With Obama’s Help, Commander in Chief Trump Will Wield Abundant Military and Surveillance Power – Truthdig

13 Nov

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When Donald Trump becomes commander in chief in January, he’ll assume control of an unaccountable drone program, an FBI with a record of spying on mosques and activists, and a surveillance empire currently held in check with executive restraints as durable as tissue paper.

“Caught off guard by Hillary Clinton’s election defeat, Democrats who defended these powers under President Obama may suddenly be having second thoughts as the White House gets handed over to a man they described — with good reason — as ‘unhinged,’ and ‘dangerously unfit,’” writes Alex Emmons at The Intercept.

 

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After eight years of trusting the President with expanding military power, liberals must now reckon with the fact that Obama will pass the same capabilities to a man who has proposed killing terrorists’ innocent family members, who has said he would do “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” and who has suggested dipping bullets in pigs’ blood is sound counterterrorism strategy. …

As for the NSA, Congress passed a law in 2015 ending the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records and replaced it with a modified program. But according to a former State Department official, the phone records program is minuscule compared to the government’s “universe of collection” under Executive Order 12333, which Trump is free to reinterpret or modify.

To make matters worse, the Obama administration has convinced courts that citizens cannot challenge the legality of NSA programs until they can prove they are under surveillance. Because government secrecy makes that generally impossible, courts have started to reject anti-surveillance lawsuits on procedural grounds. …

With an additional stroke of his pen, Trump could reopen the global network of CIA “black sites” and imprison people there without any due process. After the Supreme Court ruled under Bush that Guantanamo detainees have rights under habeas corpus, the Obama administration in 2009 fought to avoid having the same rule applied to military prisons around the world. …

Trump, who has said he would “bomb the shit” out of terror groups and has proposed killing terrorists’ innocent families, will also inherit a global, unaccountable program of drone assassination. Obama started a vast escalation of Bush’s drone program in 2009, and Democrats have trusted him to assassinate people he deems an “imminent threat,” even when they are far away from war zones, and when he doesn’t even know who he is killing. …

 

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The Obama administration has also convinced courts that they have no role to play in reviewing the legality of drone strikes – even when it involves killing a U.S. citizen. Lawsuits on behalf of drone victims, filed both before and after strikes took place have all been dismissed, setting the stage for Trump’s targeting decisions never to see their day in court. …

And perhaps most alarming is that Trump will inherit a Justice Department that has waged an unprecedented war on press freedom. Rather than shut down the Bush-era office that prosecuted leaks to the press, Obama made it his own, and has prosecuted more than twice as many people under the Espionage Act for leaking information to the press than all of his predecessors combined. His actions met with no resistance from Democrats.

In 2013, Obama’s Justice Department seized the phone records from three Associated Press bureaus to uncover the source for a story. Obama also waged a seven-year legal campaign against New York Times Reporter James Risen, threatening him with prison if he did not reveal his source for a story about a botched CIA operation. The prosecutors dropped the request at the last minute.

The legacy of that system is now passing into the hands of someone who has made a show of his contempt for the media. During his campaign, Trump repeatedly incited crowds against reporters, threatened publications with defamation lawsuits, and expressed his desire to “open up those libel laws.”

President Obama has spent much of his time as commander in chief expanding his own military power, while convincing courts not to limit his detention, surveillance, and assassination capabilities. Most of the new constraints on the security state during the Obama years were self-imposed, and could easily be revoked.

It is too early to tell what Trump will actually do. But if his campaign promises are anything to go on, he will flex all the powers Obama accrued and more, while cutting through Obama’s self-imposed restraints like tissue paper. And the silence of Democrats during the Obama years will play a major role in facilitating his abuses.

 

Source: With Obama’s Help, Commander in Chief Trump Will Wield Abundant Military and Surveillance Power – Truthdig

 

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