Obama’s latest act

Ryan Day

It’s time to face facts: Obama is not the arbiter of change that he claimed to be in his campaign. It is becoming increasingly apparent that his administration is willing to act in the same manner as the Bush administration in regard to executive power and claims of “state secrets.”
Instead of radically cutting back the power that the executive branch gained in the Bush years as was promised, the Obama administration continues to hold on to this power and even to push for more.
Throughout the two terms of the Bush administration, congressional Democrats, Barack Obama included, chided the Bush administration’s withholding of evidence in cases against the United States in the name of “state secrets.” These were most often cases brought against the government for torture and illegal wiretapping.
The general idea of the “states secret” argument is this: If the evidence being used in these trials against the U.S. government were to be brought up in a court of law, state secrets would be revealed to the public, putting the country at a major security risk.
During the tenure of the Bush administration, the “state secrets” privilege was invoked more than 20 times. For a quick comparison, it is worth noting that before the Bush administration, the privilege was only invoked four times since 1953.
With the promises of transparency and lessening of executive power during the Obama campaign, along with the constant criticism of the privilege from congressional Democrats, it was all but expected that the use of the “state secrets” privilege would come to an end and cases regarding the United States government’s participation in illegal activities would finally see the light of day when Obama came into power.
Unfortunately, this has not been so, as the Obama Department of Justice has continued to invoke “state secrets” in order to have cases against the U.S. government thrown out of court. In an interview with Katie Couric, Attorney General Eric Holder stated, “On the basis of the two, three cases we’ve had to review so far, I think that the invocation of the doctrine was correct.”
It doesn’t end there. The Obama administration has gone above and beyond any of the legal gymnastics undertaken by the Bush administration by creating a claim of “sovereign immunity.” Salon.com Blogger Glenn Greenwald explains that this new claim states, “that the Patriot Act bars any lawsuits of any kind for illegal government surveillance unless there is ‘willful disclosure’ of the illegally intercepted communications.”
It is difficult to comprehend the scope and absurdity of this new claim. The implications are, in a nutshell, that the government can do whatever they want to do in regards to spying on American citizens, and unless they want to tell the public what they have learned in these endeavors, lawsuits cannot be brought against them.
This essentially means that the government can spy on you any time they like, and they cannot be sued unless they want to be sued. The Bush administration never went this far to protect itself from being taken to court. It is extremely important to realize that this new claim is an Obama administration creation.
The hypocrisy of this course of action taken by the Obama administration is nearly unfathomable. Both Obama and Biden called for serious restrictions on the privilege while they were members of Congress. Biden even co-sponsored a bill that would have severely restricted its use.
Obama supporters, though some of them were the harshest and loudest critics of the Bush administration for its attacks on civil liberties, sit quietly as their hero goes farther to endanger privacy than their nemesis ever did. No good can come from this silence. The time to sit back and applaud ourselves for a job well done as liberals is over.