The perverse reality of the American criminal justice system is perhaps best illustrated by the juxtaposition of two cases that have recently played out in the media, the cases of Julian Assange and Jon Corzine. Assange is the founder of Wikileaks, a website that facilitates whistle-blowing by posting information for the general public. Corzine is the former governor of New Jersey who most recently was CEO of failed brokerage firm MF Global. Both have been accused by various pundits and government officials of breaking the law, and government investigations of both men have been carried out by Eric Holder and the Obama Justice department.
Corzine is accused of stealing customer funds that were deposited in supposedly “segregated” accounts, but were in fact used by MF Global to secure lines of credit used in the company’s proprietary trading operations. According to the New York Times, although approximately $1 billion in customer funds somehow disappeared, none of the company’s top executives, including Corzine, will be held liable.
Assange is accused of publishing classified government documents that showed the U.S. military had engaged in various war crimes during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has also published leaked diplomatic cables and other material that the powers-that-be in Washington would rather you not read. Most importantly, no action that Assange is accused of resulted in the loss of the life, liberty, or property of any individual. In other words, unlike the thousands of investors who lost money in the collapse of MF Global, there were no victims of Assange’s supposed “crimes.” They are crimes only in the sense that they were violations of arbitrary rules created by the state.
The most interesting thing about all of this is the disparity in the reactions of the state’s anointed “law enforcers.” While Corzine walks free, and is in fact rumored to be about to start a new hedge fund where he will presumably have access to other people’s money once again, Assange is hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Ecuador has granted Assange asylum from extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for “questioning” in regard to a rape allegation. The Swedish charges are seen by many, including myself, as a front for getting Assange to Sweden so that he can then be extradited to the United States. Britain is considering violating hundreds of years of diplomatic tradition, as well as various international treaties, in order to extract Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy. If Assange is extradited to the U.S., he could face the death penalty for “espionage.” Given the Obama administration’s recent tactic of “extra-judicial killing,” however, it is very possible he won’t live long enough to face a jury.
So we have arrived at a point in history where one man, a member of the international banking elite, can steal hundreds of millions of dollars and walk away scot-free, while another, apparently just an average “citizen,” is the subject of an international manhunt and threats of summary execution for publishing material embarrassing to the state’s armed enforcers. The current system of indefinite detention and summary execution is incompatible with the idea of a “free country.” It says something about the state of the world when a minor South American nation is the one granting asylum to champions of free speech and the Islamic Republic of Iran is apparently the only nation capable of enforcing laws against fraud by bankers. Meanwhile, the U.S. is hunting for “terrorists” engaged in publishing material it disagrees with while the massive fraudsters on Wall Street laugh all the way to the bank.