Un-American Activities Committee,
it contained the names of individuals culled from newspaper
clipping services and Wackenhut's own private investigative
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter signed Executive Order 12148
which transformed the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency into
the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA was to become
responsible for coordinating Federal civil defense and other
emergency relief activities within the USA. However, when Ronald
Reagan took over the presidency in 1981, he named his old California
National Guard chief, retired General Louis Giuffrida, as his
emergency czar. Giuffrida had a tainted image as California's
National Guard commander. He drew up lists of "militant
Negroes" who were to be rounded up in emergencies.
He designed "Operation Cable Splicer," which kept
track of political dissidents in California, especially anti-Vietnam
War protesters. When Giuffrida took over the reins at FEMA,
he began to embark on similar projects. FEMA began to store
some 12,000 names it had obtained from the FBI's domestic
intelligence files. FBI Director William Webster was so outraged
at this interference in FBI matters he forced FEMA to turn the
list back to the FBI. FEMA's surveillance lists may have included
at least 100,000 U.S. citizens who were assumed to be potential
threats to security. These included the names of environmentalists,
survivalists, and tax protesters (in 2002, these are the new
Wackenhut is reportedly a major contractor to FEMA. With
FEMA now running a shadow government, there is a real possibility
that the "subversive" lists for which both FEMA and
Wackenhut have an affinity are once again being dusted off and
updated. The USA PATRIOT Act, drawn up in a frenzy only matched
in history by the scrapping of the German Constitution in the
wake of the Reichstag Fire, certainly criminalizes a range of
what can be construed as "political crimes against The State.
The State's prison-industrial complex, therefore, stands to
benefit from a whole new population of "criminal."
And what does Congress say about Bush setting up a shadow
government? They never knew about it! According to The Washington
Post, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said he "had not
been informed about the role, location or even the existence
of the shadow government." House Minority Leader Richard
Gephardt said he "was unaware of the administration's move."
Senator Robert Byrd, the Senate President pro tempore, third
in line to succeed the President, was also not informed. Aides
to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, second in succession, also
The Bush-Cheney "regime," that being the only
descriptor that comes to mind for it, is playing fast and loose
with the U.S. Constitution, demonstrating that they are not
upholding the oath of office they took on January 20, 2001.
America must come out of its catatonic state. It is time to
recall the words of Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
in his famous book, The Gulag Archipelago:
"And how we burned in the camps latter, thinking:
What would things have been like if . during periods of mass
arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter
of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their
lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door
and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they
had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs
hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers,
or whatever else was at hand? After all, you knew ahead of time
that those blue caps were out at night for no good purpose.
And you could be sure ahead of time that you'd be cracking the
skull of a cutthroat. Or what about the Black Maria sitting
out there on the street with one lonely chauffeur---what if
it had been driven off or its tires spiked? The Organs would
very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport
and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst; the cursed machine
would have ground to a halt! If...if...We didn't love freedom
enough. And even more. We had no awareness of the real situation.
We spent ourselves in one unrestrained outburst in 1917, and
then we hurried to submit. We submitted with pleasure! .We
purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward."
The United Nations must recognize that one of its founding
members is drifting dangerously towards totalitarianism - a
prospect that endangers the peace and freedom of the entire world.
Perhaps it's time they intervene.