Obama’s Astonishing Chutzpah

Obama’s Astonishing Chutzpah April 27, 2012

If you aren’t cynical enough about politics, this will make it worse. President Obama, who has maintained and even expanded the federal government’s illegal surveillance program and steadfastly refused to hold anyone accountable for torture, actually issued an executive order allowing the U.S. to sanction “foreign nationals” who do the same thing he is guilty of doing:

President Obama issued an executive order Monday that will allow U.S. officials for the first time to impose sanctions against foreign nationals found to have used new technologies, from cellphone tracking to Internet monitoring, to help carry out grave human rights abuses.

Social media and cellphone technology have been widely credited with helping democracy advocates organize against autocratic governments and better expose rights violations, most notably over the past year and a half in the Middle East and North Africa.

But authoritarian governments, particularly in Syria and Iran, have shown that their security services can also harness technology to help crack down on dissent — by conducting surveillance, blocking access to the Internet or tracking the movements of opposition figures.

Obama’s executive order, which he announced during a Monday speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, is an acknowledgment of those dangers and of the need to adapt American national security policy to a world being remade rapidly by technology, according to senior administration officials familiar with the plans. Although the order is designed to target companies and individuals assisting the governments of Iran and Syria, they said, future executive orders could name others aiding other countries through technology in crackdowns on dissent.

Seriously? When an innocent man who was tortured because of America’s extraordinary rendition program tried to sue a Boeing subsidiary for providing the airplane to take him to be tortured, Obama, like his predecessor, invoked the State Secrets Privilege to prevent any chance of holding either the company or the government accountable for that torture (and we’re talking serious torture — this man had his genitals sliced with razor blades).

Obama is really going to sanction another country for monitoring social media and using it to crack down on dissent? With his treatment of Julian Assange? And his expansion of the NSA’s wholesale data mining program? And his prosecution of every whistleblower since he took office? When other countries do it, that’s terrible and we have a moral obligation to stop them. When our government does it, how dare you think you could actually challenge them in court and enforce the constitution, you insolent plebe.

This is why I don’t know if I can vote for the man. Yes, I know that the Republicans would be even worse. I do know that. You’re right. But I’m not sure I care. It’s not like my vote is the one that’s going to swing the election anyway. Am I really supposed to vote for someone who so flagrantly violates the most basic principles, then lies about it and tells me I should just trust him? When the best argument you can muster for someone is “yeah I know, but it could be worse,” that doesn’t exactly inspire my support.


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