Ecuador Stands-Up to Britain…while the U.S. Genuflects
By Sabina Clarke
There is a parallel to be drawn between the U.S. and Ecuador with the news that Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder hunted by the U.S., Britain and Sweden, has been granted asylum by the courageous little country of Ecuador.
Ecuador has the temerity to stand-up to Britain, a former superpower while displaying a sense of fairness and justice and social conscience that the U.S. and Sweden and Britain seem to lack.
Ecuador’s bold stance is in sharp contrast to the submissiveness of the U.S. Attorney General and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who, so far, have caved in to Britain’s demands contained in the subpoenas for certain taped interviews conducted by the Boston College oral history ‘Belfast Project.’
The taped interviews sought are connected to a 40-year-old murder case in Northern Ireland — a murder that was never investigated from the start but is of sudden interest now.
That these subpoenas based on the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, MLAT, were not squashed from the start, does not bode well for the protection of the constitutional rights of all Americans guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
Unfortunately, the Boston College legal challenge has been masked and successfully marginalized as primarily an academic issue relating to confidentiality and the protection and preservation of academic research—a worthy cause in itself but not one that necessarily resonates with all Americans—and an ‘Irish’ issue—since it pertains to the period in Northern Ireland known as ‘The Troubles.’
The main outcry has been from well-intentioned Irish American organizations lobbying Washington politicians and bombarding the mainstream media with joint statements—all to little or no avail.
The outrage should come from all American citizens who care about protecting their rights as outlined in the First Amendment which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The 1st Amendment issue raised is the denial of American citizens’ rights to petition the government for redress of their grievances. In this case, the grievance is scholars being forced by the U.S. government to turn over the interviews and then not being permitted to challenge the government’s actions.
Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals decided that, pursuant to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, MLAT, between the U.S. and U.K., the Belfast Project Director journalist and author Ed Moloney and author, journalist and ex-IRA member Anthony McIntyre who conducted the interviews with ex-IRA members did not even have the right to be heard or to assert a challenge that the request for evidence into the 40-year old killing was not the result of a police investigation made in good faith.
Consequently, the enforcement of the MLAT means that American citizens ironically have fewer rights when served with a subpoena from a foreign nation than when served with a subpoena from a U.S. law enforcement agency. Did the U.S. Senate and the President realize the adverse effects of this treaty with Britain when it was ratified? And there is the burning question of the misuse of the MLAT treaty in this particular instance.
The real news—that seems to have escaped the news media and the general public—in the Boston College tape stand-off is not the trumped up investigation of a dormant 40-year-old murder case in a foreign country but the prospective loss of our constitutional rights.