The expansion of the police state under the Obama Administration is
alarming and belies a wholesale erosion of individual liberties. As a
presidential candidate, Barack Obama made numerous promises that would
have led to reducing the pernicious power of the police state in
America; however the actions of his administration are in opposition to
One such promise was candidate
Obama's pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and dismantle the
military commissions within his first year in office. Candidate Obama
promised, "As president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military
Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions."
now, during Obama's fourth year in office, the prison in Guantanamo Bay
remains open and the military commissions persist, in violation of
international human rights conventions.
Obama Administration has not renounced the use of torture, continues to
operate secret prisons around the world, retains the use of
extrajudicial kidnapping euphemistically called "extraordinary
rendition," and has ended a longstanding principled policy against
assassinations. President Obama contrived a secret "kill list."
Although widely discussed in the media, the program's existence - as
well as its alleged legal "justification" - are themselves kept secret.
The President alone sits in judgment of who will live and who will
die. This does not resemble the transparency Obama-the-candidate
promised of his administration.
had claimed that "Transparency and the rule of law will be the
touchstones of this Presidency." One minute after taking office, the new
website of the Obama White House declared his administration would
become "the most open and transparent in history."
reality, under Obama the federal government has been using FOIA
exemptions to withhold information from requesters 49 percent more often
than under Bush. At the DEA alone, under Obama, Administrator Michele
Leonhart (a Bush holdover) has presided over a whopping 114 percent increase in FOIA rejections.
these are not they only promises Obama broke. He pledged that his
administration would enhance "whistleblower laws to protect federal
workers." Instead, it has been more prone than any administration in
history to try to silence whistleblowers.
example, the Obama Administration has used the Espionage Act to
prosecute an unprecedented number of whistleblowers - so far twice the
number of prosecutions as under all previous administrations combined.
The deplorable mistreatment of Bradley Manning is just one among many
examples of this administration abusing its powers to target
Earlier this year, President
Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which purportedly
permits the indefinite detention of people - including Americans -
without charge or trial.
fought for, and persuaded Congress to pass, legislation intended to
grant retroactive immunity to the telecom companies for their massive
warrantless wiretapping under Bush. The Obama Justice Department is
fighting the ongoing warrantless wiretapping lawsuits harder than the
Bush administration ever did.
wiretapping has continued under the Obama Administration. Cell phone
companies are also now responding to demands from law enforcement for
"subscriber data" thousands of times per day, frequently without
subpoenas or other court orders, and many times more often than during
the Bush years.
Obama the NSA is, for the first time since the Nixon administration,
turning its surveillance apparatus on the U.S. and its citizens. The NSA
is completing construction on the "Utah Data Center," which will
secretly intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the
world's domestic and international communications.
Obama administration is aggressively continuing the use of "national
security letters," which are unilaterally issued by the FBI without
judicial oversight. The recipients are not government employees who are
sworn to uphold government secrets, but by law, recipients are not even
allowed to tell anyone that they have been victimized.
escalating use of drone strikes is another major cause for concern.
They often kill innocent people. If males are killed in a targeted area,
the Obama Administration simply defines them as terrorists. They are
adjudicated guilty, sentenced to death, and executed by
remote-controlled robots operated by unaccountable individuals thousands
of miles away.
Ironically, Obama's tactics are
only fomenting more hatred against America ("radicalizing"
individuals), thereby ensuring there will be more terrorist attacks. In a
vicious spiral, terrorist attacks will funnel more tax dollars to the
"national security" establishment, and could promote passage of a
Patriot Act 2, which would take away even more human rights and
individual liberties, while giving more power to the police, the
military, and "national security" operatives.
the continuing federal War on Medical Cannabis, Obama-the-candidate
(who repeatedly promised not to use federal "resources to try and
circumvent state laws on this issue") would be appalled by the actions
of the Obama Administration. The number of paramilitary raids conducted
by the DEA under Obama has already far surpassed the total number of DEA
raids during George W. Bush's entire two terms in office.
the Bush Administration generally limited its attacks on medical
cannabis to operations by the DEA. In contrast, even as more states
legalize medical cannabis
, the Obama Administration has unleashed a
full-scale assault on safe access to cannabis, utilizing the resources
of an unprecedented array of federal agencies, including numerous U.S.
Attorneys' offices, the IRS, FDIC, HUD, ATF, Treasury Department,
Department of Agriculture, and various others.
This increased use of federal force to circumvent state laws further illustrates the expansion of the federal police state.
actions under the Obama Administration constitute a serious affront to
individual liberty. One would have expected more respect for the
Constitution from a former constitutional law professor.
a Republican president were undertaking such behavior, Democrats would
rise up in outrage. Yet when a Democratic president does these things
there is scant outcry from any politician. We must hold this president
accountable for his actions, just as we hold Republicans accountable for
Editor's note: Robert Raich
practices law in Oakland, California, where he specializes in medical cannabis law, business law, political law, and lobbying.
graduate of Harvard University and the University of Texas School of
Law, he has spoken across the United States and internationally on the
regulation of medical marijuana.
He was the attorney in both U.S. Supreme Court cases ever to consider medical cannabis issues, United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative in 2001, and Gonzales v. Raich in 2005.