Marjorie Cohn – President National Lawyers Guild
Steve Heller – Whistleblower
Previously Aired On: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 – Listen to the Show!
Marjorie Cohn is Professor of Law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and president of the National Lawyers Guild.
She is known mostly for her columns commenting on legal issues involving the Bush administration. Her weekly columns appear in AlterNet, Counterpunch, CommonDreams, After Downing Street, ZNet, and GlobalResearch. Beyond that, she is a commentator for the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR and Pacifica Radio. Aside from these, activities she lectures throughout the world on human rights and US foreign policy.
Marjorie Cohn’s book Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law describes the six most important ways the Bush Administration has weakened the rule of law. Marjorie Cohn explains what we can do to remedy the administration’s breaches of statutory, constitutional, and international law including political and legal remedies.
On May 6, 2008, Professor Cohn gave testimony before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties House Judiciary Committee which in part reads:
What does torture have in common with genocide, slavery, and wars of aggression? They are all jus cogens. Jus cogens is Latin for “higher law” or “compelling law.” This means that no country can ever pass a law that allows torture. There can be no immunity from criminal liability for violation of a jus cogens prohibition.
The United States has always prohibited the use of torture in our Constitution, laws executive statements and judicial decisions. We have ratified three treaties that all outlaw torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. When the United States ratifies a treaty, it becomes part of the Supreme Law of the Land under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, says, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture.”
Meet Steve Heller — Whistle-blower Famous for Exposing Diebold Skullduggery and Assisting Kucinich with the Articles of Impeachment.
Declaring in riveting, often gut-wrenching detail on Tuesday, June 10, 2008, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) read his 35 Articles of Impeachment against George W. Bush on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Prior to filing the Articles of Impeachment, Kucinich consulted Brad Friedman of The BRAD BLOG about the electoral crimes of the Bush administration. Brad asked Election Protection Strike Force blogger Steve Heller to assist with research and documentation, Armed with this vital ammunition, Kucinich framed Article XXVIII, “Tampering With Free And Fair Elections, Corruption Of The Administration Of Justice,” and Article XXIX, “Conspiracy To Violate The Voting Rights Act Of 1965.”
Heller became known to legions of election protection activists as the Diebold Whistle-blower in January, 2004. While working as a word processor at the law firm representing Diebold, Heller saw documents proving Diebold was violating state election laws by knowingly peddling voting machine software that had not received the state certification required by law.
Faced with a difficult moral dilemma – either say nothing and respect attorney-client privilege, or expose Diebold’s criminal acts against clean elections — Heller chose to protect our elections, and thus our Republic, by copying and releasing the documents to the press and to California’s Secretary of State. Heller continues to acknowledge that he committed a serious crime in breaking attorney-client privilege. But what is illegal is not always wrong.
Meanwhile, Diebold’s defective and illegal software quickly broke down in California’s March, 2004, primary election. Diebold’s failed software left 40,000 voters unable to cast a ballot.
California’s then-Secretary of State Kevin Shelly decertified Diebold’s touch screen voting systems statewide for what he called ”fraudulent actions by Diebold.” “Their performance, their behavior, is despicable,” and “deceitful,” Shelly said. It was the documents Steve Heller exposed that provided undeniable proof of Diebold’s despicable and deceitful behavior.
While Heller was seen as a hero and a brave whistle-blower to election protection activists, he was indicted on three felony counts; unauthorized access to a computer, second-degree burglary, and receiving stolen goods. The charges carried a potential of 12 years in state prison.
Eventually, Heller pleaded guilty to one felony count of unauthorized access to a computer, paid $10,000 in restitution to the law firm, and was sentenced to three years of probation. The other two charges were dropped. At this time, he is still on probation.
The criminal charges against the heroic Heller sent a message to other potential whistle-blowers; keep your mouth shut, even if the crime you see undermines the foundations of our Republic.