Throughout the past couple of days, I have been posting video of Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald’s speech at the Socialism Conference held in Chicago, IL. last weekend. Instead of posting the speech in full, I have been posting the speech in segments to draw attention and encourage discussion on key aspects of Greenwald’s speech.
Greenwald describes two areas where President Obama has embraced two policies that former President George W. Bush never employed. The first is asserting the right to target and assassinate US citizens.
…The Washington Post in January 2010 reported there were four Americans on Obama’s list of individuals, who he has declared without any due process to be terrorists, who the CIA is now not just permitted but instructed to hunt down and murder. One of who is Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born American citizen in Yemen who the US government hates because he speaks effectively to the Muslim world about the violence that the US commits in that part of the world and the responsibility of Muslims and the need of Muslims to stand up to this violence. The US hates him because this message is resonating and so the solution is not to charge him with crimes, because he’s not committing any crimes because you have the First Amendment right to say the things you say. It’s not even to detain him without process. They’re not bothering with that. They’re trying to kill him. They’ve shot cruise missiles and used drones at at least two occasions in the last year to try and kill this US citizen without due process, not on a battlefield but in his home, in his car, with his children, wherever they find him. And, this power is one that the Obama Administration has asserted for itself in a way that George Bush and Dick Cheney never did. [emphasis added]
As Maria Lahood pointed out on Democracy Now! in May, after the Obama Administration attempted to assassinate al-Awlaki but did not succeed, he has not been charged with anything.
The Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU brought a case against the US government charging that al-Awlaki had a right to due process. They weren’t arguing that he could not be killed. They were arguing that if he is guilty of a crime he had the right under international law and the Constitution to be granted due process, a right that most in the American political class appear to have utter contempt for when it is granted to those suspected of engaging or promoting terrorism.
The case, brought on behalf of Al-Awlaki’s father but ultimately thrown out because the court found his father didn’t have the standing to seek relief for his son and the questions raised were “political.” The decision to label him a terrorist and decide to kill him overseas was determined to be not reviewable by a court of law.
The second area Greenwald outlines is the war on whistleblowing, which the Obama Administration is waging, which he argues is important “because if you combine the extraordinary secrecy powers of the US government…with the unbelievable subservient establishment media that won’t disclose any facts or truths without getting permission from the US government,” you see that “whistleblowing is one of the very few avenues left that we even have to learn about what our government does.” And, according to Greenwald, that is why the US government sees whistleblowing as such a threat.
He talks about WikiLeaks in the context of this war on whistleblowing:
Not only is the Obama Administration trying to criminalize what WikiLeaks is doing; there’s a very aggressive grand jury in northern Virginia to try to turn what they’re doing into a crime, even though all it is is the core of investigative journalism—revealing the secrets of the world’s most powerful corporate and government factions. If that’s turned into a crime, then meaningful transparency and journalism are dead, but they’re also doing a whole other variety of things like trying to invade the social networking communications who anyone who is even suspected of supporting WikiLeaks. And they’ve even gone so far as to execute a policy of detaining anyone they suspect of being associated with WikiLeaks at airports when they try to reenter the country, American citizens. And they’ve not only detained them but they’ve seized their laptops and other electronic devices like thumb drives and the like, memory drives. And then they just seize them and copy their contents, sometimes don’t return them, sometimes return them after a couple months—All without any form of judicial oversight or search warrant. They literally go through and do it routinely. It’s a form of pure harassment. [emphasis added]
David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, and Jacob Appelbaum, a WikiLeaks volunteer, have faced this harassment. Not only have they been harassed at airports, but House has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in Virginia and Appelbaum has had his Twitter user data subpoenaed. You can read more about the government’s repression of Appelbaum and House here.
Also, in the case of New York Times reporter James Risen, the government is arguing there is no such thing as “good leaks,” effectively laying the groundwork for criminalizing whistleblowing in most if not all instances.
Greenwald goes on to further contextualize these two policies the Obama Administration has adopted. And, he concludes after demonstrating the Administration’s utter disregard for the Constitution (call it the “audacity of hope”):
You really do wonder, if we allow these sorts of things, these kinds of breaches of basic constitutional freedom without much backlash or objection, what is it that we would object to? Or what would trigger real backlash? That I think is an important question to answer.
There have been small attempts to preserve American civil liberties. A number of people condemned the recent extensions of provisions of the PATRIOT Act. And, after Bush left office, a number of people pushed for accountability for Bush Administration officials, only to abandon their campaigns for justice because they did not think there was any realistic chance of holding officials accountable.
Many have accepted defeat. Some are just realizing that Obama has been continuing Bush policies that continue and expand attacks on civil liberties (see Part 1 of Greenwald’s speech). Either way, it should be considered stunning and abysmal that the public tolerates what the government is doing. But, unfortunately, those who are most capable of fighting tolerate the apathy or melancholiness of the public and do very little to challenge the Obama Administration.