The supposedly unprecedented violations of civil liberties by the Obama administration

1 We have in the Obama administration — there’s nobody even close to the violation of privacy and civil liberties, nobody even close.  They can talk about Bush here, but nobody compares to what Obama’s done.

2 Despite his clear and popular promises to the contrary, President Obama has not shifted the balance between security and freedom to a more natural state—one not blinded by worst fears and tarred by power grabs. If anything, things have gotten worse.

3 [Bush’s] successor, Barack Obama, went further by claiming the power not merely to detain citizens without judicial review but to assassinate them (about which the New York Times said: “It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing”). He has waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, dusting off Wilson’s Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute more then double the number of whistleblowers than all prior presidents combined. And he has draped his actions with at least as much secrecy, if not more so, than any president in US history.

Serious charges, from serious people. Here’s one of the things that George W. Bush did: he arrested a US citizen on US soil and

Relying on intelligence obtained from the torture of other prisoners, President Bush labeled Padilla an “enemy combatant” entitled to neither Geneva Convention protections nor to basic constitutional rights. The military detained him from 2002 to 2005 and, to augment their interrogation efforts, blocked all outside contact, including with his mother and lawyers. While imprisoned, government agents subjected Padilla to many of the same interrogation techniques used on detainees at Guantánamo Bay: sleep and sensory deprivation, extreme isolation, drastic changes in light and temperature, prolonged and painful “stress positions,” and physical violence.[4]

"The extended torture visited upon Mr. Padilla has left him damaged, both mentally and physically," said one court filing by Orlando do Campo, one of Padilla’s lawyers. Padilla’s filing also says that he was subjected to sleep deprivation and extremes of heat and cold, forced to stand in "stress positions" that can be painful, and given "truth serum" to make him talk.

The filing includes an affidavit from a psychiatrist who said that he apparently is suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD, and cannot adequately assist his own lawyers in preparing his legal defense. According to the psychiatrist’s affidavit in the court filing: “When approached by his attorneys, he begs them, ‘please, please, please’ not to have to discuss his case.” The psychiatrist also reported that Padilla “refuses to watch the videos of his interrogation and he refuses to answer questions pertaining to aspects of the evidence in his case.” http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1565798,00.html#ixzz2aj5jnFLH

According to defense motions on file in the case, Padilla’s cell measured nine feet by seven feet. The windows were covered over. There was a toilet and sink. The steel bunk was missing its mattress.

He had no pillow. No sheet. No clock. No calendar. No radio. No television. No telephone calls. No visitors. Even Padilla’s lawyer was prevented from seeing him for nearly two years.

For significant periods of time the Muslim convert was denied any reading material, including the Koran. The mirror on the wall was confiscated. Meals were slid through a slot in the door. The light in his cell was always on.[..]

When then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved isolation as an aggressive interrogation technique for use at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Defense Department lawyers included a warning. “This technique is not known to have been generally used for interrogation purposes for longer than 30 days,” the April 2003 memo reads in part. Longer than that required Mr. Rumsfeld’s approval.

By April 2003, Padilla had already spent 10 months in isolation at the brig. Ultimately, he was housed in the same cell, alone in his wing, for three years and seven months, according to court documents.[…]

The new Army Field Manual bars the use of isolation to achieve psychological disorientation through sensory deprivation. “Sensory deprivation is defined as an arranged situation causing significant psychological distress due to a prolonged absence, or significant reduction, of the usual external stimuli and perceptual opportunities,” the manual states. “Sensory deprivation may result in extreme anxiety, hallucinations, bizarre thoughts, depression, and anti-social behavior.[5]

Padilla was not an Al Qeda commander outside the reach of US courts, he was a US citizen detained in Chicago.  And the Bush administration was not at all secretive about what it was doing to Padilla because they intended to make a chilling example for anyone who opposed them . And yet the three civil liberties defenders cited above, Rush Limbaugh, Ron Fournier and Glenn Greenwald insist that President Obama is a greater danger to civil liberties.  What these three men and their colleagues are doing is not defending civil liberties. They are whitewashing the George W. Bush record.

[1]Rush Limbaugh
[2] Ron Fournier
[3]Glenn Greenwald