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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/5/16

Imagine Obama's national security policies in Trump's hands

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Trevor Timm
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Reprinted from The Guardian

It's bad enough that Obama entrenched the illiberal powers of George W Bush. Think what would happen if a man who has praised torture gets hold of them
Detainees sit in a holding area in Guantanamo Bay. Trump has vowed to expand the prison.
Detainees sit in a holding area in Guantanamo Bay. Trump has vowed to expand the prison.
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy, Author: Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy)
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As Donald Trump gets closer to locking up the Republican nomination and therefore one step closer to the presidency, it's worth looking back at one of the Obama administration's most troubling legacies. Specifically, the national security precedents that have allowed the US to spy on countless people and kill without accountability. The prospect now -- a terrifying one -- is of Trump in charge of this vast apparatus.

Civil liberties advocates have been warning of a scenario like this for more than six years. The extraordinary national security powers George W Bush pioneered and Obama shamefully entrenched could now fall into the hands of someone many people consider a madman. Someone whose opinion changes with the wind -- or the sound of the crowd -- and whose entire candidacy is based around personal vendettas.

Trump's abhorrent daily pronouncements about what he would do as president come at such a rate that we have become numb to them. We've lost count of the amount of times he's claimed he'll bring back waterboarding, or some forms of torture that are "so much worse" (something that would constitute a war crime). Or that he'll not only kill terrorists, but members of their families as well -- another war crime. (After some backlash for these statements, Trump claimed on Friday that he would still "obey the law.")

Trump's list of enemies could make Nixon, who saw no problem in using the NSA to spy on American dissidents and his political opponents, look tame in comparison. While one of the NSA's mass surveillance programs was curtailed (but not eliminated) by the USA Freedom Act, there remain myriad programs that touch on vast numbers of Americans' communications. The FBI still has carte blanche to look at NSA's international intercepts for Americans caught up in its net, and just last week the New York Times reported that the NSA plans to remove key privacy protections from much of its surveillance data, so that it can be shared with other federal agencies without any administrative protections. Are these the types of powers we want in the hands of a Trump administration?

And then there's war: the Obama administration has done more damage than Bush did to the constitutional principle that Congress should be the only governmental body that can declare it. The US is currently waging war in multiple countries -- Syria, Iraq, and Libya, using a law written 15 years ago meant for Afghanistan, to go after a terrorist organization that did not exist at the time. When President Trump decides to invade the first Middle Eastern country that looks at him the wrong way to "take their oil," it will be that much harder to stop him because of the precedent the current administration has set.

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Trevor Timm is a co-founder and the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He is a writer, activist, and lawyer who specializes in free speech and government transparency issues. He has contributed to  The (more...)

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