Monday, September 13, 2010

Protecting State Secrets: Obama Builds on Bush Doctrine

While the average Joe Six-Pack is preoccupied with political cannon-fodder broadcast over and over again through our televisions, the real damage being done by the Obama administration is being largely ignored. The news is little more than media distraction over the falsehood that Obama is a Muslim from Africa, while the pundits babble on and on about his support of a construction project blocks away from Ground Zero in Manhattan, but no one seems to be at all concerned about the Obama administration's hypocritical support of government abuses begun under the Bush administration. Abuses that Obama himself appeared to have grave concerns about in his run for Presidential office. The sham of the two-party system persists, as does the myth that we have any choice at the voting booth any more. That much is clear to those who dig a little deeper than fifteen-second soundbites while Obama carries on the work of his predecessor to completely invalidate the basic tenets of Constitutional governance.

In the first weeks that Obama began to get settled in, his Justice Department sought to dismiss a lawsuit by the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, in which it was alleged that the charity's lawyers and board members rights to due-process and freedom of speech were violated by officials at the White House, the National Security Agency, the Treasury Department and the FBI. No evidence was put forth to substantiate the government's claim that the Oregon-based charity might be funding terrorism. Nevertheless, an eavesdropping operation against the philanthropic organization had been carried out without a warrant or the approval of any judge. In Obama's campaign to “change Washington” he had criticized the Bush administration of too-often invoking the privilege of state-secrets to resist lawsuits and to ignore public disclosure rules. In this case, the Justice Department did just that, once again invoking the privilege of state-secrets, claiming that the lawsuit could not be allowed to go forward on the grounds that the disclosure of information would be a threat to national security. When U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker resisted the claim by the Justice Department, they ratcheted up the pressure, and threatened to seize documents in the court's custody. Hardly a shining example of the open-government voters had demanded. Perhaps this was an isolated example though? After all, to be sure, there are some legitimate state-secrets that must be protected from time to time, and maybe this charity was not so squeaky clean themselves. We will probably never know.

What we do know though, is that this is not an isolated example at all actually. We can look to the dismissal of Jewel vs. NSA in January of this year, 2010. This case from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was filed on behalf of AT&T customers opposed to the National Security Agency's dragnet surveillance of America's phone calls and emails. In this case, the fact that this practice was not at all isolated was the very basis of the dismissal! A page from the EFF website tells us...

...U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker held that the privacy harm to millions of Americans from the illegal spying dragnet was not a "particularized injury" but instead a "generalized grievance" because almost everyone in the United States has a phone and Internet service.

"The alarming upshot of the court's decision is that so long as the government spies on all Americans, the courts have no power to review or halt such mass surveillance even when it is flatly illegal and unconstitutional," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston.

Of all the values espoused in the founding documents of this nation, perhaps none could be said to be more central to our national identity than the system of check-and-balances which keeps any one branch of government, among the three, from usurping unjust power, and toppling our nation into a despotic totalitarian order. It is indeed a value which rests at the very core of our entire structure of government from which all other Constitutional liberty is prescribed and ensured. No one branch of government has the right to operate autonomously without the oversight from another. Alarmingly, under the Bush administration, and now reinforced by the Obama administration, that entire system from which all others are based, has been thoroughly undermined in the interest of secrecy and unfounded claims of national security implications. Not only are judges being left out of their role in issuing warrants, even secret warrants on the basis of some evidence, to allow the government to spy on it's citizens, but now the courts are washing their hands of any involvement when it comes to litigation over clear, aggressive, well-documented violations of Constitutional liberty as a result. These rulings have essentially rendered our court system impotent, and relegated judges to nothing more than glorified traffic-wardens collecting revenue for the state. A rubber-stamp court system suddenly all-too reminiscent of Nazi Germany's People's Court. A paper-shuffling administration, subordinate to that of the Executive, rather than a genuine order of justice honorably maintaining our most precious values as a nation of free and self-determined people.

Louis Fisher, a Constitutional law expert from the Library of Congress wrote in an email to the Washington Post:
"1. The administration defends the state secrets privilege on the ground that it would jeopardize national security if classified documents were made available to the public. No one argues for public disclosure of sensitive materials. The issue is whether federal judges should have access to those documents to be read in their chambers.

"2. If an administration is at liberty to invoke the state secrets privilege to prevent litigation from moving forward, thus eliminating independent judicial review, could not the administration use the privilege to conceal violations of statutes, treaties, and the Constitution? What check would exist for illegal actions by the executive branch?"

What's a little illegal spying though? This is war right? A classic excuse used by tyrannical dictators the world over. Tell the people that it is in their own interest, in the name of their own safety, to have their own government spying on them, until the people one day wake up and realize from among the ruin, that it was their own government all along that was the enemy. Quite simply put, there is no excuse now, nor will there ever be any excuse, to crush Constitutional liberty. Those rights are our inalienable rights as human beings, they are not an arbitrary set of guidelines to apply and cancel whimsically on the tides of politics. These are things that an American President should know and know well, without being told. Especially one who just happens to be a Constitutional scholar. And anyone with common sense, scholar or no, should know that such abuses will not stop with violating our privacy. In fact, it has already turned to false and indefinite imprisonment, without any charges whatsoever, without any hearing or oversight by any courts. It has turned to torture of those innocents, at the hands of our own soldiers and agents, as well as our treacherous moves to hand over our prisoners to be tortured by foreigners in other countries.

In May of this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled unanimously that three prisoners being held at Bagram airforce base in Afghanistan had no right to habeas corpus hearings, handing the Obama administration a resounding victory in being able to hold prisoners indefinitely without any judicial oversight. Two Yemenis and a Tunisian claimed that they were being held without cause, were not terrorists, and had in fact been captured outside of the U.S. War-zone in Afghanistan. One is reported to have been captured in the far side of Asia, in Thailand, the second in Pakistan. Details on where the third detainee was captured are not clear. Tina Foster, a lawyer for the prisoners was quoted in a New York Times article as saying that the ruling gave a free hand to the Executive to “kidnap people from other parts of the world and lock them away for the rest of their lives.” The decision means that there is no judicial oversight, no burden of proof whatsoever to substantiate claims that a person might be a terrorist. She then went on to say...
“The thing that is most disappointing for those of us who have been in the fight for this long is all of the people who used to be opposed to the idea of unlimited executive power during the Bush administration but now seem to have embraced it during this administration. We have to remember that Obama is not the last president of the United States.”

Just a few days before the tumultuous national remembrance day of 9/11 this year, a Federal appeals court ruled that former prisoners of the Central Intelligence Agency could not sue over alleged torture in overseas prisons, even if they had since been released and had done nothing wrong, because such lawsuits might expose state-secrets. Like the pages right out of some bizarre Communist, One World Order pulp novel, state-secrets are now more important than revealing the facts of false-imprisonment and years of systematic physical and mental torture. A dark hour for liberty indeed. In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., by a 6-to-5 vote. Filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of five former prisoners, the suit alleged that the company had arranged CIA flights to transport prisoners to other countries for imprisonment and interrogation. This was not even a lawsuit against the government itself, or CIA, but a private company that was complicit in the allegations. So it can hardly be said that they were “just following orders” or that they should be afforded the same immunities afforded to the government. Where does that line of reasoning end? With Boeing dumping toxic waste in public schoolyard, immune from any legality or regulation because they contract with the government and the dumping is a matter of national security? As if the kidnapping, torture, and possibly even murder of people in some cases, weren't enough reason for concern.

The plaintiffs each make various claims regarding the details of their imprisonment and torture in places like a CIA “black-site” in Afghanistan, or after they were handed off in places like Egypt and Morocco. Lead plaintiff Binyan Mohamed is a citizen of Ethiopia and a legal resident of Britain. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 where he was then reportedly turned over to CIA and flown to Morocco where he was tortured by their security services over the course of 18-months there. The torture is said to have included techniques such as using a scalpel to wound his genitals and then pouring caustic liquid on the wounds. From there he was transferred back to CIA custody and delivered to a prison in Afghanistan where he was sparsely fed, and kept in perpetual darkness with a constant blaring recording of women and children screaming 24 hours a day. He was moved again later to Guantanamo Bay Prison where he was held for another five years, before finally being freed in Britain last year, 2009.

In other testimony at various times, murder has indeed been alleged, and it is hardly a stretch to discern that murder is indeed a strong possibility under these conditions. Who would ever really know? While some allegations have indeed leaked out, they are difficult to substantiate, and it is difficult to gauge how many prisoners, guilty of nothing, may have been murdered since 9/11. We do know however, that President Obama himself has endorsed state-sponsored killing of American citizens without any judicial oversight. Not enemy combatants mind you, but in fact has arbitrarily ordered the assassination of New Mexico native Anwar al-Awlaki. No arrest order, no trial, no judicial approval or oversight, no fact-finding mission by an impartial party, just an order to kill this American citizen on sight, wherever he is found. On the battlefield or off, sleeping at home with his children, or shopping at your local supermarket. Though the Bush administration reserved the right to order such a killing, it is not believed that they ever did actually order such an action, particularly against an American citizen.

Through his family, the target has vehemently denied that allegations of the Obama administration that he is guilty of terrorism or in any way connected to al-Qaeda. He is reported to have exchanged emails with the Fort Hood gunman Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, in which he spoke negatively of his views on soldiers at the base who take up arms against Islam. But when did it become a capital offense to be against the war, or to speak your mind on politics or religion? Are such views really to be considered so radical that they do not fall under the purview of freedom of speech, much less subject to summary execution on the orders of the President of the United States? There is not even an allegation that this man has actually participated in any specific terrorist acts, nor that he provided material or financial support to any acts of terrorism. While Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) calls al-Awlaki “terrorist No. 1 in terms of threat against us,” the only allegation that is really being made against him is that he is a recruiter for al-Qaeda. Unsubstantiated claims that this man is a recruiter for an imaginary organization that was originally nothing more than a legal fiction created by American courts to be able to prosecute any Muslim accused of being a terrorist under the RICO act. Such prosecutions are apparently no longer even necessary with people being locked away tortured and murdered without so much as a lawyer or a judge to review the facts.

Now some folks who read this will no doubt have trouble putting aside certain xenophobic tendencies and judge the matter objectively. Certain powers that be rely on that fervor and anti-Muslim sentiment to achieve their ends in undermining the Constitution and installing their totalitarian order. It has always been the same throughout the ages. Vilify some group of people or another in order to seize upon all that is righteous and impose their despotic order. What will you do when you suddenly find that you are now the enemy of the state? Their work is nearly done now. The camps are built, the rail cars are sitting idly by waiting, certainly figuratively, even if not literally as some claim. Seeing the utter lack of change in policy from one President to the next, who appeared to be so fully opposed to the policies of one another a few years ago, coming from opposing political parties, it has never been clearer that the Master of the White House is only there to serve an insidious agenda that is contrary to the ideals put forth by the founding fathers of this nation. Obama swept into office on the promise of change, yet there is no substantive change whatsoever. What will it take so that we hold our leaders accountable for imperial invasions and false wars, for peeling away the fundamental rights of the citizenry, for torture and murder? For allowing themselves to be undermined, allowing this Republic to be usurped by some hidden cabal of internationalists? State secrets do not protect the people, they protect those who seek to enslave and kill the people, make no mistake about it. These are the darkest hours of American liberty.

“We recognized that it was not enough to overthrow the old state, but that the new state must previously have been built up and ready to one's hand....In 1933 it was no longer a question of overthrowing a state by an act of violence; meanwhile the new state had been built up and all that remained to do was destroy the last remnants of the old state – and that took but a few hours.” ~Adolf Hitler

“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” ~Thomas Paine

If you have the time, MSMReview highly recommends the following video, Taxi to the Darkside. In yet another example of the relation corporate media has to more nefarious agendas, this movie had an extremely difficult time reaching the public eye, despite critical acclaim when it was first viewed. The clearest example is when the Discovery Channel bought the rights to the movie, only to announce that they would never air the film, due to the controversial nature of the piece. The following presentation found on Google Video is about 80 minutes long.

“Taxi to the Darkside” Wikipedia Entry

U.S. Approves Targeted Killing of American Cleric

Al-Awlaki's father says son is 'not Osama bin Laden'

EFF Plans Appeal of Jewel v. NSA Warrantless Wiretapping Case

Jewel v. NSA

Handling Of 'State Secrets' At Issue

Expert Consensus: Obama Mimics Bush On State Secrets

Obama’s War on Terror May Resemble Bush’s in Some Areas

Detainees Barred From Access to U.S. Courts

Court Dismisses a Case Asserting Torture by C.I.A.

Obama wins the right to invoke "State Secrets" to protect Bush crimes

Confirmed: Obama authorizes assassination of U.S. citizen

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