There are three standards when applying the rule of law to illegal, unlawful or criminal acts. The first is the standard applicable to private persons, say Edward Snowdon now accused of leaking classified NSA documents or Daniel Ellsberg once accused but never prosecuted for the publication of the secret Defense Department study on the folly of the Vietnam War. The second is for government officials, either elected or appointed, who are held to a higher standard due to the trust that is commensurate with the power that has been vested in them. The third is reserved for nation states.
The first rule is not constant; it changes from individual to individual depending on circumstance - today’s traitor is tomorrow’s hero. The third, the one for nation states is compromised by the fact that military or economic might makes right. It is the second, the rule of law controlling the actions of government officials, either elected or appointed, that has been dealt crippling blows.
Last week the Obama administration brokered a deal with the Taliban exchanging five Guantanamo detainees for an American prisoner of war. I am not going to argue the pro and cons of the exchange. That is a foreign affairs policy question which is exclusively within the province of the Executive branch. What I am going to do is simply point out that the President has broken the law, apparently with impunity.