Barack Obama has continued virtually all of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s once-controversial terrorism and civil liberties policies. Even the right wing acknowledges these polices have continued under the Obama presidency. The first area where we see this is in indefinite detention—the idea that human beings can be caged for years without an opportunity to defend themselves. The president’s plan for “closing” Guantanamo was not really to close Guantanamo at all. It was simply to move it 2,000 miles north to Illinois.
Another policy that Obama has continued, and actually worsened, is the idea that habeas corpus, the most minimal right a prisoner can have, isn’t guaranteed under the constitution. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in Boumediene v. Bush that prisoners at Guantanamo do have the right to habeas corpus. The Obama administration took the position that habeas corpus applies only to prisoners in Guantanamo, not anywhere else that the United States imprisons people, such as at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. The administration has thus won in court, and has won the right to circumvent the Supreme Court decision by simply not bringing prisoners to Guantanamo. Instead, they are bringing them to Afghanistan or Iraq.
The Obama administration owns two disturbing innovation, as well. The first is the idea that the president has the right and the power to target American citizens not just with warrantless eavesdropping, as Bush did, but with assassination. In 2010, the Washington Post reported that four Americans were on Obama’s list of terrorists whom the CIA was instructed to hunt down and murder. The second of innovation is his war on whistle-blowers. Whistle blowing is one the very few avenues left to learn about what the government does, and Obama is trying to criminalize it. The administration has so far as detaining people it suspects of being associated with whistle blowing at airports when they try to re-enter the country.
A climate of fear arises whenever a government systematically proves that is both willing and able to transgress the legal limits it is supposed to be subject to. That fear is not just the outcome, but also the purpose. If a climate of fear is potent enough, it changes the relationship between the populace and the government such that it is no longer necessary to take away rights formally.
Article Title: Obama’s Illegal Assaults: How once-controversial ‘war on terror’ tactics became the new normal
Source: In These Times Date-September 2011 edition
Author: Glenn Greenwald
Student Researcher: Jessica Belluomini, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, Sonoma State University