Remember back when right-wing bloggers were terrifying each other, predicting that President Obama would build America’s first gulag archipelago? (What’s that? Ah. Sorry, Japanese-Americans. Make that America’s second gulag archipelago.) Well, critics are making a case that his administration does, in fact, threaten Americans’ traditional civil liberties. The twist: both the critics and the alleged victims are coming from the Left.
Yahoo! News reports that “a large group of noted whistleblowers” including Pentagon Papers leak Daniel Ellsberg, has drafted a letter demanding that Obama be stripped of the “transparency award” given him by five government agencies last March:
The group claims that petitioners have filed more Freedom of Information Act requests made during Obama’s first term–with fewer responses–than have been logged in previous years; that the administration has squashed “legal inquiries into secret illegalities more often than any predecessor” and “amassed the worst record in U.S. history for persecuting, prosecuting and jailing government whistleblowers and truth-tellers,” including WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning. The letter also notes that the White House has refused to make its visitor logs public, while overseeing a 15 percent spike last year in budgetary outlays for classifying secrets. The Obama administration has spent $10 billion in enforcing secrecy protocols, the letter notes–the first time any White House has eclipsed that mark.”Obama’s department of justice is twisting the 1917 Espionage Act to press criminal charges in five alleged instances of national security leaks,” the letter reads, “more such prosecutions than have occurred in all previous administrations combined.”
The president “has set a powerful and chilling example for potential whistleblowers through the abuse and torture of Bradley Manning.”
President Obama has initiated a secret assassination programme, has publicly announced that he has given himself the power to include Americans on the list of people to be assassinated, and has attempted to assassinate at least one, Anwar al-Awlaki.
President Obama has maintained the power to secretly kidnap, imprison, rendition, or torture, and he has formalised the power to lawlessly imprison in an executive order. This also means the power to secretly imprison. There are some 1,700 prisoners outside the rule of law in Bagram alone.
The Obama administration is also busy going after reporters to discover their sources and convening grand juries in order to target journalists and news publishers.
One such case—the subpoena of author and former New York Times reporter James Risen involving a CIA leak—is still pending.
Many of my conservative friends have asked, “What’s happened to the antiwar movement?” — meaning, the whole thing was purely partisan from beginning to end. Nobody (with the possible, and rather risible, exception of Cindy Sheehan) really cared what the U.S. did to whom, or where, provided a member of the home team was calling the plays. Turns out that’s not quite the case. Here, the dovish faction in the Church may actually be ahead of everyone. Back in May, when the larger part of the country was still celebrating bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs, the editors of America Magazine ran this opinion piece:
T he violent death of the fanatic who orchestrated the deaths of thousands of others has raised a set of critical ethical questions. Was the raid on the Abbottabad hideaway that claimed Osama bin Laden’s life an assassination? Or was the team of Navy Seals under instructions simply to apprehend Bin Laden, taking him alive, if possible, to be tried for the deadly terrorist acts he ordered? Or does it even matter whether the intent of the military team—and the president who ordered them in—was to kill or to capture?
A case has been made for the outright assassination of Bin Laden, a man with the declared intention of pursuing his deadly jihad against the West, if only to spare other innocent lives and forestall future mayhem. Even if an exception is allowed for summary execution in the case of Bin Laden, an exception most Americans seem all too ready to grant, we might do well to ask whether making such exceptions has now become the rule. Once critical of the extrajudicial killings in the Latin American “Dirty Wars” of the 1970s and ’80s, Americans have lost their inhibitions when it comes to today’s Islamic terrorists. The United States, which not so long ago condemned the targeted killing by Israelis of alleged terrorists, appears to have no qualms about itself calling down strikes against those regarded as hostile parties. In authorizing assassination attempts against suspected terrorist leaders, the United States is adopting the methods it finds so reprehensible in terrorist organizations.
My take? Obama’s conduct of the war hasn’t likely won over any enemies, but it’s likely cost him some friends. Blessed are the peacetime presidents.