Monday, May 23, 2011

The Secret Bipartisanship Of The Patriot Act

I was having a conversation with someone at my local watering hole last Friday, and when I indicated my dislike for the current president, he nearly went apoplectic on me! When he asked me why, and I started to explain all of the things that Obama has failed to accomplish when compared to what he campaigned on, I got the regular meme recited back to me that most liberals and progressives chant. That being the statement that Obama (1) has done incredible things and (2) what he hasn't been able to accomplish is because his "hands are tied" by Congress. He even said something akin to "after all, he's only the President."

I started to delineate all the areas of compromise made by the President, mostly with himself and the Democratic party, and the faux bipartisanship the Obama administration believes they have accomplished.

Actually, there is an interesting piece by, you guessed it, Glenn Greenwald, on the actual bipartisanship that exists up on the Hill.
First, consider what Democrats and Republicans just jointly did with regard to the Patriot Act, the very naming of which once sent progressives into spasms of vocal protest and which long served as the symbolic shorthand for Bush/Cheney post-9/11 radicalism:

This will be the second time that the Democratic Congress -- with the support of President Obama (who once pretended to favor reforms) -- has extended the Patriot Act without any changes. And note the rationale for why it was done in secret bipartisan meetings: to ensure "as little debate as possible" and "to avoid a protracted and familiar argument over the expanded power the law gives to the government." Indeed, we wouldn't want to have any messy, unpleasant democratic debates over "the expanded power the law gives to the government." Here we find yet again the central myth of our political culture: that there is too little bipartisanship when the truth is there is little in Washington but that. And here we also find -- yet again -- that the killing of Osama bin Laden is being exploited to justify a continuation, rather than a reduction, in the powers of the National Security and Surveillance States.

How's that "transparency" campaign promise working out for America? When Obama campaigned on this rhetoric, and when he especially spoke distastefully about The Patriot Act, it is no wonder that his Administration works "in bipartisanship fashion" secretly to not only extend this horrible assault on American's rights, but enhance it to include spying on American's internet and mobile phone usage. And someone on another blog had the audacity to criticize me for mentioning a thought I had about moving to China ... as if only in China and countries like China, have privacy rights been trampled on!

So first they conspire with the GOP to extend the Patriot Act without any reforms, then seek to expand its most controversial and invasive provisions to obtain the Internet activities of American citizens without having to bother with a subpoena or judicial approval -- "they" being the Democratic White House.
And people actually want to argue with me that this President is better than not only what we had for the past 8 years with Bush, but will continue to be better than what the "other side" will put up in 2012 for votes?

The way a republic is supposed to function is that there is transparency for those who wield public power and privacy for private citizens. The National Security State has reversed that dynamic completely, so that the Government (comprised of the consortium of public agencies and their private-sector "partners") knows virtually everything about what citizens do, but citizens know virtually nothing about what they do (which is why WikiLeaks specifically and whistleblowers generally, as one of the very few remaining instruments for subverting that wall of secrecy, are so threatening to them). Fortified by always-growing secrecy weapons, everything they do is secret -- including even the "laws" they secretly invent to authorize their actions -- while everything you do is open to inspection, surveillance and monitoring.
China or America - spying on its citizens is just another job by the government. You tell me where the difference is.


Arno said...

In many ways, worse than Bush.

Carrie said...

Very much worse than Bush, in so many ways. I've posted about the increase in deportations, the "shoot to kill orders" of American citizens abroad, without any charges, trial or even a conviction! Now, following in the Bush/Cheney path, Obama not only has ramped up the wars America is already mired in, but without any approval from the citizenry of the U.S. via it's supposed representation in Congress, we are in Libya! And sane people wonder why many of us don't care for the actions of this administration? At this point, I'm all for the crazies taking over everything. At least it will be entertaining.