President Barack Obama said earlier in the week that he wants civil liberties to be brought forth as a more important topic of debate in the few remaining weeks before the Presidential election.
“We haven’t talked about what’s at stake with respect to civil liberties,” Obama mused during a campaign speech at the Los Angeles Ritz Carlton.
Obama critics would likely agree that, despite the President’s comment, a real conversation about civil liberties under his Administration would not likely gain him any favor with civil libertarians. While Mitt Romney isn’t exactly known for his love of civil liberty and his party certainly isn’t after the Patriot Act-laden reign of George W. Bush, what Obama has done (and has failed to do) is more alarming to libertarians than anything Romney might do.
In examining Obama’s record over the past four years alongside statements he made before he took office, it almost appears as if the President does not remember anything he has done with regard to civil liberties in nearly four years.
Obama said this in December 2007:
I reject the view that the President may do whatever he deems necessary to protect national security, and that he may torture people in defiance of congressional enactments. I reject the use of signing statements to make extreme and implausible claims of presidential authority. Some further points:
The detention of American citizens, without access to counsel, fair procedure, or pursuant to judicial authorization, as enemy combatants is unconstitutional.
Warrantless surveillance of American citizens, in defiance of FISA, is unlawful and unconstitutional.
The violation of international treaties that have been ratified by the Senate, specifically the Geneva Conventions, was illegal (as the Supreme Court held) and a bad idea.
The creation of military commissions, without congressional authorization, was unlawful (as the Supreme Court held) and a bad idea.
Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, a law that allows for “the detention of American citizens, without access to counsel, fair procedure, or pursuant to judicial authorization, as enemy combatants.” Though he claims to have “had reservations” about it.
Obama’s Administration not only continued Bush-era domestic spying programs, but dramatically increased warrantless electronic surveillance.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Department of Justice monitored 37,616 phones in 2011 and increased its tracking of email and social networking data by 361 percent under Obama.
The President also embraced the use of the very military commissions that he once abhorred.
Furthermore, the “transparent” Obama Administration has waged all-out war on whistle-blowers because the President claims that “state secrets” have been put into danger.
If the President wants a conversation about civil liberty that makes him look better than the prospect of a Romney Administration, he has a great deal of bad policy to undo before November.