"After the 9/11 attacks, the American people became convinced that one of our enemies was Islam, and muslims. And there was lots of talk about how not all muslims are a threat, but nonetheless the fear of Islam and muslims arose and pervaded the country because of the blame that was cast on that group for the 9/11 attacks. And so when it came to the time for government to get the power to do things like put people in prisons without any shred of due process, without the opportunity to be heard in court, or to be charged with a crime, the people they targeted were muslims almost exclusively because of the expectation, which turned out basically to be true, that the fear levels that Americans had of Muslims would make most Americans indifferent to that targetting and would make a lot of other Americans actively supportive of what was being done.
And this is how things happen throughout American history. There was a time when civil rights leaders were just as feared as Muslims were and they were the targets and before that Communists were. You can go back decade after decade to the founding and there’s always a set of people who are despised by the majority and they are always the ones that are targeted for civil liberties erosions. So this question has been plaguing civil liberties advocates for a long time, which is how do you convince a majority to care about what is being done to these minorities whom they fear and whom they fear as being different to they and who they actually think are people who have done things that are wrong."He then said:
"If you endorse the seizure of certain powers or the erosion of certain liberties when applied to a small group of people, it is impossible to confine those abuse of power simply to that small group. It has never happened in history."Then:
"It’s always war that puts Americans in fear and gets them to acquiesce to giving up their basic freedoms."
He said here:
"It is always the case, not sometimes, not usually, but always the case that civil liberties abridgments and abuses of core rights, extend beyond their original application."
"The problem - aside from the fact that we should care about abuses no matter who they apply to - is that once you start legitimizing that kind of government power, invariably it starts to extend to all forms of government dissent."
"A [civil liberties] abridgment for one person is an abridgment for everyone."
The effect of this abuse of power means the US cannot exercise moral authority or leadership, as Greenwald said:
"It’s made it impossible for the US to exercise moral leadership in the world. The US State department condemned China for detaining a group of dissidents without charging them or bringing them to a court. They just disappeared them. But a week earlier Barack Obama had signed an executive order ordering that Guantanamo detainees be held without any charges of any kind. So the Chinese, after they were done laughing, issued their own report sort of mocking the US condemnation."