I’m a one issue voter: specific abuses of Executive power {pt.3}


This is an ongoing series talking about how, for this Presidential election, I am a one-issue voter. I will be making my decision for President based on what the candidate believes about Executive Power and Civil Liberties. Read Part 1 and Part 2 for more. In this post, I outline specific ways the Executive is increasingly abusing its power. The hope is that this will show others how this should be a legitimate concern of all Americans.

Did you know . . . 

The President, on New Year’s Eve, signed legislation making it absolutely legal for him, personally, to order you imprisoned indefinitely with no charges being filed against you and no lawyer being offered you. Be sure to read this Al-Jazeera article bemoaning the loss of American freedom because of this. (more here and, for a snarkier analysis, go here).

The Administration reserves the right to simply have any American citizen killed without a trial or any chance to offer evidence in their defense. Obama is the first known President to ever authorize this.

The President’s White House National Security Council has a secret panel with an official top secret “kill list”, maintained by the CIA, with names of people that should be sought after and killed without trial or due process. (more here)

This list includes American citizens, and the administration refuses to release who they are and what criteria is used get someone on this list. (more here)

The State Department refused to release any of the evidence they used to justify killing an American citizen, citing his “right to privacy” and asking that they simply be trusted. Later, anonymous sources told journalists what some of this evidence was, calling it “patchy”, “partial”, and based on “strong suspicion”. (more here, brief analysis here)

More recently, the administration has refused to release any of the evidence used to kill two other American citizens. (more here and here)

The Executive has increasingly used manipulation of legal opinions by its lawyers to codify these existing practices and make legal challenges all the more difficult. (more here)

The Obama administration keeps more information away from its citizens than any other administration this country’s ever had (more here), many times not even for security purposes, but to prevent embarrassment.

Obama’s Department of Justice claims that the U.S. Government is immune from prosecution for illegally spying on American citizens and violating federal privacy laws. (more here and a book about it here)

The Obama administration has repeatedly detained, tortured, spied upon, and assassinated American citizens. And then whenever a legal challenge to these practices comes, it gets the case dismissed by saying that talking about why they did it would endanger national security. (a particularly appalling case here)

For the first time in American history, military combat troops are stationed on American soil. (more here and here).

Since 9/11, the government, secret intelligence activities have grown so (mind-bogglingly) vast and so (absurdly) large that they are actually making us less safe. (more here)

The President’s Department of Homeland Security monitors the social media posts of Americans to  find any comments that “adversely reflect on the government”. They can then receive your private information if they don’t like what they read–even if you don’t even seem to have broken any law. The FBI has even arrested and indicted a Virginia twenty-something for uploading an “offending” YouTube video. They also sentenced a New York man to over 5 years in prison for merely offering a cable channel run by an organization that was only later labeled as “supporting terrorism”.

They also claim the authority to shut down social media outlets and accounts without due process if they feel like national security is in danger, without saying what the limits of that authority would be (remind anyone else of the tactics of China, Syria, Iran, and Libya?).

Obama’s Department of Justice says that they reserve the right to open and read any American’s personal and private email without getting a warrant first. As The Washington Post reported: “Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.”

The President can conduct continue to a war on the behalf of the citizens of this country, not only without Congressional approval, but even after Congress rejects his authorization request.

Congress recently signed a bill telling the Federal Aviation Administration to write up guidelines to get over 30,000 unmanned drones into the skies above America to monitor the every outdoor movement of Americans in cities. (more here)

Every year, the Executive puts out a report on Human Rights abuses around the world. Every year, the report condemns foreign countries of the use of long-term solitary confinement. The United States has the largest number of people–mostly Americans–in long-term solitary confinement in the world.

Some of President Bush’s biggest hawks are shocked at how far Obama has taken his powers.

The Supreme Court Justice most recently nominated by Obama was, just last week, the swing vote in a case deciding that “police are not automatically required to tell prisoners of their legal right to remain silent and have an attorney present when being questioned in prison about another crime.” (Obama’s legal team continues to roll back the Miranda rights offered to Americans in custody.)

If you find out the government is doing something illegal, and then you write about it (or if you support those that do), the Executive will rigorously lie about youharass you, detain you, subpoena you, and seek to convict you of espionage and put you in jail. And then dodge answering for it. (more here)

As Jane Mayer says in The New Yorker: “Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history–even more than Nixon.” They block websites containing these leaks, forbid federal employees to read them in newspapers (more here), and warn students that if they ever want to work in government, they shouldn’t read them either. (more on Obama’s obsession with leaks here and here)

Some of the most egregious of these abuses (such as the assassinations and indefinite detentions without due process) are reserved for those labeled as “terrorists”, and yet how one deserves that label has never been defined by the administration and it keeps being applied to an increasingly broadening group of people (as Jon Stewart pointed out, it’s so vague, it could apply to Obama himself).

Further, many of these abuses are justified using the “Wartime Powers” mentality, saying that because “we are at war”, that demands great and extraordinary stretches of law (including blatantly doing away with first amendment). No one in the government seems interested in ending these wartime powers; it looks more like an addiction. In fact, this War seems to be escalating. (more, and the roots of this idea in the Bush administration, here)

Also (this deserves its own point), the Executive has not only already said these powers can be exercised against Americans as if they are foreign enemy combatants (a.k.a. “terrorists”, apparently [see above]), but it has also defined the “Wartime Battlefield” in which these extraordinary powers can be exercised as “the whole world”–including American soil. This means that the government can (proudly) exercise any of these limitless, due-process “wartime” powers against Americans at home that they label “terrorists”. (more here)

And, in the end, Obama’s deliberate rhetoric and complete disregard to even talk about these issues has made it so that no one is even talking about this, much less making their own election decisions based on it. So many of us feel helpless.

How could anyone think any other issue is more important than this? Can anyone explain this to me?

Other articles on this:

16 thoughts on “I’m a one issue voter: specific abuses of Executive power {pt.3}

  1. Paul, I empathize with your general unease around the erosion of any civil liberty (although I don’t particularly like slippery slope arguments – they lead to all kinds of crazy conclusions). And I do agree that at least some of the issues you mention above are concerning. But I must admit, I find it hard at this stage in our nation’s course to be more concerned with this issue in comparison other major issues that are pressing. For instance, what will the future of the American health care system look like? Policy decisions on this issue over the next 5 years will literally impact tens of millions of people. What about the extremely high US rate of incarceration, or the disturbing statistic I’ve seen that 1/3 of all black men will spend some time in prison during the course of their lives? I would argue that massive reforms are needed to our justice system. Or what about the fact that we are still millions of jobs away from full employment, with many of those people who are unemployed having not had a job for more than a year? Personally, the fact that we bombed an illusive “US citizen” far from US borders who was associating with terrorists and had all but explicitly denounced his US citizenship is of far less concern to me right now than these other issues. As you haven’t really presented any counter-arguments (fair – you have a right to voice your opinion), I suggest others interested in hearing both sides of the argument look into concepts such as “the constitution is not a suicide pact” and start reading articles by the likes of Richard Posner, a brilliant jurist and part-time economist. Should we care about civil liberties? Absolutely! But should we be concerned about a host of other importance issues at a critical juncture in our history? Even more so! And anyway, even on the civil liberties topic, since we know Ron Paul will not be the Republican candidate for president, I think a more practical question is, who will Paul Burkhart vote for in the general election?

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