Law Professor Questions The Absurd Secrecy Around The TPP Agreement

from the why-is-this-acceptable? dept

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by law professor David Levine for his radio show/podcast, Hearsay Culture. The episode has aired on the radio, and I believe it will go up as a podcast soon as well. However, he's also written a fantastic article summarizing the absurdity of the secrecy around the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement:
Imagine being invited to formally offer input on a huge piece of legislation, a proposed international agreement that could cover everything from intellectual property rights on the Internet to access to medicine to investment rights in the agreement’s signatory countries. For 10 minutes, you’d be able to say whatever you’d like about the proposed law—good, bad, or indifferent—to everyone involved in the negotiations. But there’s a caveat: All of your questions, all of your input, on what may be the most controversial part of the package, would have to be based on a version of the proposed international agreement that was 16 months old. And in that 16-month period, there were eight rounds of negotiations that could have changed any and all of the text to which you had access, but no one could tell you if that version was still accurate.

Would you still take the deal? This is not a hypothetical question; rather, this is the take-it-or-leave-it offer made to the public in May by the United States Trade Representative regarding the intellectual property rights chapter of the massively important but little-known Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).
Levine is learning, first-hand, about "transparency" -- USTR style, where everything is kept secret, but you're cheerful about telling people who actually would like to help and could provide valuable feedback to come along... but then they're never allowed to actually see the document in question.

This is a travesty. It's certainly not democracy. It's a joke carried out by a government department that appears to be out of control -- focused mainly on helping a few industry groups with little concern about the public, despite how widely they'll be impacted by such laws and rules.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Rikuo (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 2:30am

    Why haven't the guys doing this in the USTR been charged with treason? I certainly call it treason when they shamelessly hide the text of a bill that could become law. As Mike said, that is not democracy. That is not debating the law in public to see if the people will agree to follow it.

     

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      Zakida Paul (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 3:24am

      Re:

      What is this 'democracy' you speak of?

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 4:49am

      Re:

      Treason? Are you kidding? Break out the dictionary and try again.

       

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        silverscarcat (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 4:52am

        Re: Re:

        Okay.

        Here's the dictionary's term of Treason...

        Treason
        trea·son
        [tree-zuhn]
        noun
        1. the offense of acting to overthrow one's government or to harm or kill its sovereign.
        2. a violation of allegiance to one's sovereign or to one's state.
        3. the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery.

        Hmm... I DO believe that the USTR *IS* acting treasonous.

        After all, they fit the 3rd definition perfectly.

         

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          Rikuo (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 5:15am

          Re: Re: Re:

          2nd AND 3rd definition. The USTR allows the MPAA access to the text of the bill, but Congressmen? People from the government? Nope, looks like the USTR doesn't hold any allegiance to the state.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 6:07am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The USTR answers to the executive. I've heard nothing that indicates that that the USTR has betrayed that trust or confidence. In fact, the USTR receives instructions and acts upon them.

          Perhaps you should keep in mind that the USTR does not report to you. Since the charge was made in a legal context, perhaps you should consider how a legal dictionary defines it:

          "treason

          n. the crime of betraying one's country, defined in Article III, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." Treason requires overt acts and includes the giving of government security secrets to other countries, even if friendly, when the information could harm American security. Treason can include revealing to an antagonistic country secrets such as the design of a bomber being built by a private company for the Defense Department. Treason may include "espionage" (spying for a foreign power or doing damage to the operation of the government and its agencies, particularly those involved in security) but is separate and worse than "sedition," which involves a conspiracy to upset the operation of the government."

           

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            silverscarcat (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 7:20am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The USTR was created by the Legislative branch, and, if you note the third point that the dictionary brings up...

            "3. the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery."

            Do remember that the U.S. government is BUILT upon the trust and confidence of the CITIZENS.

            So, by the DEFINITIONS of what the U.S. Government is SUPPOSED to be, the USTR has BETRAYED the citizens AND the government of the United States by allowing only a select few (something that the founding fathers hated and one of the reasons why the U.S. split from the U.K. back in 1776) to see what's going on, instead of the public at large.

            So, by all accounts, the USTR *HAS* committed treason against the faith and trust of the citizens of the United States of America and SHOULD be tried for treason.

             

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            MrWilson, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:24am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "but is separate and worse than "sedition," which involves a conspiracy to upset the operation of the government."

            Then the legal definition is meaningless because it's not enforced. Both parties in Congress have been guilty of this definition of "sedition" for years.

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 9:11am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I heard that the ATF answers to the Department of Justice, how's that working out for them? I heard that the ATF sold guns to Mexican drug cartels.

             

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          John Fenderson (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:44am

          Re: Re: Re:

          After all, they fit the 3rd definition perfectly.


          Perhaps, but in the US, the dictionary definition of treason is not relevant.

           

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      John Fenderson (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 8:42am

      Re:

      Because while it's reprehensible and arguably unpatriotic, it's not actually treason.

      Sorry, this is a pet peeve of mine. people throw around the word "treason" pretty easily, but they're usually using it wrong. In the US, treason is defined in the Constitution:

      Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.


      "Giving Aid and Comfort to enemies" also means something very specific, and more than just being supportive or nice to them.

      In any case, the USTR has not committed treason as defined by the Constitution.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 10:05am

        Re: Re:

        ...people throw around the word "treason" pretty easily...

        This isn't a new phenomenon: People were already throwing the word “treason” around pretty easily... and had been throwing it around like that for a rather long time... in the late 1780s.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 2:51am

    I almost read that as "USSR," which is pretty appropriate considering what their intentions are, and that the consequences and enforcement mechanisms mirror that of Stalin's world.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 3:10am

    'It's a joke carried out by a government department that appears to be out of control'

    seems to me it should read

    'It's a joke carried out by a government that appears to be out of control'

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2012 @ 3:26am

    Some in the US government are under the impression that people can't touch them.

    They are wrong.

     

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    Mille Sabords (profile), Aug 1st, 2012 @ 7:04am

    Who is in charge ?

    Who gave those guy the authority to negotiate my rights (copyrights) in hiding ?
    Who sold me out ?

     

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