The Cheney sadism endures. To Obama’s Shame

To the many hopeful Obama supporters, who stupidly thought Obama’s ‘war on terror’ policy would change from Bush’s ‘war on terror’ policy should prepare for a rude awaking. For Obama has maintained and/or intensified many of the policies implemented during the Bush presidency.

First, let us begin with indefinite detention. Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com writes,

For those who believe that there are certain types of hypocrisy and double standards too blatant and shameless even for the U.S. Government to invoke, I’d like to point out how wrong you are:

Before we get to the hypocrisy and double standards what exactly is indefinite detention?

“preventive detention” allows indefinite imprisonment not based on proven crimes or past violations of law, but of those deemed generally “dangerous” by the Government for various reasons (such as, as Obama put it yesterday, they “expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden” or “otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans”).  That’s what “preventive” means:  imprisoning people because the Government claims they are likely to engage in violent acts in the future because they are alleged to be “combatants.”

Yes, Obama is allowing indefinite detention as did Bush during is presidency. New York Times reporting on September 23, 2009:

The Obama administration has decided not to seek new legislation from Congress authorizing the indefinite detention of about 50 terrorism suspects being held without charges at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Instead, the administration will continue to hold the detainees without bringing them to trial based on the power it says it has under the Congressional resolution passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, authorizing the president to use force against forces of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In concluding that it does not need specific permission from Congress to hold detainees without charges, the Obama administration is adopting one of the arguments advanced by the Bush administration in years of debates about detention policies.

Greenwald continues by pointing out, via newspaper articles, the hypocrisy of the Obama administration. Here is an example from the Washington Post:

The Pakistani military is holding thousands of suspected militants in indefinite detention, arguing that the nation’s dysfunctional civilian justice system cannot be trusted to prevent them from walking free, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials. . . .

Top U.S. officials have raised concern about the detentions with Pakistani leaders, fearing that the issue could undermine American domestic and congressional support for the U.S.-backed counterinsurgency campaign in Pakistan and jeopardize billions of dollars in U.S. assistance.

Pakistani officials say that they are aware of the problem but that there is no clear solution: Pakistan has no applicable military justice system, and even civilian officials concede that their courts are not up to the task of handling such a large volume of complex terrorism cases. There is little forensic evidence in most cases, and witnesses are likely to be too scared to testify. . . .

The United States has not pushed for a specific solution but has encouraged Pakistan to begin handling the detainees within the law, U.S. officials said. . . . Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, an army spokesman, said the military is “extremely concerned” that the detainees will be allowed to go free if they are turned over to the civilian government. . . .

U.S. officials say they worry that the detentions will further inflame the Pakistani public at a time when the government here needs popular support for its offensives.

“They’re treating the local population with a heavy hand, and they’re alienating them,” said an Obama administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “As a result, it’s sort of a classic case going back to Vietnam; it [risks] actually creating more sympathy for the extremists.”

Next up on the list, Presidential assassinations of U.S citizens. Glenn Greenwald writes in January 2010:

Barack Obama, like George Bush before him, has claimed the authority to order American citizens murdered based solely on the unverified, uncharged, unchecked claim that they are associated with Terrorism and pose “a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. persons and interests.”  They’re entitled to no charges, no trial, no ability to contest the accusations.  Amazingly, the Bush administration’s policy of merely imprisoning foreign nationals (along with a couple of American citizens) without charges — based solely on the President’s claim that they were Terrorists — produced intense controversy for years.  That, one will recall, was a grave assault on the Constitution.  Shouldn’t Obama’s policy of ordering American citizens assassinated without any due process or checks of any kind — not imprisoned, but killed — produce at least as much controversy?

In the LA Times Vicki Divoll (former general counsel of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a former assistant general counsel for the CIA) writes:

According to media reports, the United States has taken the apparently unprecedented step of authorizing the “targeted killing” of one of its citizens outside a war zone — though the government has not officially acknowledged it.

Unnamed intelligence and counter-terrorism sources told reporters that the Obama administration had added Anwar al Awlaki, a Muslim cleric born in New Mexico, to the CIA list of suspected terrorists who may be captured or killed. Awlaki, believed to be in hiding in Yemen, has been linked to Nidal Malik Hasan, the Ft. Hood, Texas, shooter, and to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian charged with trying to blow up an airliner in December……..

……had the administration wanted merely to listen to Awlaki’s cellphone conversations or read his e-mails, it would have needed to check with another branch of government — the judiciary. But to target him for death, the executive branch appears to have acted alone.

It adds up to this: Awlaki’s right to privacy exceeds his right to life.

Since when has the fate of an American citizen — his privacy, his liberty, his life — rested solely within the hands of the executive branch of government?

And on April 7, 2010 Greenwald writes:

In late January, I wrote about the Obama administration’s “presidential assassination program,” whereby American citizens are targeted for killings far away from any battlefield, based exclusively on unchecked accusations by the Executive Branch that they’re involved in Terrorism.  At the time, The Washington Post‘s Dana Priest had noted deep in a long article that Obama had continued Bush’s policy (which Bush never actually implemented) of having the Joint Chiefs of Staff compile “hit lists” of Americans, and Priest suggested that the American-born Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was on that list.  The following week, Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, acknowledged in Congressional testimony that the administration reserves the “right” to carry out such assassinations.

Today, both The New York Times and The Washington Post confirm that the Obama White House has now expressly authorized the CIA to kill al-Alwaki no matter where he is found, no matter his distance from a battlefield.  I wrote at length about the extreme dangers and lawlessness of allowing the Executive Branch the power to murder U.S. citizens far away from a battlefield (i.e., while they’re sleeping, at home, with their children, etc.) and with no due process of any kind.  I won’t repeat those arguments — they’re here and here — but I do want to highlight how unbelievably Orwellian and tyrannical this is in light of these new articles today.

During the preceding months of this blog post there has been a debate surrounding the trials of the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The debate is whether terrorist should be tried in Federal civilian court or military tribunals. The Obama administration argued for the terrorist trials to be tried in Federal civilian courts because that is the rule of law in the US. Since then, however, it has become political unfeasible to hold the terrorist trials in Federal civilian court so the Obama administration has decided to go against the law of the land and try KSM in a military tribunal.

Obama said on November 19th:

“What I’m absolutely clear about is that I have complete confidence in the American people and our legal traditions and the prosecutors, the tough prosecutors from New York who specialize in terrorism”

Greenwald writes on March 31st:

The fact that Robert Gibbs went on MSNBC today and explicitly defended military commissions as just underscores the real point here:  the continuation and affirmative embrace of the Bush/Cheney civil liberties template by the Obama administration has converted that approach from what it once was (controversial right-wing radicalism) into what it now is (uncontroversial bipartisan consensus).  That’s why Robert Gibbs goes on television and defends the denial of civilian trials, which were once deemed by Democrats to be a Grave Assault on the Constitution.  That conversion of what were once Bush/Cheney Assaults on the Constitution into bipartisan consensus is, by far, the most significant and long-lasting impact Obama has had in this area.

The administration has decided to use Omar Khadr, who has been detained since he was 15 years old, as a military tribunal test dummy. On April 29th The Washington Independent writes:

Welcome to the first courtroom logjam of what officials here call military commissions 4.2.

Omar Khadr’s pre-trial hearing this morning experienced an unexplained hour-long delay. Court officers filtered in at 10 a.m.,  without a certain important individual: Omar Khadr.

The ACLU blog titled, “Make it up as we go along”, writes on April 29th about Omar Khadr’s trial:

Today’s uncertainty and confusion in the courtroom are the predictable result of the military commissions system where the rules are being made up as we go along. What struck me sitting in the courtroom is how unnecessary today’s courtroom circus was. At issue this week is whether Omar Khadr’s past statements to interrogators were made under coercion or torture, and should therefore be excluded from trial. The new rules contain some guidance on how to handle this issue, but the rules are untested.

In contrast, the federal criminal justice system has rules on the use of coerced statements that have been developed over centuries. A new rule book simply isn’t necessary if we transfer the Guantánamo cases to our tried and tested federal courts.

Remember after 9/11 Bush signed into law the Patriot Act, which along with many things, allowed the NSA to eavesdrop on American’s phone conversation? Well President Obama has continue this practice as well as signed an extension for the Patriot Act. Senator Ron Wyden wrote on October 28, 2009 on the Huffington Post:

The Patriot Actchanged the law to authorize the government to collect any records deemed “relevant to an investigation.”

The consequences of this change are tremendous, as there are limitless interpretations of the word “relevant.” And while it is known as the “business records” provision, it actually permits the collection of “any tangible thing” (such as blood or DNA samples) as long as it can be called “relevant.”……..

This isn’t the only program where secrecy and a rush to judgment resulted in national security policy that might as well have been drawn up on the back of an envelope. (The secret detention and coercive interrogation program is another obvious example, but there are other examples.) In each case, officials operating years after the 9/11 attacks failed to recognize that informed consideration of national security programs could be beneficial to national security. Instead officials spent their energy hiding and defending the hurried decisions that were made at a time of national panic, ultimately resulting in more difficult policy challenges down the road.

Glenn Greenwald writes on Salon.com:

While torture and aggressive war may have been the most serious crimes which the Bush administration committed, its warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens was its clearest and most undeniable lawbreaking.  Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker yesterday became the third federal judge — out of three who have considered the question – to find that Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program was illegal……..

Although news reports are focusing (appropriately) on the fact that Bush’s NSA program was found to be illegal, the bulk of Judge Walker’s opinion was actually a scathing repudiation of the Obama DOJ……

Obama DOJ took the imperial and hubristic position that the court had no right whatsoever to rule on the legality of the program because (a) plaintiffs could not prove they were subjected to the secret eavesdropping (and thus lacked “standing” to sue) and (b) the NSA program was such a vital “state secret” that courts were barred from adjudicating its legality.

Obama DOJ has engaged in one extraordinary maneuver after the next to shield this criminal surveillance program from judicial scrutiny. Indeed, their stonewalling at one point became so extreme that the court actually threatened the Obama DOJ with sanctions……

……..As the Electronic Frontiers Foundationput it:  “In Warrantless Wiretapping Case, Obama DOJ’s New Arguments Are Worse Than Bush’s.”

That’s why this decision is such a stinging rebuke to the Obama administration:  because it is their Bush-copying tactics, used repeatedly to cover up government crimes, which the court yesterday so emphatically rejected.

Dan Froomkin of the Huffington Post considers the court’s ruling a slap at the Obama administration’s executive power overreach. Froomkin writes:

But even more importantly, the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker angrily rejected the Obama administration’s attempts to get the case dismissed on the basis of a “state secrets” privilege. That assertion was first made by Bush administration lawyers, but was enthusiastically re-asserted by President Obama’s Justice Department.

For that reason, the ruling should serve as a wake-up call to those who thought that the days of executive overreach were behind us — and as a red alert to all who care about the separation of powers.

What is Obama’s take on the war crimes undertaken during the Bush-era? Look forward not backward. What is Obama’s take on Indonesia’s human rights crimes, which they are now conducting tribunals to investigate their own human rights abuses? We can’t go forward without looking backward. So, why the double standard Mr. President? Why do we not practice what we are preaching to other countries? Glenn Greenwald writes:

In 2008, Indonesia empowered a national commission to investigate human rights abuses committed by its own government under the U.S.-backed Suharto regime “in an attempt to finally bring the perpetrators to justice,” and Obama was asked in this interview:  “Is your administration satisfied with the resolution of the past human rights abuses in Indonesia?”  He replied: “We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses existed. We can’t go forward without looking backwards . . . .”

When asked last year about whether the United States should use similar tribunals to investigate its own human rights abuses, as well his view of other countries’ efforts (such as Spain) to investigate those abuses, Obama said: “I’m a strong believer that it’s important to look forward and not backwards, and to remind ourselves that we do have very real security threats out there”.

That “Look-Forward/Not-Backward” formulation is one which Obama and histop aides have frequently repeated to argue against any investigations in the U.S.  Why, as Obama sermonized, must Indonesians first look backward before being able to move forward, whereas exactly the opposite is true of Americans?  If a leader is going to demand that other countries adhere to the very “principles” which he insists on violating himself, it’s probably best not to use antithetical clichés when issuing decrees, for the sake of appearances if nothing else.

……………..By holding no one accountable for past abuse, and by convening no commission on what did and didn’t protect the country, President Obama has left the telling of this dark chapter in American history to those who most want to whitewash it.

Nothing enables the glorification of crimes, and nothing ensures their future re-occurrence, more than shielding the criminals from all accountability.  It’s nice that Barack Obama is willing to dispense that lecture to other countries, but it’s not so nice that he does exactly the opposite in his own.

Wait!!!!! Guess what I am going to say next…..Obama has decided to look backward by prosecuting whistleblowers not Bush administration officials. Is he simply trying to look tough while at the same time deterring whistleblowers from coming forward in the future? Yes!

I am sure you are wondering what I am talking about, right? New York Times reporting:

In a rare legal action against a government employee accused of leaking secrets, a grand jury has indicted a former senior National Security Agency official on charges of providing classified information to a newspaper reporter in hundreds of e-mail messages in 2006 and 2007.

The official, Thomas A. Drake, 52, was also accused of obstructing justice by shredding documents, deleting computer records and lying to investigators who were looking into the reporter’s sources.

The indictment suggests the Obama administration may be no less aggressive than the Bush administration in pursuing whistleblowers and reporters’ sources who disclose government secrets.

Glenn Greenwald follows up the New York Times article writing:

Although the indictment does not specify Drake’s leaks, it is highly likely (as Shane also suggests) that it is based on Drake’s bringing to the public’s attention major failures and cost over-runs with the NSA’s spying programs via leaks to The Baltimore Sun.

Let’s spend just a moment thinking about what this means.  We’ve known since December, 2005, that Bush officials, including at the NSA, committed felonies by eavesdropping on Americans without the warrants required by law — crimes punishable by a five-year prison term and$10,000 fine for each offense.  All three federal judges to rule on the question have found those actions to be in violation of the law.  Yet there have been no criminal investigations, let alone indictments, for those crimes, and there won’t be any, due to Barack Obama’s dictate that we “Look Forward, Not Backward.”  Thus, the high-level political officials who committed crimes while running the NSA will be completely immunized for their serious crimes.

By stark contrast, an NSA official who brought to the public’s attention towering failures and waste at the NSA — revelations that led to exposés that, as Shane put it, were “honored with a top prize from the Society for Professional Journalists” — is now being prosecuted for crimes that could lead to a lengthy prison term.  Why doesn’t Obama’s dictate that we “Look Forward, Not Backward,” protect this NSA whistle-blower from prosecution at least as much as the high-level Bush officials who criminally spied on American citizens?  Isn’t the DOJ’s prosecution of Drake the classic case of “Looking Backward,” by digging into Bush-era crimes, controversies and disclosures?

Interestingly, the Bush DOJ long threatened to prosecute not only NSA whistle-blowers but also The New York Times for revealing its illegal spying.  It never did so, however, likely because, as Shane speculates, prosecutions for those leaks would cause light to be shined on what the NSA actually did when eavesdropping on Americans.  Yet here is the Obama DOJ prosecuting a whistleblower, a prosecution that is certain to intimidate and deter other whistle-blowers, thus choking off one of the very few avenues which Americans have left for learning about what this sprawling, obsessively secret Surveillance State does.  As Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Presss, told the NYT today:  “The whole point of the prosecution is to have a chilling effect on reporters and sources, and it will.”

Jesselyn Radack (homeland security and human rights director of the Government Accountability Project and former Justice Department ethics attorney) continuing on this topic writes in the LA Times:

As someone who has been the target of a ruthless leak investigation, I believe, and the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 says, that government employees should be protected, not retaliated against, when they disclose conduct evidencing illegality, fraud, waste or abuse.

The worst scandals of the past decade — including government torture and warrantless wiretapping — came to light because of whistle-blowers, derisively labeled “leakers.”

I submit that Drake, the former NSA official, did not leak. He made valid disclosures revealing the failings of several major NSA programs that use computers to collect and sort electronic intelligence. These mistakes cost billions of dollars. He also described how the agency had rejected a program that would collect communications while protecting Americans’ privacy — disclosures eerily similar to those made by Thomas M. Tamm, the former Justice Department lawyer who revealed the NSA’s secret surveillance of Americans. Such disclosures are clearly in the public interest. They evidence a violation of law, a gross waste of funds and a patent abuse of authority — the very definition of a protected disclosure under the whistle-blower law.

Unfortunately, the terms “leaking” and “whistle-blowing” are often used synonymously to describe the public disclosure of information that is otherwise secret. Both acts have the effect of damaging the subject of the revelation. But leaking is quite different from blowing the whistle. The difference turns on the substance of the information disclosed. The Whistleblower Protection Act protects the disclosure of information that a government employee reasonably believes evidences fraud, waste, abuse or a danger to public health or safety. But far too often, whistle-blowers are retaliated against, with criminal prosecution being one of the sharpest weapons in the government’s arsenal.

Speaking truth to power is hard enough. Government employees should not have to choose their conscience over their career, or their very freedom.

Maybe you are thinking, not a big deal. We can just use Congressional oversight via the Intelligence committee if whistleblowers are scared to come forward. Unless Obama decides, as the Washington Post is reporting, to veto intelligence activities bill, as he is threatening.

What exactly is the Obama administration trying to hide? I thought Obama’s administration was going to be the most transparent….I will have more soon including mass murders of Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghan civilians..


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Published in: on May 3, 2010 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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