by Joe Scarry
I won’t be in the gallery when the trial of the NATO3 starts in Chicago today. The usual public access to the Cook County court system has been suspended; the courts have been overtaken by the Obama security state and its rules.
The foundation of the American system is trials that take place in “open court.” Courtrooms are fundamentally public spaces; a few spaces are reserved for the officers of the court – the judge, the lawyers, etc. – but there should never be any mistake about the fact that what is taking place there is to serve the public, and is subject to scrutiny by the public.
I got a taste of this a few years ago when I was working on a patent case. A lawsuit had been filed against Gillette for patent infringement, and we were beginning a trial in U.S. Federal Court in downtown Chicago. When it got time to get into the details of Gillette’s actual infringement of the patent, the attorney for Gillette argued that the court should be cleared, and the transcripts of the proceeding be sealed, lest the company be irreparably harmed by the leakage of the details of their manufacturing process. The judge gently but firmly reminded counsel for Gillette that the institution of “open court” is rather important in our system; she wasn’t going to start messing with it without a darn good reason. (She did request that if there were any industrial spies working for Gillette competitors in the courtroom, they should please leave.)
So I am saddened that the judge in the NATO3 case now taking place in Chicago has set up rules that are clearly intended to keep the public out of the courtroom. Even more shocking to me than the fact that members of the public are barred from the gallery unless they (a) make an in-person visit to the court building at 26th and California a full day in advance of the day they wish to attend and register; and (b) submit to a background check, is the fact that the judge tried (but was talked out of) barring observers from taking notes of the proceeding.
OK, we’re getting used to our government conducting their affairs in secret. (By the way, that is one of the bizarre features of a “show trial” — it is conducted for maximum publicity but there is nothing truly “public” about it.) Under our increasingly secret-driven government, the people get to see NOTHING about the conduct of the government. On the other hand, the government sees EVERYTHING about us. And so, if just one shred of truth manages to get into the public view as a result of this trial, it should be the way surveillance was used by the Obama administration against the Occupy movement.
The story of the surveillance of the NATO3 — the REAL story to come out of the trial in Chicago this week — is the tip of the iceberg of a national program of surveillance against anyone and everyone who participated in the Occupy Movement.
I predict that by the time the NATO3 trial is over, people will be saying, “Before Edward Snowden, before the revelations about the NSA, we already had clear signs that the US government wanted total surveillance over us. Just look at how they reacted the minute they started to see dissent from the general public: the Occupy Movement.”