Wikipedia defines “kangaroo court” as “a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted. It is essentially where the defendant has already been deemed guilty, and has little if any opportunities to object or defend himself.”
Across America and around the world, there is a growing debate about the scope and magnitude of invasions of privacy — and threats to liberty — from the government wielding the secret powers of the state to spy against individuals.
In America today, many of the most vital decisions about security and liberty are being removed from traditional American notions of democracy, the rule of law and a free press. While intrusions against individualism and privacy escalate with unprecedented power, American citizens, like Guantánamo detainees, are told there are many things we must not know.
Big Government collaborates with Big Business through secret deals creating sweeping invasions of privacy, employing secret programs, via secret actions and secret methods under secret laws, that are adjudicated by a secret court that hears secret arguments where only one side is allowed to present a case, making secret decisions that citizens are not allowed to read and the press is not allowed to report, creating a regime of security secrecy reminiscent of a one-party state.
Virtually every government intrusion is approved after proceedings that mock core principles of democratic values and adversarial justice where competing sides should make their case, neutral adjudicators should decide the outcome, informed citizens should preserve their right to protect their liberties and a free press — from Fox News to The New York Times — should fearlessly report the facts.
Americans are being told by the federal government and the court to surrender our inalienable right to give or withhold the informed consent of the governed.
Under the statute that governs the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, the chief justice of the Supreme Court selects 11 judges from those sitting on the federal bench. Chief Justice John Roberts, showing contempt for basic notions of judicial fairness, has selected 10 judges appointed by Republican presidents and only 1 judge appointed by a Democratic president. This creates a court with imbalanced membership that hears attorneys representing only one side of every case, renders verdicts that decide in favor of the same party and makes decisions kept secret from the nation, leaving the protection of liberty in the hands of an omnipresent state that exploits undisclosed rulings from Kafkaesque justice — in other words, a kangaroo court.
Americans who value liberty are in the position of people who would go to a casino and place their bets but would not be allowed to see the cards, who would lose every hand but then be ordered by the house to trust the dealer.
Membership on the court should be changed to include an equal number of judges selected by Democratic and Republican presidents. One-party justice should end. Citizens should be represented in every case by an advocate for civil liberties who is a renowned expert with security clearance.
Secret justice should end. Judicial decisions should be made public except in rare instances. A media shield law should be enacted. Consumers should have the right to a report from companies detailing private information amassed about them in pursuit of profit.
America deserves a profound public debate about security versus liberty.
When Big Brother unites Big Government and Big Business to monitor our minds and track our lives, every lesson of history teaches that we are sailing in very treacherous waters.
We should be a nation of informed citizens, not fearful sheep. These matters should be decided the American way, not by secret government or kangaroo courts.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.