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Chris Ford: Shame on Obama!

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

Shame on Barack Obama! Shame on him!

It now appears that the great liberal of 2008 has morphed into the great conservative appeaser of 2013! The revelations by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden (now facing extradition from Hong Kong following espionage charges) have finally shattered Obama's image as one of the comparatively better and more progressive presidents of recent times

Obama, in 2009, virtually sanctioned the biggest intelligence data gathering exercise ever in PRISM. The system has been used to spy on the electronic communications of both friend and foe alike. The system has also been illegally used to spy on the electronic data of millions of ordinary Americans. Even Obama himself was reportedly a victim of NSA eavesdropping while a senatorial candidate in 2004.

Evidently, Snowden has uncovered a spying scandal which morphs that unearthed by Corporal Bradley Manning in 2010. Snowden has also further exposed the truth about modern American intelligence practices. Most people thought that the excesses of the Johnson and (especially) Nixon Administrations when the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and Federal Bureau of Investigation actively (and illegally) spied on political activists and even innocent members of the population had been consigned to history. This was the case as during the 1970s and 1980s, successive American Congresses, shamed by the actions of intelligence agencies in the post-war era, passed laws providing for greater legislative oversight of the intelligence services.

However, 9/11 appears to have changed the views of the US political elite that the intelligence agencies should remain shackled. Once again, the Cold War justification of needing to defeat an enemy, both without and within the US, as part of the new 'War on Terror', was used to justify the renewed unleashing of intelligence power alongside military power. This is why the Bush Administration, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, pushed through the so-called Patriot Act which gave intelligence agencies and law enforcement authorities almost untrammelled authority to pursue 'terrorists'. Realistically, the Patriot Act would never have seen the light of day had it not been for 9/11. That's why, in the wake of understandable mass public anger and grief, that the legions of the national security state were able to get their wicked way with the elected representatives of the American people.

Consequently, I would argue that the post 9/11-national security consensus on the need for a so-called 'War on Terror' captured Obama as much as it had Bush. I would posit that this is so as Candidate Obama made all the promises in the world about, for example, closing Guantanamo and not unleashing American power too readily in 2008. By the following year, however, it now appears that he had not only publicly jettisoned the idea of closing Guantanamo but had formally endorsed PRISM as a permanent means of securing intelligence on America's so-called enemies.

The Obama Administration will justify PRISM on the basis of its successes in quashing numerous terrorist plots and (perhaps) its role in helping finally track down Osama Bin Laden in early 2011. The questions that remain unanswered include why did it fail to detect the two Boston bombers? Why did it almost fail to stop the Underwear Bomber on Christmas Day 2009? Why has it been used to spy on not only America's purported rivals and enemies but even long time and erstwhile allies like the Germans and the Turks? Why, above all, has PRISM ensnared the data of hundreds of millions of innocent Americans in what Snowden aptly described as an exercise akin to trying to find a needle in a haystack?

These and many other questions are what Obama should answer - honestly and publicly.

PRISM could well be Obama's equivalent of Watergate, Iran/Contra, Monicagate - you name the presidential scandal. 

While some of the blame for PRISM should also be placed at the previous administration's feet, it's Obama who picked up the War on Terror from his predecessor. Above all, the President should remember the lines contained on the famous plaque that once graced the first Cold War President Harry S. Truman's desk: 'The buck stops here!" 

Obama needs to answer now for his decision to engage in a snooping exercise that would have made Richard M. Nixon (and indeed any of his predecessors) envious!

 

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