Maybe Take It Seriously When Coup Advocates Talk About Throwing People in Guantanamo?

I read Ginni Thomas' texts to Mark Meadows and it turns out that the longer a forever prison stays open, the worse an assumption it is that only Those People end up there

Maybe Take It Seriously When Coup Advocates Talk About Throwing People in Guantanamo?
Virginia Thomas and her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Drew Angerer, via Getty.

Edited by Sam Thielman

I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT Ginni Thomas until I discovered that she thought about me.

Long story short: Five or so years ago, H.R. McMaster purged a guy, Rich Higgins, from Donald Trump's National Security Council staff for writing a shitposty memo that Higgins thought was brilliant. It was about Trump being besieged by a "cultural Marxist" coalition of "’deep state’ actors, globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans," Black Lives Matter, "ANTIFA working with Muslim Brotherhood doing business as MSA (Muslim Students' Association) and CAIR," that kind of thing. It so happened that he gave an interview about his theories to Ginni Thomas—wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and not someone I was previously aware did stuff like that.

Here's one of Ginni Thomas' questions, published at a loser’s now-defunct blog.

What's the role of Spencer Ackerman and compliant media to what you're describing as not being able to tell the truth about the War on Terror?1

Anyway, it turns out that from November 2020 to January 2021, Ginni Thomas hit White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows' phone 29 times with tips for conducting a coup. Her husband was the only vote on the Supreme Court to prevent the January 6 congressional committee from viewing Trump White House records that, we now know, contained his wife's advice about gambits to illegally nullify the 2020 election.

What is the role of Spencer Ackerman, Ginni?

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SO YOU SHOULD read these jewels for yourself. From the Post story linked above: "She sent [Meadows] a link to a YouTube video labeled 'TRUMP STING w CIA Director Steve Pieczenik, The Biggest Election Story in History, QFS-BLOCKCHAIN,'" is a vibe.

But this one, I think, is less a vibe than a statement of intent.

In the Nov. 5 message to Meadows, Thomas went on to quote a passage that had circulated on right-wing websites: “Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.”

Because this kind of stuff is written like it purports to describe stuff that's happened or imminent, it invites confusion from nonbelievers who, sensibly enough, say, but that didn't happen, so how can they say it did? But this is less ersatz-news than secular catechism. They're trying to manifest this reality. And if they can't manifest it now, they can seek to bring it about when next they get power. All their enemies, the nation's enemies,

“will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition”

Every single day Guantanamo Bay remains open is an invitation to Fill It Up With Some Bad Dudes. QAnon talked quite a lot about the uses of Guantanamo Bay. It tended not to attract too much journalistic emphasis—this was only like the fifth most batshit shit about QAnon—and I suspect there was some fact-check-this-and-it'll-go-away-ism happening there. Texts like Thomas'—and memos like Higgins'—indicate who, specifically, the people who seek to wield power unconstitutionally define as the Bad Dudes.

One of the things Guantanamo has taught us over the past 20 years is that the American legal system, already a deeply carceral structure, will accommodate indefinite and unconstitutional detention far more readily than it will challenge either. In his concurrence to the Abu Zubaydah case recently, Justice Thomas denied that "judicial deference to the Executive’s national-security judgments risks collapsing 'the many points of difference' between our Chief Executive and the 18th-century British monarch.’" Thomas rejoindered, "Not so. This Court’s standard of utmost deference bears little relation to 'the privilege the English crown enjoyed.'" Then he voted to cover up CIA torture as surely as he did to cover up his wife's texts.

As I’ve observed, Justice Stephen Breyer tacitly believes that good liberals could never end up in a place like Guantanamo—and in fairness to Breyer, they rarely do—while, sitting right beside him, his colleague votes to hide his wife's advice to put them there. During the summer of 2020, the Trump administration used the tools and institutions of the War on Terror against Black and leftist protesters, whom conservatives perceive as liberals. I submit to you that that's a less a redefinition of Terrorism than a return to a historical American norm, and a sneak preview.

Just because certain institutional safeguards held the last time does not mean they will hold the next time, or the time after that. If ever there is a lesson of the ongoing War on Terror, that is it. The War on Terror has not come close to reaching its final form. Unless it is actively dismantled, it will always slouch toward its fulfillment.

But I'm probably overreacting and it's cool that closing Guantanamo isn't a priority for the Biden administration or the Democratic Congress.

  1. Higgins said he didn’t like Spencer’s stories about anti-Muslim bigotry at the FBI. They won a National Magazine Award, which I assume Higgins also dislikes. There will be more for him to dislike in the future—Sam.