White House Dep[uty Security Advisor Ben Rhodes on Iran

White House Deputy Security Advisor Ben Rhodes on Iran:

“Bottom line is, this is the best opportunity we’ve had to resolve the Iranian issue diplomatically, certainly since President Obama came to office, and probably since the beginning of the Iraq war. So no small opportunity, it’s a big deal. This is probably the biggest thing President Obama will do in his second term on foreign policy. This is healthcare for us, just to put it in context.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Obysmal

While I have no quarrel with many of President Obama's positions, his record has been rather abysmal in respect to civil liberties. I think that we expected more from the vaunted constitutional scholar. All I can say is thank god for both of the Senators from Oregon, the only two people in the Senate that appear to actually give a damn. My own Senator Feinstein seems to function more as a water carrier for the administration.

The President asks that we simply trust him, but strips away the opportunity for real oversight and accountability, even from Congress. Some would say that that mind set is the first step on the road to fascism.

"I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution." -- Barack Obama (March 2007)

Hmm, does he? Talk as they say, is cheap.

Today Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, wrote an open letter to John Brennan, the CIA Chief in waiting, decrying his failure to provide Congress with the secret legal opinions defining the government’s capacity to pursue and kill US citizens suspected of involvement in terrorist activities.

Wyden has tried to get the information for two years, by law members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence  have access to classified legal opinions – but, Wyden writes, the Obama administration has denied him access to the opinions governing targeted assassinations of American citizens. From RT.com:
"The senator has also requested a list of countries in which the intelligence community has used its “lethal counterterrorism authorities,” saying that the committee has the right to know “countries where United States intelligence agencies have killed or attempted to kill people. The fact that this request was denied reflects poorly on the Obama Administration’s commitment to cooperation with congressional oversight,” the letter continues.
He also asks Brennan to prepare to discuss a massive recent Senate Intelligence Report on the CIA's torture techniques and interrogation methods. Wyden seems to be particularly interested in hearing about why the CIA “repeatedly provided inaccurate information about its interrogation program to the White House, the Justice Department, and Congress.”
Brennan is chief counterterrorism advisor to President Obama, who nominated Brennan as his next director of the Central Intelligence Agency on January 7, 2013. Brennan now faces a Senate confirmation."
From EFF :
"Both in 2010 and 2011, Obama administration officials promised to work to declassify secret FISA court opinions that contained “important rulings of law.” These opinions would shed light on whether and how Americans’ communications have been illegally spied on. Since then, the administration has refused to declassify a single opinion, even though the administration admitted in July that the FISA court ruled that collection done under the FAA had violated the Fourth Amendment rights of an unknown number of Americans on at least one occasion.
Starting with the precept that “secret law is inconsistent with democratic governance,” Sen. Jeff Merkley’s amendment would force the government to release any FISA court opinions that contain significant interpretations of the FISA Amendments Act so the American public can know how it may or may not be used against them."
Secrecy News writes of an administration that due to Congressional laxness (ineptitude?) is now no longer accountable to anyone.

Missile Dread. Read this article regarding the harm that drone strikes are doing to United States image globally.

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Shortly after the President was elected he issued a memorandum promising more openness and transparency in his administration. It was titled,“Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies” on “Transparency and Open Government.”

"I direct the Chief Technology Officer [Aneesh Chopra (since succeeded by Todd Park)], in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive."

By all objective accounts, his policy has not been effective, if anything he is less transparent than his predecessor. 19 out of 20 Obama cabinet agencies have failed to respond to FOIA requests as required by his directive.

“We were pretty excited when he first came in about his commitment to transparency — that seemed pretty good compared to the Bush years,” said Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an open-government group. “Unfortunately, it hasn’t panned out that way. If anything, the Obama administration is less transparent than prior administrations.”

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More on FOIA. The FOIA Whiteout.

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The President has a very mixed record in regards to whistleblowers, prosecuting some of them very aggressively under the Espionage Act.

"The Obama administration has charged more people (six) under the Espionage Act for the alleged mishandling of classified information than all past presidencies combined. (Prior to Obama, there were only three such cases in American history, one being Daniel Ellsberg, of Nixon-era Pentagon Papers fame.) The most recent Espionage Act case is that of former CIA officer John Kiriakou, charged for allegedly disclosing classified information to journalists about the horrors of waterboarding. Meanwhile, his evil twin, former CIA officer Jose Rodriguez, has a best-selling book out bragging about the success of waterboarding and his own hand in the dirty work."

Obama has recently signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and his signing statement is causing more tremors with potential whistleblowers. The text of the NDAA expanded whistleblower protections for employees of defense contractors who expose waste and corruption. President Obama’s signing statement announced that the administration could ignore that provision because it “would interfere with my authority to manage and direct executive branch officials.” Experts are worried that this signing statement will actually remove the inherent protections offered in the bill.

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The Department of Justice record has been quite atrocious, the draconian penalties and intimidation used by U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz in the prosecution of people like Aaron Swartz is shocking. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann now has the suicides of two hackers on his record. Try for three, Stevie? Swartz disseminated widely available information as a political statement for free access and was treated worse than a murderer or rapist. Interesting questions over at TechDirt. Why was the Secret Service involved at all in the Swartz case?

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From HuffPo John W. Whitehead 11/13/2012 - Our Civil Liberties: What Exactly Is Obama's Track Record? 
"Not only did Obama continue many of the most outrageous abuses of the George W. Bush administration (which were bad enough), including indefinite detention and warrantless surveillance of American citizens, but he also succeeded in expanding the power of the "imperial president," including the ability to assassinate American citizens abroad and unilaterally authorize drone strikes resulting in the deaths of countless innocent civilians, including women and children.
Obama has a lot to account for over the course of his first four years in office, particularly in terms of the erosion of our civil liberties. Just consider some of the assaults on our freedoms that took place under Obama's watch, either as a result of his continuing Bush's policies, enacting his own misguided policies or simply because he did nothing to counter them.
In March 2009, only two months after being elected, Obama defended Bush's unconstitutional National Security Agency spying program in court. Obama went so far as to insist that actions authorized by the president, including illegally spying on American citizens, should be free from any judicial scrutiny whatsoever.
In April 2009, the Department of Homeland Security launched a program, Operation Vigilant Eagle, which calls for surveillance of military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, characterizing them as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be "disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war." Coupled with the DHS' report on "Rightwing Extremism," which broadly defines right-wing extremists as individuals and groups "that are mainly anti-government, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely," these tactics bode ill for anyone seen as opposing the government -- whether it be an Occupier, Tea Party supporter or a free speech protester.
In July 2009, Obama threatened to veto an oversight bill that would have required the president to inform lawmakers about covert CIA activities.
In February 2010, the Department of Defense issued a U.S. Army field manual detailing the prospective internment and resettlement of American citizens in the event of another terrorist attack or natural disaster on U.S. soil. The leaked document confirmed the fears of many government critics, "from the Patriot movement on the right to Occupy on the left to Anonymous, anarchists, organized racists, survivalists, and plain old conspiracy theorists in between."
In June 2011, a Department of Education "SWAT team" forced their way into the home of a California man, handcuffed him, and placed his three children in a squad car while they conducted a search of his home, allegedly over falsified student loans. Raids of this type are becoming increasingly common -- more than 50,000 such raids occur every year in America -- with federal agencies such as the State Department, Department of Energy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service laying claim to their own SWAT teams. Also in June 2011, the FBI granted its 14,000 agents expansive additional powers, allowing them to investigate individuals using highly intrusive monitoring techniques, including infiltrating suspect organizations with confidential informants and photographing and tailing suspect American citizens, without having any factual basis for suspecting them of wrongdoing.
In September 2011, two American citizens were killed during a drone attack in Yemen as part of a government "kill list" operation in which Obama personally directs who should be targeted for death by military drones. Drone strikes, a signature policy of the Obama administration, have tripled since Obama took office.
In December 2011, the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which mandates that anyone suspected of terrorism against the United States be held in military custody indefinitely. This provision extends to American citizens on American territory. It was quietly signed into law by Obama on New Year's Eve.
In February 2012, Obama signed the FAA Reauthorization Act, which opens up American skies for the domestic use of armed surveillance drones, a $30 billion per year industry. Incredibly, no civil liberties protections for Americans were included in the legislation. By 2020, it is estimated that at least 30,000 drones will be crisscrossing the nation's skies equipped with anti-personnel weapons and surveillance devices.
In March 2012, Congress overwhelmingly passed and Obama signed the anti-protest "Trespass Bill" -- legislation that makes it a federal crime to protest or assemble in the vicinity of protected government officials. The bill's language is so overly broad as to put an end to free speech, political protest and the right to peaceably assemble in all areas where government officials happen to be present. That same month, Obama issued an executive order stating that in the case of a war or national emergency, the federal government has the authority to take over almost every aspect of American society.
In April 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court -- again at the urging of the Obama administration -- declared that any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (i.e., they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense), can be subjected to a strip search by police or jail officials without reasonable suspicion that the arrestee is carrying a weapon or contraband.
In July 2012, the Obama administration began allowing the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) to store and "critically assess" information on innocent Americans for up to five years. Data recorded by the NCTC includes "records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records," among other things.
In September 2012 and in the months preceding it, in major cities across the country, including Boston, Miami, Little Rock, and Los Angeles, the U.S. military carried out training exercises involving Black Hawk helicopters and uniformed soldiers. The exercises occurred in the middle of the night, with the full cooperation of the local police forces and generally without forewarning the public.
In October 2012, it was revealed that the Obama administration has been "secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the 'disposition matrix.'" The matrix goes beyond the president's kill list to detail suspects beyond the reach of American drones. This disposition matrix is also overseen by the NCTC."
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Obama's backtracking on state's rights in regards to respecting medical marijuana laws is legendary. The Ogden memo, various campaign promises, all evaporated at some point in his first term like, well, smoke.

Add the ineptitude of Eric Holder's g-men in Operation Fast and Furious and you have a Justice Department simply out of control. Couple that with an SEC that lets the big guys walk and has a nasty habit of letting the banks get a wrist slap and a fine and then settle without admitting any culpability. HSBC launders billions in drug profits and walks away scot free. Aaron Swartz is hounded to death. And I guess we shouldn't forget that Obama's DOJ gave immunity to the people who tortured for George Bush.

The fact that things might be even worse under a Romney Administration is immaterial. If we want to keep our intellectual integrity we need to ask hard questions of our elected officials and demand that they respect and represent our constitution no matter what party they belong to. This President's record in these matters is seriously blemished. Maybe even worse than Bush.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/

Try this for potential civil liberty abuses

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Abysmal does not begin to describe Obama's record on civil (and other) rights.

Anonymous said...

crooks and liars picked this up ready for extra hits?

love you

Buzz

Anonymous said...

The continuation of the erosion of our civil liberties is a function of the ruling class irrespective of who occupies the White House. They take our money via Wall Street and they take away our rights to protest. Emerson's 'Civil Disobedience' should be required reading for those that pose the question, "But what can I do?" As regards our civil liberties I believe the Who are still touring with "Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss". RFC talking back at you Robert.

Wade said...

I am still in shock about Aaron. All I can say is Rest In Peace or at least try to.

A sorrowful death to say the least...

Anonymous said...

Good article. Why does homeland security need 1.5 billion bullets along with 2500 assault vehicles. Sounds historical to me of past countries wanting total domination of citizens