It's starting to get a little disturbing, this lack of meaningful "change" we were promised by the Obama administration. We're still mired in Bush's bloody terror wars; we're given a radically watered-down version of health insurance reform, with the much-anticipated single-payer proposal being dropped almost instantly. Then Obama supported many provisions of the Constitution-eroding USA Patriot Act that were set to expire. And while he signed legislation to broaden the definition of hate-crimes to include crimes involving gender bias or sexual orientation, he hasn't touched the backward, juvenile, insulting "don't ask -- don't tell" military policy of "managing" service men and women who happen to be gay.
Now it seems Obama is going to adopt many of Bush's ideas from his power-grabbing "Unitary Executive" philosophy, including the use of the Privacy Act to shield the Executive Branch from prosecution for criminal lawbreaking. According to Salon.com:
The Obama administration has, yet again, asserted the broadest and most radical version of the "state secrets" privilege -- which previously caused so much controversy and turmoil among loyal Democrats (when used by Bush/Cheney) -- to attempt to block courts from ruling on the legality of the government's domestic surveillance activities. Obama did so again this past Friday -- just six weeks after the DOJ announced voluntary new internal guidelines which, it insisted, would prevent abuses of the state secrets privilege. Instead -- as predicted -- the DOJ continues to embrace the very same "state secrets" theories of the Bush administration -- which Democrats generally and Barack Obama specifically once vehemently condemned -- and is doing so in order literally to shield the President from judicial review or accountability when he is accused of breaking the law.
Citing the Bush/Cheney argument that lawsuits against the Executive Branch for privacy violations stemming from illegal phone wiretaps or email-snooping would compromise national security, the Obama DOJ wants all such citizen lawsuits dismissed. The article continues:
In the case of Shubert v. Bush, the Electronic Frontier Foundation represents numerous American citizens suing individual Bush officials, alleging that the Bush administration instituted a massive "dragnet" surveillance program whereby "the NSA intercepted (and continues to intercept) millions of phone calls and emails of ordinary Americans, with no connection to Al Qaeda, terrorism, or any foreign government" and that "the program monitors millions of calls and emails . . . entirely in the United States . . . without a warrant" (page 4). The lawsuit's central allegation is that the officials responsible for this program violated the Fourth Amendment and FISA and can be held accountable under the law for those illegal actions. . . . Rather than respond to the substance of the allegations, the Obama DOJ is instead insisting that courts are barred from considering the claims at all. Why? Because -- it asserted in a Motion to Dismiss it filed on Friday -- to allow the lawsuit to proceed under any circumstances -- no matter the safeguards imposed or specific documents excluded -- "would require the disclosure of highly classified NSA sources and methods about the TSP [Terrorist Surveillance Program] and other NSA activities" (page 8). According to the Obama administration, what were once leading examples of Bush's lawlessness and contempt for the Constitution -- namely, his illegal, warrantless domestic spying programs -- are now vital "state secrets" in America's War on Terror, such that courts are prohibited even from considering whether the Government was engaging in crimes when spying on Americans.
Et Tu, Barack?
Why are these innocent Americans being twice violated? First when they were illegally surveilled, and now again when being denied the right to legally obtain justice for such violations? Worse, without recourse through the courts, the precedent is set that Executive Branch officers can break the law without fear of prosecution if such crimes fall within the very loose interpretation of "national security."
This is the antithesis of the policy of transparency President Obama promised in his administration. It almost feels like some kind of twisted joke: promise the public relief from the Orwellian practices of the Bush Crime Family, then quietly uphold all their abuses of power against American citizens.
Change We Can Believe In? Not so much. Feels more like: "YES WE CAN! . . . spy on you."