MAY 17, 2011
Americans who have been paying attention are outraged that Bush lied us into Iraq bymaking up false claims about weapons of mass destruction and pretending that Saddam Hussein had a hand in 9/11.
Many are disgusted that Obama got us into a war in Libya without Congressional authorization.
But as the ACLU noted yesterday, Congress is going even further ... proposing handing permanent, world-wide war-making powers to the president - including the ability to make war within the United States:
A hugely important provision for Congress to authorize a new worldwide war has been tucked away inside the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill was marked up by members of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC)last Wednesday that poured into Thursday morning (2:45 a.m. to be exact).
A couple of minutes past midnight, Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) offered an amendment to strike Sec. 1034 — the new authorization for worldwide war provision — from the NDAA. Visibly angry that such a large sweeping provision had not yet had any public hearing whatsoever, he vigorously characterized it as a very broad declaration of war.
Rep. Garamendi was very concerned by the limitless geographic boundaries of the provision. Essentially, it would enable the U.S. to use military force anywhere in the world (including within the U.S.) in search of terrorists.
While a new authorization for worldwide war has had its first public debate, it unfortunately only lasted a hair over 10 minutes and occurred after midnight.
Though it is a very troubling expansion of war authority, it has been lingering for more than three years as a “sleeper provision,” and it is finally getting the attention of some members of Congress. We hope that further debate in Congress in the weeks ahead will allow for a more in-depth examination of unchecked authority to wage worldwide war, and what the outcomes of such a provision will yield.
As I noted in 2008:
An article in the Army Times reveals that the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team will be redeployed from Iraq to domestic operations within the United States.
The unit will soon be under the day-to-day control of US Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command. The Army Times reports this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to Northern Command. The paper says the Army unit may be called upon to help with "civil unrest" and "crowd control".
The soldiers are learning to use so-called "nonlethal weapons" designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals and crowds.
This violates posse comitatus and the Constitution. But, hey, we're in a "national emergency", so who cares, right?
I noted a couple of months later:
And everyone understands that staging troops within the U.S. to "help out with civil unrest and crowd control" increases the danger of overt martial law.
But no one is asking an obvious question: Does the government's own excuse for deploying the troops make any sense?
Other Encroachments On Civil Rights Under Obama
As bad as Bush was, the truth is that, in many ways, freedom and constitutional rights are under attack even more than during the Bush years.
Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history -- even more so than Nixon.
As Marjorie Cohen - professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers Guild - writes at the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy:
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is facing court-martial for leaking military reports and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks, is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico brig in Virginia. Each night, he is forced to strip naked and sleep in a gown made of coarse material. He has been made to stand naked in the morning as other inmates walked by and looked. As journalist Lance Tapley documents in his chapter on torture in the supermax prisons in The United States and Torture, solitary confinement can lead to hallucinations and suicide; it is considered to be torture. Manning's forced nudity amounts to humiliating and degrading treatment, in violation of U.S. and international law.
Nevertheless, President Barack Obama defended Manning's treatment, saying, "I've actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures . . . are appropriate. They assured me they are." Obama's deference is reminiscent of President George W. Bush, who asked "the most senior legal officers in the U.S. government" to review the interrogation techniques. "They assured me they did not constitute torture," Bush said.
After State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley criticized Manning's conditions of confinement, the White House forced him to resign. Crowley had said the restrictions were "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid." It appears that Washington is more intent on sending a message to would-be whistleblowers than on upholding the laws that prohibit torture and abuse.
Torture is commonplace in countries strongly allied with the United States. Vice President Omar Suleiman, Egypt's intelligence chief, was the lynchpin for Egyptian torture when the CIA sent prisoners to Egypt in its extraordinary rendition program. A former CIA agent observed, "If you want a serious interrogation, you send a prisoner to Jordan. If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear - never to see them again - you send them to Egypt." In her chapter in The United States and Torture, New Yorker journalist Jane Mayer cites Egypt as the most common destination for suspects rendered by the United States.
As I pointed out in March:
Former constitutional law teacher Glenn Greenwald says that - in his defense of state secrecy, illegal spying, preventative detention, harassment of whistleblowers and other issues of civil liberties - Obama is even worse than Bush.
Indeed, Obama has authorized "targeted assassinations" against U.S. citizens. Even Bush didn't openly do something so abhorrent to the rule of law.
Obama is trying to expand spying well beyond the Bush administration's programs. Indeed, the Obama administration is arguing that citizens shouldnever be able to sue the government for illegal spying.
And as I pointed out last year:
An FBI memo also labels peace protesters as "terrorists".
A 2003 FBI memo describes protesters' use of videotaping as an "intimidation" technique, even though - as the ACLU points out - "Most mainstream demonstrators often use videotape during protests to document law enforcement activity and, more importantly, deter police from acting outside the law." The FBI appears to be objecting to the use of cameras to document unlawful behavior by law enforcement itself.
The Internet has been labeled as a breeding ground for terrorists, with anyone who questions the government's versions of history being especially equated with terrorists.
Government agencies such as FEMA are allegedly teaching that the Founding Fathers should be considered terrorists.
Claims of "national security" are also used to keep basic financial information - such as who got bailout money - secret. That might not bode for particularly warm and friendly treatment for someone persistently demanding the release of such information.
The state of Missouri tried to label as terrorists current Congressman Ron Paul and his supporters, former Congressman Bob Barr, libertarians in general, anyone who holds gold, and a host of other people.
And according to a law school professor and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, pursuant to the Military Commissions Act:Anyone who ... speaks out against the government's policies could be declared an "unlawful enemy combatant" and imprisoned indefinitely. That includes American citizens.
Obama has refused to reverse these practices.