Last month in this space, this critical poem about the President of the United States was posted. These two lines from the second-to-last verse bear repeating:
“We’ll also learn more about the growing surveillance state
How our privacy doesn’t matter in the midst of all this hate”
Less than three weeks later, that moment has finally arrived.
Thanks to shocking revelations in The Guardian, The Washington Post and The Associated Press, the American Surveillance State is out of the shadows and finds itself unwillingly thrusted into the spotlight. May the justifications for its existence shrivel precipitiously under the intense scrutiny it will continually and inevitably be facing. May it die the sorry death it deserves.
None of this would be possible without the unfathomable courage of whistleblowers, knowledgeable anonymous sources who risk everything, their careers, their personal safety, their reputations, to inform an unaware public of what’s really being done in their name by their cowardly governments who act more like criminal syndicates than civil servants. Just look at the Bradley Manning case, as an example.
The First Class Private intelligence analyst, currently being tried by a judge in a military court martial which resumes next week, faces the very real possibility of losing his freedom entirely. What did he do to deserve such a cruel fate? He carefully leaked thousands of classified documents and one video to Wikileaks. This widely covered material, which has never harmed a single person, reveals deeply disturbing conduct by the American government as well as the duplicitiousness of Middle Eastern dictators who just happened to be allies of the homeland. Meanwhile, the officials responsible for that same disturbing conduct walk freely among us. That’s the state of American justice under Obama. You do the crime, only those who spread the word do the time. Ask former CIA operative John Kiriakou, who exposed waterboarding, all about that philosophy.
But thanks to these damning reports about PRISM and the insidiously secret arrangements the feds made with cell phone and credit card companies (about 50 commercial organizations altogether, thus far) to spy on so many innocent citizens both here and abroad, not to mention a directive to launch future cyber attacks online against perceived enemies, the game has changed.
Threats of new leak prosecutions from terrified government officials feel desperate and pathetic now, a last gasp effort at preventing future revelations that are sure to come fast and furious, as they should. Whistleblowers have nothing to fear any more from a dying empire. There are too many fires to put out now.
Attempts to demonize conscientious folks like the mighty Glenn Greenwald, the longtime secrecy critic whose byline appears on those three devastating Guardian articles, and anyone else who leaked and wrote about these previously unscrunitized, constitutionally suspect government programs, are laughable in the extreme not to mention very old and tired. As Greenwald himself put it on Twitter yesterday, “the dam has burst”. There’s just no building it back up again.
Add these latest scandals to the ones still percolating – the wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars and peculiar scrutiny of conservative activists applying for tax-exempt status by the hated IRS; the mystery involving the CIA’s presence in that American embassy, a diplomatic outpost, in Benghazi, Libya; the resumption of deportations; the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners in Gitmo; the hated drone program and the secretive leak investigations of the New York Times, Fox News and the Associated Press – and you have a federal government living in a permanent state of crisis. Considering all the suffering they’ve inflicted on whistleblowers, the press, immigrants, drug addicts, activists, filmmakers, bi-national gay couples, Sikhs and Muslims both under Obama and Bush, no one should pity them. In fact, they should welcome their collective punishment.
And it can only get worse from here. As we learned from the Nixon era, once the Pentagon Papers were published by The New York Times, a panicked Republican administration went on a futile discrediting campaign that ultimately led to Watergate, The Saturday Night Massacre and the only Presidential resignation in history. Thanks to today’s round-the-clock news culture, the process of a revived adversarial press destroying a presidency might not take three years this time. In fact, it could happen even sooner.
Honestly, does President Obama and his thoroughly corrupt cronies believe their phony, hard-to-swallow assurances about PRISM, drones and the Surveillence State will be nearly enough to assuage the growing chorus of doubters who are no doubt deeply troubled by these latest reports? Does he think he can still hide all of this information, the stuff we know and the stuff we don’t know, because of those increasingly bogus “national security” excuses? How dumb does he think his constituents are?
True, some of them, particularly those only familiar with a post-9/11 world, will wonder what the big deal is. I have nothing to hide, they’ll say about their privacy being grossly violated time and time again. That’s not the point. The point is when powerful people have access to information they shouldn’t have and no one else knows about it, they can do whatever they want with it, which can lead to human rights abuses. Translation: your private information can be used against you and you may not have any legal recourse to prevent a relentless prosecution or appeal a possible conviction. Human history is loaded with compelling examples. Remember the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II? Like Obama, a Democrat was in charge at the time.
The President can claim all he wants that there’s nothing to worry about with all this data collecting (and drone killing, for that matter), but who’s to say the next President, whoever that will be, won’t go further? Can you imagine if Nixon lived in the Internet Age?
At any event, Obama can’t survive in this hostile environment only five months into his second term. He promised complete transparency during his brilliant first campaign and offered nothing of the sort upon moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave in 2009. (Example: he was awarded a transparency award. In secret.) He railed against The Patriot Act as a senator while renewing and deepening its reach as President. He vowed to close Gitmo. Now he’s force-feeding hunger striking prisoners who have spent a decade or more in indefinite military custody and have never been convicted of any crime. About half were cleared for release years ago. And don’t forget the thousand or so civilians who were murdered because of Predator Drones launched on his orders in countries (Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan) we’re not officially at war with.
For a man who raised the hopes of so many disillusioned people at home and around the world only to become the gross extension of The George W. Bush Era is the ultimate act of betrayal. And now, he’s left with only two bad options: resign or face impeachment.
Time to write that farewell speech, Mr. Obama, before the hounds of justice write it for you.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, June 7, 2013
UPDATE: It just got worse.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, June 8, 2013