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Bill Moyers & Glenn Greenwald on the High Cost of Government Secrecy

Columnist Glenn Greenwald explains what the Boston bombings and U.S. se of government power.

People visit a make-shift memorial on Boylston Street on April 20, 2013, near the scene of the Boston Marathon explosions.
Photo Credit: AFP


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BILL MOYERS: Welcome. In the aftermath of the Boston bombings and the massive manhunt which led to the death of one suspect and the arrest of another, both of them Muslims, there have been calls for increased surveillance and scrutiny of the public at large and Muslims in particular.

On Fox News the other day, New York congressman Peter King said: “If you know a threat is coming from a certain community, that's where you have to look." Proceed with caution here, Mr. King. And first take a look at that “Council on Foreign Relations” analysis of an FBI study showing that from 1980 to 2001, around two-thirds of domestic terrorism was carried out by American extremists who were not Muslims. That number actually skyrocketed to 95 percent in the years immediately after 9/11. And the magazine “Mother Jones” found that of the 62 mass shootings in America since 1982 – mass killings defined as four deaths or more – 44 of the killers were white males.

My guest, the journalist and columnist Glenn Greenwald, was flying here from his home in Brazil as events in Boston were unfolding. The investigation once again raised issues of civil liberties in the fight against terrorists. So, we reached out to Glenn Greenwald, who, as a former constitutional and civil rights litigator, keeps his critical and contrarian eye on potential conflicts between national security and individual liberty.

Among his best-selling books: How Would a Patriot Act?And most recently: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful. Currently, Glenn Greenwald writes regularly for The Guardian. You can read him on their website. Welcome, Glenn. It's good to see you again.

GLENN GREENWALD: Great to be back.

BILL MOYERS: Was it right, in your opinion, for the suspect in Boston to be charged as a criminal rather than an enemy combatant?

GLENN GREENWALD: Absolutely. There were very few people who even took seriously the idea that he ought to be charged as an enemy combatant for many reasons, including the fact that he's an American citizen on US soil. And if there's one thing we're taught to think about our country, it's that the government can't punish people or put them in cages or threaten them with death without charging them with a crime, giving them a trial with a jury of their peers, and then convicting them beyond a reasonable doubt.

But the broader question is, should we change or radically alter or dismantle our standard protocols of justice in the name of terrorism. That's been the debate we've been having since the September 11th attack. And I'm firmly in the camp that we need not and should not do that. And therefore he should be treated like any other criminal.

BILL MOYERS: If it turns out that he and his brother had some significant contact with a radical organization back in their home country, would that change anything in your mind?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, I think that the most important thing that we need to start asking and if that were the case, this question would become even more urgent, is why is it that there seem to be so many people from so many different parts of the world willing to risk their lives or their liberty in order to bring violence to the United States, including to random Americans whom they don't know. There has to be something very compelling that drives somebody to do that. And this was the question that was asked in the wake of the 9/11 attack in the form of the sort of iconic question, "Why do they hate us?" And the government needed to answer that question because people were quite rightly asking. And the answer that was fed to them was, "Well, they hate us for our freedom."

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