|Axis of Logic|
By Robert Raich
The expansion of the police state under the Obama Administration is alarming and belies a wholesale erosion of individual liberties. As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama made numerous promises that would have led to reducing the pernicious power of the police state in America; however the actions of his administration are in opposition to those promises.
One such promise was candidate Obama’s pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and dismantle the military commissions within his first year in office. Candidate Obama promised, “As president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions.”
Yet now, during Obama’s fourth year in office, the prison in Guantanamo Bay remains open and the military commissions persist, in violation of international human rights conventions.
The Obama Administration has not renounced the use of torture, continues to operate secret prisons around the world, retains the use of extrajudicial kidnapping euphemistically called “extraordinary rendition,” and has ended a longstanding principled policy against assassinations. President Obama contrived a secret “kill list.” Although widely discussed in the media, the program’s existence – as well as its alleged legal “justification” – are themselves kept secret.
The President alone sits in judgment of who will live and who will die. This does not resemble the transparency Obama-the-candidate promised of his administration.
Obama had claimed that “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this Presidency.” One minute after taking office, the new website of the Obama White House declared his administration would become “the most open and transparent in history.”
In reality, under Obama the federal government has been using FOIA exemptions to withhold information from requesters 49 percent more often than under Bush. At the DEA alone, under Obama, Administrator Michele Leonhart (a Bush holdover) has presided over a whopping 114 percent increase in FOIA rejections.
Unfortunately, these are not they only promises Obama broke. He pledged that his administration would enhance “whistleblower laws to protect federal workers.” Instead, it has been more prone than any administration in history to try to silence whistleblowers.
For example, the Obama Administration has used the Espionage Act to prosecute an unprecedented number of whistleblowers – so far twice the number of prosecutions as under all previous administrations combined. The deplorable mistreatment of Bradley Manning is just one among many examples of this administration abusing its powers to target whistleblowers.
Earlier this year, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which purportedly permits the indefinite detention of people – including Americans – without charge or trial.
Obama vigorously fought for, and persuaded Congress to pass, legislation intended to grant retroactive immunity to the telecom companies for their massive warrantless wiretapping under Bush. The Obama Justice Department is fighting the ongoing warrantless wiretapping lawsuits harder than the Bush administration ever did.
Warrantless wiretapping has continued under the Obama Administration. Cell phone companies are also now responding to demands from law enforcement for “subscriber data” thousands of times per day, frequently without subpoenas or other court orders, and many times more often than during the Bush years.
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Under Obama the NSA is, for the first time since the Nixon administration, turning its surveillance apparatus on the U.S. and its citizens. The NSA is completing construction on the “Utah Data Center,” which will secretly intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s domestic and international communications.
The Obama administration is aggressively continuing the use of “national security letters,” which are unilaterally issued by the FBI without judicial oversight. The recipients are not government employees who are sworn to uphold government secrets, but by law, recipients are not even allowed to tell anyone that they have been victimized.
Obama’s escalating use of drone strikes is another major cause for concern. They often kill innocent people. If males are killed in a targeted area, the Obama Administration simply defines them as terrorists. They are adjudicated guilty, sentenced to death, and executed by remote-controlled robots operated by unaccountable individuals thousands of miles away.
Ironically, Obama’s tactics are only fomenting more hatred against America (“radicalizing” individuals), thereby ensuring there will be more terrorist attacks. In a vicious spiral, terrorist attacks will funnel more tax dollars to the “national security” establishment, and could promote passage of a Patriot Act 2, which would take away even more human rights and individual liberties, while giving more power to the police, the military, and “national security” operatives.
Regarding the continuing federal War on Medical Cannabis, Obama-the-candidate (who repeatedly promised not to use federal “resources to try and circumvent state laws on this issue”) would be appalled by the actions of the Obama Administration. The number of paramilitary raids conducted by the DEA under Obama has already far surpassed the total number of DEA raids during George W. Bush’s entire two terms in office.
Moreover, the Bush Administration generally limited its attacks on medical cannabis to operations by the DEA. In contrast, even as more states legalize medical cannabis, the Obama Administration has unleashed a full-scale assault on safe access to cannabis, utilizing the resources of an unprecedented array of federal agencies, including numerous U.S. Attorneys’ offices, the IRS, FDIC, HUD, ATF, Treasury Department, Department of Agriculture, and various others.
This increased use of federal force to circumvent state laws further illustrates the expansion of the federal police state.
These actions under the Obama Administration constitute a serious affront to individual liberty. One would have expected more respect for the Constitution from a former constitutional law professor.
If a Republican president were undertaking such behavior, Democrats would rise up in outrage. Yet when a Democratic president does these things there is scant outcry from any politician. We must hold this president accountable for his actions, just as we hold Republicans accountable for theirs.
|Robert A. Raich, P.C.|
Editor’s note: Robert Raich practices law in Oakland, California, where he specializes in medical cannabis law, business law, political law, and lobbying.
A graduate of Harvard University and the University of Texas School of Law, he has spoken across the United States and internationally on the regulation of medical marijuana.
He was the attorney in both U.S. Supreme Court cases ever to consider medical cannabis issues, United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative in 2001, and Gonzales v. Raich in 2005.