Barack Obama on Civil Liberty

Last Updated : Oct 04, 2012

Summary

Under President Obama, several pieces of legislation have been passed to combat terrorism that curtail the civil liberties of Americans. This legislation includes the 2012 NDAA and legislation to make protesting in given areas a felony offense. President Obama has also carried out a number of actions that have been counter to the basic civil liberties of people and/or groups. These actions include harsh punishment of whistleblowers in general and PFC Bradley Manning in particular, and assassinations of US citizens.

Since President Obama took office, the police state within the US has continued the expanstsion that began under President Bush. This expansion includes the rise of the TSA's authority to include physical searches at airports, bus stations, train stations, and political events. The use of drones within the US has also started under President Obama. The NSA has also grown to include the complete electronic surveillance of all US citizens, a move exemplified in the massive new electronic spy facility being constructed under President Obama in Utah.

In addition to these new actions, President Obama has also continued a number of actions from the previous administration that he pledged to end. This includes the continued use of the US detention facility in Cuba known as Guantanamo Bay and the failure to restore the rights of habeaus corpus to all people.

2012 NDAA

In December of 2011, President Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. The primary component of this piece of legislation is funding the military and other national defense items.  However, a small component fo the legislation extended the "battlefield" in the war on terror to include the mainland US. This would allow the US to detain US citizens indefinitely without being charged. 

During the debates on the legislation, it was reveled that the Obama administration asked that these provitions remain in the final version of the bill after amendments had been raised to remove them.

HR 347

In March of 2012, President Obama signed the Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011. This legislation made it a federal crime to enter a building or impede the work of government officials if the building or grounds where the a person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting; or a building or grounds in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance. 

Assassinations

President Obama assassinated an American citizen named Anwar al-Awlaki. The reason for the assassination was that Mr al-Awlaki was preaching hate and jihad against the US. Mr al-Awlaki was a US citizen. Two weeks after he was assassinated, Mr al-Awlaki's 16 year old son was also assassinated by the US even though he was not accused of a crime. It is now acknowledged that Mr al-Awlaki had lunch at the Pentagon and visited other US locations after he was purpoted to be an enemy of the state under President Bush.

Habeaus Corpus and Guantanamo

President Obama campaigned heavily on the belief that all people had a fundamental right to habeaus corpus. He pledged to shut down Guantanamo Bay. Neither of these actions have been completed.

Cyber Security

While President Obama has opposed the wholesale DNS blacklisting portion of SOPA, he has not opposed the remainder of the bill. Under his administration there has been a massive expansion of cyber security policies. This included the exposure of a massive NSA facility in Utah whose construction began under President Obama and whose purpose is to collect, read, and catalogue all electronic communications. This includes communications by Americans.

Whistleblowers

President Obama has charged more people (six) under the 1917 Espionage Act for the alleged mishandling of classified information. This is more than twice the number of all previous Presidents combined. We track those under a whistleblower controversy. In three of those cases, infromation that was indeed critical was leaked. However, there are questionable circumstances in all cases. This includes cases which began under President Bush, but charges were filed under President Obama. 

Asset Seizure

In September of 2012, the Department of Justice changed rules for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms the authority, for a one-year trial period, to seize and administratively forfeit property allegedly involved in controlled substance offenses pursuant to United States Code Title 21 › Chapter 13 › Subchapter I › Part E › § 881. This rule is often invoked to seize and forfeit bulk currency, where no drugs are found, on theories that the currency was furnished, or intended to be furnished, in exchange for a controlled substance.

 

Habeaus Corpus

On September 27, 2006 Senator Obama spoke on the Senate floor about an amendment that he was sponsoring to ensure habeaus corpus rights.

 

Sponsored and Cosponsored Legislation

Session-110; Bill Number-S 1267; Free Flow of Information Act of 2007 - Cosponsor

Prohibits a federal entity (an entity or employee of the judicial or executive branch or an administrative agency) from compelling a covered person (a person engaged in journalism, including their supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate) to testify or produce any document unless a court makes specified determinations by a preponderance of the evidence. Requires the content of compelled testimony or documents to be limited and narrowly tailored. Applies this Act to communications service providers with regard to testimony or any record, information, or other communication that relates to a business transaction between such providers and covered persons. Sets forth notice requirements. Permits a court to delay notice to a covered person upon determining that such notice would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of a criminal investigation.

Session-110; Bill Number-S 2035; Free Flow of Information Act of 2007 - Cosponsor

Prohibits a federal entity (an entity or employee of the judicial or executive branch or an administrative agency) from compelling a covered person (a person engaged in journalism, including their supervisor, employer, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate) to testify or produce any document unless a court makes specified determinations by a preponderance of the evidence. Requires the content of compelled testimony or documents to be limited and narrowly tailored. Applies this Act to communications service providers with regard to testimony or any record, information, or other communication that relates to a business transaction between such providers and covered persons. Sets forth notice requirements. Permits a court to delay notice to a covered person upon determining that such notice would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of a criminal investigation.

References

[1] Website: Federal Regsiter Article: Authorization To Seize Property Involved in Drug Offenses for Administrative Forfeiture (2012R-9P) Author: NA Accessed on: 09/13/2012

[2] Website: ForfeitureForum.com Article: Yet another agency gets authority to seize cash that might have something to do with drugs. Author: Scott Alexander Meiner Accessed on: 09/13/2012

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