In 2008, many Americans voted for Barack Obama hoping they were ridding Washington of eight years of abuses by George W. Bush.
Instead, especially when it comes to abuses in freedom, all those Americans got for their efforts was a new George W. Bush in black face.
When it comes to governmental abuse of power, spying on Americans by the National Security Agency and loss of freedom under the USA Patriot Act, Obama is worse than Bush.
Since taking office, Obama has increased the power of the NSA, broaded the scope of warrantless wiretapping of Americans and done nothing to scale back the many abuses of the Patriot Act. To the contrary, the Obama administration backs changes that would make the act more powerful and more intrusive into the lives of ordinary Americans.
“We had hoped this would go differently,” says Tim Jones of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
The EFF went to court to try and roll back the warrantless wiretapping programs launched during the Bush years. As a candidate for office, Obama appeared to back the effort, criticizing the Bush administration for invoking a little-used “state secrets” privilege to block efforts to curtail the program.
But the EFF found that President Obama is a far cry from candidate Obama as the new President also invoked the “state secrets” privilege in asking the courts to dismiss the EFF case without further argument.
Then the Obama administration went even further than Bush, offering the claim that the government “is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying — that the Government can never be sued for surveillance that violates federal privacy statutes.”
“This is a radical assertion that is utterly unprecedented,” says Jones. “No one — not the White House, not the Justice Department, not any member of Congress, and not the Bush Administration — has ever interpreted the law this way.”
In other words, Obama — like Bush — believes he is above the law.
In September, Obama proposed extending three contentious provisions of the USA Patriot Act — provisions he previously called “shoddy.” The three provisions allow roving wiretaps, seizure of business records and monitoring of suspected “lone wolf” terrorists. Obama also asked a U.S. appeals court to deny access to U.S. courts for detainees — including Americans — held in prison in Afghanistan.
The American Civil Liberties Union called the actions “disappointing” and said they expected better from Obama. The recommendations on the prison in Afghanistan, the ACLU said, was akin to the abuses of the Bush Administration.
“Guantanamo was the Bush administration’s effort to do an end run around the Constitution, and the Obama administration is now essentially using Bagram as a way to do an end run around Guantanamo and the constitutional right of habeas corpus found to apply there,” said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney with the ACLU, told The Washington Times. “Simply shipping detainees from around the world to an alternative destination is not a solution and flouts the principles laid down by the Supreme Court.”
Even Democratic Congress John Conyers says Obama is acting more and more like Bush. During hearings on the Patriot Act extension, he told Todd Hinnen, Obama’s deputy assistant attorney general: “You sound like a lot of people who came over from DOJ (the Department of Justice) before.”
EFF’s Tim Jones puts it best:
“This isn’t change we can believe in,” he says. “This is change for the worse.”