Originally posted 2/11/11 on Examiner.com (PRIOR TO THE SIGNING OF THE NDAA)
The PATRIOT Act comes up for a one year renewal next week, and House leaders are intent on reaffirming the government’s surveillance capabilities. To the surprise of some, the Obama administration also supports the act’s extension, without reform. In fact, the White House issued a prepared statement last Tuesday stating that the President would prefer that the act be renewed for a period of not one year, but three!
The Act was already renewed once by the Obama administration. Despite his campaign promise to revise the PATRIOT Act to include extensive government oversight provisions, in February of 2010 the President signed off on an unconditional one year extension of the controversial piece of legislation.
This is simply more evidence to support the growing recognition that – cable news aside – we do not live in a country governed by a two party system. Obama has been called the velvet glove to George Bush’s iron fist, and perhaps rightly so. When it comes to civil liberties and individual privacy, his record over the last three years is strikingly similar to that of his predecessor.
Obama took office on January 20th, 2009.
January 22 2009 – Obama orders closure of Guantanamo Bay “within one year”. At that time he stated: “This is me following through on not just a commitment I made during the campaign, but I think an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct, not just when it’s easy, but also when it’s hard.” As of today (February 11 2011), the facility remains open. In fact, the detention center just recently made headlines when one of its detainees died in the shower after “exercising”.
May 22 2009 – Obama proposes prolonged, indefinite detention of enemy combatants. This is a good one. Obama delivered a speech at the National Archives, in which he stated that even if a full governmental investigation of certain prisoners fails to prove their involvement in terrorist activity, the prisoners may still be required to be held for an indefinite period of time (without trial, of course) because they “nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States.”
July 14 2009 – Obama’s lawyers defend the Bush program of warrantless wiretapping. Once again, despite having pledged to do away with it on the campaign trail (“…no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens…no more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient”), Obama and his Justice Department lawyers went to court, arguing that to overturn the program now might expose state secrets and endanger national security.
January 27 2010 – Obama continues his predecessor’s practice of assembling “high-value target” lists (which include American citizens) that are meant to be killed or captured. According to the Post’s correction: “The military’s Joint Special Operations Command maintains a target list that includes several Americans… U.S. officials have said that the government is prepared to kill U.S. citizens who are believed to be involved in terrorist activities that threaten Americans.”
February 27 2010 – Obama signs unconditional one year extension of the Bush PATRIOT Act.
April 6 2010 – Obama approves the assassination order for American citizen and Muslim cleric suspected of terrorist activity. In keeping with the high-value target list, Obama gave the OK to assassinate American born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who the government suspects of engaging in terrorist activity, no matter where in the world he’s found. No due process, no trial. Just execution.
May 6 2010 – Terrorism Expatriation Act proposed by Lieberman, supported by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Lieberman, lap dog to the globalists, took advantage of the attempted Times Square bombing to propose legislation that would strip an American citizen of his or her citizenship should they be suspected of “allying themselves with terrorists”. Clinton, on behalf of the Obama administration, lauded the idea and said “United States citizenship is a privilege. It is not a right. People who are serving foreign powers — or in this case, foreign terrorists — are clearly in violation, in my personal opinion, of that oath which they swore when they became citizens.” This is nonsense, of course, as there is already a provision in the Constitution outlining the proper method of dealing with citizens found to be working in collusion with an enemy power. And it does not involve depriving them of due process.
May 9 2010 – Eric Holder proposes the suspension or “modification” of Miranda rights for all citizens suspected of engaging in terrorist activity. His justification was muddled at best. He stated that “We’re now dealing with international terrorism. … I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public-safety exception [to the Miranda protections].” Why international terrorism should affect the legal treatment of American citizens (the only folks to whom Miranda rights apply), he did not care to explain.
December 20 2010 – Obama extends Bush tax cuts to richest 1% of Americans. Recently in the news, this admittedly has little to do with civil liberties. However, it does indicate (much like the bailout) that those in power cater only to one another, and not to the majority of the American people.
January 24 2011 – Obama advocates a kill-switch for the internet, to be placed in the hands of the President, and only to be used in case of “cyberemergency”. This is the second time the question of a nationwide “kill-switch” has been brought up by the administration. Obama plans on reintroducing legislation that would give the Executive Branch the power to seize control of all lines of public communication. This came only one day prior to the Egyptian uprising against President Hosni Mubarak, who was roundly criticized by the United States and other Western powers for his oppressive tactic of restricting internet and mobile phone usage.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s stated policy of transparency is under fire as well. It’s reported that Obama has rejected roughly 50% more Freedom of Information requests than did Bush. The administration even made the absurd argument that anything that might cause the President or any high-ranking White House official embarrassment should be exempted from the Freedom of Information Act.
Additionally, Obama’s Justice Department declined to release the transcripts of Dick Cheney’s interview regarding the Valerie Plame leak. And the administration has consistently refused to release the names of various visitors to the White House over the course of Obama’s Presidency, including the names of numerous health care executives and lobbyists who met secretly with the President and White House staffers as Obama was pushing for health care reform.
Is Obama the “change we can believe in”? Or is he, like Bush and Cheney before him, working towards stripping away our civil liberties on behalf of well financed interests working behind the scenes?