The US government’s intrusion into its citizens’ lives means America is no longer the land of the free.
Can we illegally kill American citizens on foreign soil without trial? Yes we can.
Can we spy on reporters and infringe on the free press? Yes we can.
Can we arrest reporters who oppose us? Yes we can.
Can we attack political groups who disagree with us through the IRS? Yes we can.
Can we botch up embassy security in an aggressive anti-American state and then cover it up? Yes we can.
Can we spy on those living in the United States through their phone records and internet activity? Yes we can.
I was originally going to write this piece solely on the NSA scandal and the infringement of civil liberties in order to combat the threat of international and domestic terrorism.
I think that this is an interesting debate.
Are there grounds for losing some rights to privacy in order to protect us from terrorism? Or does infringing on civil liberties in a supposedly free and democratic nation mean that, actually, the terrorists have already won?
Both are intriguing questions. The NSA incident on its own is not that damning for the President and his administration. In fact, in the hands of a responsible government, such oversight might, in some cases, be forgiven if it did indeed have citizens’ best interests at heart.
But this new NSA scandal is not an anomaly that can be examined independently. It is just the latest scandal of government overreach to hit the Obama administration.
Using the IRS to target political opponents is deplorable. This, combined with the curtailing of a free media, and using drones to illegally target US citizens without trial in conjunction with spying on your own people, is government gone mad.
A free press is the cornerstone of a democratic state, the bastion of protest against corruption and the truest opponent of tyranny in existence.
Moving against reporters that you don’t agree with is the modus operandi of petty despots; it is the first step in a process that leads to censorship and the curtailment of free speech.
The measures being undertaken by the DOJ and it’s increasingly trigger-happy chief Eric Holder are an unpleasant reminder of the negative facets of big government.
It inevitably gives rise to anti-statist movements that want to bring the whole system tumbling down.
Before gun control was killed in the Senate, and debate was still raging on. Opponents of the measure – such as the exuberant Alex Jones – claimed they needed firearms to protect themselves against the possibility of tyrannical dictatorship. This sounded ridiculous at the time. However, the current administration has now seemed to take it upon itself to justify such irrational fears by acting like a tyrant.
Now, most of us have no idea what kind of threats the President is made aware of when he receives his National Security briefings. Phone taps and surveillance for potential terrorist suspects have become somewhat of a norm in present times. We all know that intelligence services can listen in on us when we speak on the phone.
However, the scale of the current NSA operation is staggering and the fact that all this information is being stored is, to say the least, highly disconcerting.
Most of all, however, these scandals are a serious blow to the credibility of a President who came into office promising to be different, promising to be the force that would restore America’s liberal soul. This simply has not happened.
From the liberal perspective, the president has been a disappointment. He has been ferociously partisan, to the detriment of his progressive agenda. His refusal to negotiate in Congress has killed off all the promised reforms that got him elected.
He has failed to close Guantanamo, and now seems to be implementing surveillance measures that would not look out of place in Putinist Russia.
So, at the beginning of the second term, we can safely assume the dream is over. President Obama is not the paradigm of virtue that many of us hoped he would be. He is a just another opportunistic politician. He is as aggressive as Bush when attacking America’s enemies – and even George W didn’t use drones to the same extent as his immediate successor. Obama’s use of government bodies to watch over and persecute political opponents is, quite frankly, scandalous.
So far the president has claimed that he had no knowledge of some of these scandals. If this is true then he is admitting that he has no control over his government. If it is not true then he has lied and should be held accountable for that.
I am – in the terms of US politics at least – a liberal. I am not the biggest fan of the more conservative elements of the US political spectrum. However, to attack those you don’t agree with through government persecution is not strength, but staggering weakness.
On its own the NSA scandal is concerning, but a rational approach would lead to the conclusion that it is perhaps purely the price of safety against terrorism. In conjunction with all the other breaches of civil liberties by this administration, it is a deeply worrying sign of abusive power.