Saturday, April 23, 2011

Glenn Greenwald on civil liberties

One can hardly see Glenn Greenwald's name these days when its not followed by something along the lines of "pre-eminent progressive spokesperson on civil liberties." We all know that he's a constitutional and civil rights lawyer turned journalist and that he has focused most of his writing on the issues of executive privilege and torture.

But I find it hard to square the idea of a progressive spokesperson on civil liberties with this blog post he wrote about illegal immigration back in 2005.

And yet few problems are more pressing. Over the past several years, illegal immigrants have poured into the United States by the millions. The wave of illegals entering the country is steadily increasing. The people living in the border states of California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico know this flow has to be drastically slowed and then halted. The situation is so dire in that region that the Democratic Governors of Arizona and New Mexico were forced to declare States of Emergency as a result of the flow of illegals into their states and the resulting, massive problems which it brings.

The parade of evils caused by illegal immigration is widely known, and it gets worse every day. In short, illegal immigration wreaks havoc economically, socially, and culturally; makes a mockery of the rule of law; and is disgraceful just on basic fairness grounds alone. Few people dispute this, and yet nothing is done...

The White House [George W. Bush at the time] does worse than nothing; to the extent it acts on this issue at all, it is to introduce legislation designed to sanction and approve of illegal immigration through its “guest worker” program, a first cousin of all-out amnesty for illegal immigrants...

There already is a “closed sign on the border” when it comes to illegal immigration. It’s called the law. The problem is that the “closed sign” isn’t being enforced because the Federal Government, which has its interfering, power-hungry hands in virtually everything else, has abdicated its duty in one of the very few areas where it was actually meant to be: border security...

The notion that our nation's laws ought to be enforced and that law-breakers should not be rewarded are not controversial ideas among most voters. The politicians of either party who show fortitude and leadership on this issue will inspire affection among this substantial and non-ideological segment of the voting population.

It becomes a bit difficult to think in terms of a progressive champion on civil rights when that person is claiming that enforcement is the only answer to this "dire situation"...all while equating a guest-worker program with "amnesty." The focus for Greenwald is all on what illegal immigrants are doing to the country. I see no concern about their plight or how we are treating them. That's all a pretty right-wing approach to the issue.

But this was back in 2005, perhaps Greenwald has changed his position. Perhaps...but a simple google search shows not one word written about immigration since that time. So back in 2008, when Bush's ICE agents were trampling on the constitution with their raids in places like Postville, Iowa and Laurel, MS, the preeminent progressive writer on civil liberties had nothing to say.

This got me curious. The other big civil liberties issue in this country is, in my opinion, the problems with our criminal justice system. So once again, I did a simple google search. From what I can find, Mr. Greenwald has written one article on that topic...praising Senator Jim Webb's courage in taking on the issue of prison reform. Otherwise, not a word.

I'm not here today to speak about the veracity of Greenwald's critiques on things like executive privilege and torture. But I do think we need to re-calibrate the idea that he is a spokesperson for the left on civil liberties with such a poor track record on that topic.


  1. Yes Glenn is a piece of er work...

  2. Greenwald's response:

  3. aslam

    I'm glad to hear that he's re-thought his position on illegal immigration.

    I wonder if you or Greenwald have links to any of this:

    "I've written many times since then about how immigrants are exploited by the Right for fear-mongering purposes."

    As I said above, I did a google search and didn't find anything.

  4. aslam

    And one other thing, I see that Greenwald was not able to answer a simple question without throwing in a typical dig about "Obama cultists."

    He once again demonstrates that he is incapable of dialogue about issues without resorting to demeaning attacks.

  5. Thanks for linking to Citizen Orange, hermano. I had no idea Greenwald had written a nativist post like that, and while I do appreciate the issues he highlights I too have been discouraged when he fails to bring up what you rightly describe as the front line of civil liberties issues in the U.S.


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