When President Obama first took office, I didn’t have high hopes regarding civil liberties. Granted, it was Republican President George W. Bush’s government that completely abolished many civil liberties with the passing of the PATRIOT Act, not only has Obama kept moving in the same direction, he has accelerated the process.
In 2011, ten years after the initial passing of the PATRIOT Act, Congress was once again called upon to vote on the controversial Act. As I suspect almost all Grinnell students believe, the PATRIOT Act severely infringes on individual’s privacy and possibly (and in my opinion, blatantly) violated many of the rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Bill of Rights. Sadly, Obama passed the majority of the key provisions in the Act.
Fast forward a few months until January of 2012: the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was strongly opposed by liberal and conservative groups alike, such as the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), Amnesty International, and the Cato Institute, was signed into law by Obama. NDAA does many things, including allowing for the indefinite detention of American citizens. Past laws had already legalized the indefinite detainment of non-Americans, but the addition to include the indefinite detention of American citizens went too far past the line for many.
After the law was passed, I had lost all faith in both President Obama and the direction this country is heading with civil liberties. It was also at this point that I first noticed some of my Democratic friends starting to vocally oppose Obama and his actions and supporting Jill Stein instead.
In addition to NDAA, many of my previously Obama-supporting friends were disappointed with Obama in regards to his failure to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. It is no secret what goes on inside the walls of the prison at Guantanamo Bay: torture. Because of this, one of Obama’s biggest campaign promises was that as president, he would close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. When he first took office, it appeared like he was going to come through on this promise; he created a small office with the sole task of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Years after this office was created, Obama shut it down permanently. Late last month, Obama closed the only part of the government that was actively working to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
And now the most recent event in Obama’s trail of civil liberty destruction: the leaked documents proving, once and for all, Obama’s policy towards the assassination of US citizens. The confidential documents, released to NBC on February 4th this year, summarize Obama’s policy towards assassinating US citizens. The documents reveal that the Federal Government can assassinate US citizens, even on US soil. The documents can be found at: http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/i/msnbc/sections/news/020413_DOJ_White_Paper.pdf
The documents go on to explain the circumstances in which this may occur. For me, the only thing I need to know is that Obama believes it is okay to assassinate US citizens at all. In my opinion, no government should ever be able to assassinate one of their own citizens without a trial; this is 100% unacceptable and 100% unconstitutional.
The progression between the allowing of indefinite detention of American citizens and the allowing of assassinations of American citizens is absolutely terrifying. This is no longer a debate over civil liberties; this is literally a debate over life and death.
The release of the documents created a small uproar in Congress and Senator Rand Paul took a definite stance stating, “The President, Republican or Democrat, should never get to decide someone’s death.” Although Paul is a libertarian conservative, I hope all people regardless of their political affiliation believe it is not in the best interest of the United States to have a president with the ability to assassinate US citizens.
Disappointingly, from what I have noticed, the majority of individuals do not know about the released documents or do not think they are important enough to stop supporting Obama. I personally cannot comprehend how an individual that values civil liberties highly and believes in the Bill of Rights could continue to support a president that has done all that Obama has done to civil liberties. Hopefully Senators like Rand Paul (R-KY) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) will continue to gain momentum in the national spectrum and can return civil liberties back to the citizens of the United States.
Until next time, remember, there’s always A View From Below.
-Max Mindock ’15