FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Secrecy, Drones, Prisons and Kill Lists

by ALYSSA ROHRICHT

On Monday, the Associated Press revealed that the Department of Justice used subpoenas to obtain phone records of its editors and reporters from April and May 2012. The records were obtained due to the investigation and supposed leak to the AP last year that the CIA had “thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design around the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden.” The , published on May 7, 2012, cites unnamed officials as sources. The piece also notes that AP had received information regarding the thwarted plot the week previous to publishing, but had agreed per requests by the White House and the CIA to hold the information because the “sensitive intelligence operation” was still in progress. Once officials said that those concerns were put to rest, the AP published the story.

The story was co-written by reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman along with contributions from Kimberly Dozier, Eileen Sullivan and Alan Fram. They, along with their editor, Ted Bridis, had both their personal and work phone records seized from April-May 2012, in addition to general AP office numbers.

But who could be surprised? From the very start of Obama’s presidency, he and his administration have managed to take the Bush-era attack on civil liberties and not just continue them, but in many cases, significantly expand them (Lena Groeger and Cora Currier of ProPublica have created a fantastic interactive list here). The AP phone records story, while certainly significant, is not the first time the Obama administration has acted above the law. Glenn Greenwald wrote for a piece in The Guardian.

“And then there are the two War on Terror presidents. George Bush seized on the 9/11 attack to usher in radical new surveillance and detention powers in the PATRIOT ACT, spied for years on the communications of US citizens without the warrants required by law, and claimed the power to indefinitely imprison even US citizens without charges in military brigs.

His successor, Barack Obama, went further by claiming the power not merely to detain citizens without judicial review but to assassinate them…He has waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, dusting off Wilson’s Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute more than double the number of whistleblowers than all prior presidents combined. And he has draped his actions with at least as much secrecy, if not more so, than any president in US history.”

What is clear is that Obama’s legacy is shaping up to be one rife with assaults on civil liberties, government secrecy, and broken promises. Here are my top ten:

1. National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA: Signed into law by Obama, it authorizes the U.S. government to carry out “counter-terrorism” domestically and detain INDEFINITELY and WITHOUT TRIAL any U.S. citizen who is suspected of any sort of suspicious activity that could be deemed terrorism or supporting terrorism. And what’s more, these U.S. citizens could be shipped to one of our extraordinary rendition sites across the globe – sites like Guantánamo Bay.

2. Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan: Both U.S. citizens. Both killed in Yemen by a U.S. drone strike on September 30th, 2011. Anwar al-Awlaki was specifically targeted on Obama’s kill list. Neither was officially charged. Neither given a trial. Neither convicted of any crime.

3. Abdulrahman al-Awlaki: Just two weeks after al-Awlaki and Khan were killed, al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, was also killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen. Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary and a senior adviser to Obama during his reelection campaign said, when asked about the boy’s killing, that he “should have a far more responsible father.”

4. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA):  In 2008, then-Senator Obama voted for FISA, which allows for warrantless wiretapping of international communications by the NSA. In December of 2012, Obama extended it for another five years.

5. Patriot Act: In May, 2011, Obama renewed much of the Patriot Act, including wiretaps and the “lone wolf” provision which allows government surveillance of individuals even if they are not known to be affiliated with a terrorist organization.

6. Drone Strikes: During Bush’s presidency, there were about 45 drone strikes in Pakistan. During Obama’s first year as president, there were 53. Under Obama’s presidency, drone strikes also expanded to Yemen. Additionally, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration, “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”

7. Whistleblowers: The Obama administration has charged more people under the Espionage Act than all past presidents…combined. Six have been charged under the law thus far: Thomas Drake, former senior executive at the NSA, Shamai K. Leibowitz, former FBI translator, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a nuclear proliferation specialist, former CIA agent John Kiriakou, Jeffrey Sterling, former CIA officer, and…

8. Bradley Manning: Pfc Bradley Manning, the sixth in the list of those charged under the Espionage Act, has now spent over three years in jail without trial for releasing classified documents to the website Wikileaks. The documents he released exposed lies and corruption by U.S. government officials, killings of civilians, torture in Iraq, drone strike cover-ups, and abuse of children by U.S. government contractors abroad. They included the  Collateral Murder video, showing a U.S. Apache helicopter gunning down over a dozen people in Baghdad in 2007, including civilians and two Reuter’s employees, photojournalist Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver Saeed Chmagh. Also released were the Iraq War Logs, chronicling reports from 2004-2009 of thousands of cases of prisoner torture and abuse filed against coalition forces in Iraq. The reports include gruesome description of people being whipped with cables, sexually assaulted, urinated on, and hung from the ceiling on hooks. In addition, the War Logs added 15,000 civilian deaths to the known body count, totalling over 150,000 people, of which about 80% were civilian.

9. Spying on Muslim Communities: Under the Obama administration, the NYPD and the CIA have joined together to spy on communities of Muslims in the U.S. using “human mapping” or racial and religious profiling, and in 2011, AP reported the use of “mosque crawlers” or informants used to monitor sermons and other areas where groups of Muslims are known to frequent.

10. Guantánamo Bay: During Obama’s first campaign for the presidency, he promised to close down Guantánamo Bay, a promise he quickly abandoned. Now, further controversy is surrounding the prison as prisoners, some who have been detained for over a decade and many who have even been cleared for release, have gone on hunger strike. Of the 166 prisoners at Guantánamo, at least 130 are refusing to eat as part of a hunger strike that began this February. At least 20 prisoners are being force-fed, which the United Nations Human Rights Commission considers torture. 

This list is by no means exhaustive. I didn’t mention the 11th anniversary that occurred last October of Operation Enduring Freedom, marking over a decade of involvement in Afghanistan. I didn’t mention the past six years of fighting terror in Somalia. I didn’t mention that we have been dropping drones on Pakistan for the past nine years. Then of course, there is the War on Drugs in Latin America – a war that we have been waging to no end for decades, costing the U.S. billions of dollars and an untold number of lives. I didn’t mention that we are militarily involved in an estimated 60% of the world’s nations. I didn’t mention Obama’s record deportations of illegal immigrants that far exceeds the Bush-era deportations. And these things will continue because we ignore them. The right is distracted by the government “coming for their guns.” The left is complacent because a Democrat is in office. Meanwhile, our government continues to act as if it is above the rule of law. If Obama’s legacy is one of secrecy, egregious assaults on civil liberties, and drone strikes around the world, our legacy is one of ignorance, stupidity and complacency. I’m still not sure which is worse.

Alyssa Rohricht maintains Crash Culture and can be reached at aprohricht@msn.com.

Alyssa Röhricht maintains The Black Cat Revolution and can be reached at aprohricht@msn.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
Bill Willers
Volunteerism; Charisma; the Ivy League Stranglehold: a Very Brief Trilogy
Lawrence Davidson
Moral Failure at the UN
Pete Dolack
World Bank Declares Itself Above the Law
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Israel’s Human Rights Spies
Patrick Cockburn
From Paris to London: Another City, Another Attack
Ralph Nader
Reason and Justice Address Realities
Ramzy Baroud
‘Decolonizing the Mind’: Using Hollywood Celebrities to Validate Islam
Colin Todhunter
Monsanto in India: The Sacred and the Profane
Louisa Willcox
Grizzlies Under the Endangered Species Act: How Have They Fared?
Norman Pollack
Militarization of American Fascism: Trump the Usurper
Pepe Escobar
North Korea: The Real Serious Options on the Table
Brian Cloughley
“These Things Are Done”: Eavesdropping on Trump
Sheldon Richman
You Can’t Blame Trump’s Military Budget on NATO
Carol Wolman
Trump vs the People: a Psychiatrist’s Analysis
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Marines to Kill Desert Tortoises
Stanley L. Cohen
The White House . . . Denial and Cover-ups
Farhang Jahanpour
America’s Woes, Europe’s Responsibilities
Joseph Natoli
March Madness Outside the Basketball Court
Bruce Mastron
Slaughtered Arabs Don’t Count
Ayesha Khan
The Headscarf is Not an Islamic Compulsion
Pauline Murphy
Unburied Truth: Exposing the Church’s Iron Chains on Ireland
Ron Jacobs
Music is Love, Music is Politics
Christopher Brauchli
Prisoners as Captive Customers
Robert Koehler
The Mosque That Disappeared
Franklin Lamb
Update from Madaya
Dan Bacher
Federal Scientists Find Delta Tunnels Plan Will Devastate Salmon
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Gig Economy: Which Side Are You On?
Louis Proyect
What Caused the Holodomor?
Max Mastellone
Seeking Left Unity Through a Definition of Progressivism
Charles R. Larson
Review: David Bellos’s “Novel of the Century: the Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables”
David Yearsley
Ear of Darkness: the Soundtracks of Steve Bannon’s Films
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail