Psssst, Obama! Mention Something About the State of Civil Liberties Tonight
In the most non-rightblogger tone possible, Obama has been on quite a roll when it comes to his administration's assault on civil liberties lately.
Not one, not two, but three different pieces of legislation and policy with the potential to drastically infringe on the civil liberties of Americans have come out of the Obama administration in the past week alone.
So, tonight might be a good time for the president to address why his policies on civil liberties are even more intrusive than those set forth by his predecessor George W. Bush.
We covered one of those bad boys last week, the National Defense Authorization Act, and if it's as bad as journalist Chris Hedges and infamous whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg say, it creates a loophole for the military to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens on American soil.
Then there is that Department of Justice white paper that MSNBC obtained last week, which lays out the government's policy on authorizing drone strikes that target American citizens without affording them due process of the law.
To cap the off his incredible streak, it appears that as early as tomorrow, Obama will sign off on an executive order to push the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. CISPA would allow tech and Internet companies to legally hand over the emails and user information of American citizens to U.S. authorities upon request--without being held liable for the distribution or potential misuse of that information.
The Obama administration actually condemned the bill last spring, but now reports indicate that the president will sign an executive order for the exact same, or at least a very similar bill, tomorrow. Hacktivist group Anonymous, whose loose collection of members would likely be targeted by the law, is apparently threatening to disrupt live-streams of Obama's Address in protest of CISPA.
Now don't be silly, obviously none of these policies explicitly state that the government can plainly strip these long-held rights away from Americans. The problem with all of them is that they fail to explicitly state the government can't do these things.
Take for example the NDAA legislation that was argued in the U.S. Second Circuit of Appeals last week. The language of the law allows the U.S. military to detain an American citizen suspected of being:
"A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces."
The plaintiffs in the case argue that the law is vague and overly broad. What does it mean to "substantially" support? What and who are"associated forces?" The group of plaintiffs in the case, which includes Hedges, Ellsberg and other activists and journalists, fear that they could be detained under the law for their work covering, reporting, interviewing and interacting with both actual and alleged members of terrorist organizations.
They aren't pulling those concerns out of thin air, either. The government has already tried to associate several of them with terrorist entities such as al-Qaeda and has harassed them to no end.
"If they had written in there that U.S. citizens were exempt, none of us would be here. But they didn't do that. And they didn't do that on purpose," Hedges told the Voice last week.
The DOJ white paper on drone strikes supposedly limits the use of lethal force against Americans on foreign soil to a "senior operational leader of al-Qaeda or an associated force of al-Qaeda." Not only does this definition include the overly-broad term "associated force," but the memo goes on to say:
"The condition that an operational leader present an 'imminent' threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future."
In other words, the military is giving itself some wiggle room to execute strikes without possessing terribly strong evidence.
It seems pretty evident that if Obama actually had to account for these apparent abuses of civil liberties, he'd have a lot of explaining to do. Fortunately for him, these and other overreaching policies, including warrant-less wire-tapping under the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act, are quietly and all to conveniently seeping past the mainstream machine.
"The deterioration of civil liberties under the Obama Administration has complete continuity with the attack on civil liberties under the Bush administration," Hedges said during a press conference following last week's NDAA hearing. "In fact, under the Obama administration it has been worse."