Glenn Greenwald and Peter King respond to Obama’s NSA ‘Reforms’

Quote of the day

Glenn Greenwald points out that:

That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the “war on terror” will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week’s big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of “endless war”. Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so.

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war – justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism – that is the single greatest cause of that threat.

Naturally, war is peace.

Quote of the day

Glenn Greenwald discussed the automatic other-blaming, other-bashing found in the American media after every ‘terrorist’ attack:

The rush, one might say the eagerness, to conclude that the attackers were Muslim was palpable and unseemly, even without any real evidence. The New York Post quickly claimed that the prime suspect was a Saudi national (while also inaccurately reporting that 12 people had been confirmed dead). The Post’s insinuation of responsibility was also suggested on CNN by Former Bush Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend (“We know that there is one Saudi national who was wounded in the leg who is being spoken to”). Former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman went on CNN to grossly speculate that Muslim groups were behind the attack. Anti-Muslim bigots like Pam Geller predictably announced that this was “Jihad in America”. Expressions of hatred for Muslims, and a desire to do violence, were then spewing forth all over Twitter (some particularly unscrupulous partisan Democrat types were identically suggesting with zero evidence that the attackers were right-wing extremists).

Obviously, it’s possible that the perpetrator(s) will turn out to be Muslim, just like it’s possible they will turn out to be extremist right-wing activists, or left-wing agitators, or Muslim-fearing Anders-Breivik types, or lone individuals driven by apolitical mental illness. But the rush to proclaim the guilty party to be Muslim is seen in particular over and over with such events.

Indeed. It is as though some — many! — Americans find solace in their belief that Muslims commit these atrocities. The belief, even when it produces false claims attributing blame to Muslims, orders the world, providing the believer with succinct categories which can be used to cleanse the world of ambiguity and doubt. It is the other who commits these crimes. ‘We’ do not. ‘We’ are innocent. ‘We’ are pure, good and suffer needlessly. Those others are pure, bad and cause us grief.

This ‘thinking’ reflects a Platonic ontology formed in Hell.

The irony in American history

Glenn Greenwald noticed and wrote about a bit of this with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan:

It is ironic indeed that the US is demanding that the practice of due-process-free indefinite detention be continued in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries it invaded and then occupied while claiming it wanted to bring freedom and democracy there. But on one level, this is the only outcome that makes sense, as a denial of basic due process is now a core, defining US policy in general.

Indeed, the Nobel Laureate, whenever he acts as Commander in Chief of America’s security-surveillance apparatus and when he governs its global empire, can claim and use prerogative powers to achieve his ends. Simply put, the rule of law does not apply to him when operating in this domain.

To be sure, the Nobel Laureate and proposed conscience of the nation defends its lawless powers:

The Obama administration not only continues to imprison people without charges of any kind, but intended from the start to do so even if their plan to relocate Guantanamo onto US soil had not been thwarted by Congress. At the end of 2011, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act which codifies the power of indefinite detention even for US citizens, and — after an Obama-appointed federal judge struck it down as unconstitutional — continues vigorously to fight for that law. And, of course, the power to assassinate even its own citizens without a whiff of due process or transparency — the policy that so upset Afghan officials when it was proposed for their country — is a crowning achievement of the Obama legacy.

With the Great Betrayal at hand, a deed only a Democratic President can commit, I can confidently assert that Barack Obama is proving to be a worthy competitor for the Worst President in History prize.

Quote of the day

This gem may be read on Haaretz (h/t Glenn Greenwald):

Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Israel’s operation in Gaza: “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages. Only then will Israel be calm for forty years.”

Yishai, a reactionary and leader of the Shas Party, is lying, of course. Israel will never “be calm” as long as Palestinians and other Arabs live on land it covets. The quest to achieve a Greater Israel remains intact.

Quote of the day

Glenn Greenwald authored another one:

Ample ink is spilled over debating whether the US media is biased in favor of Republicans or Democrats. It is neither. The overwhelming, driving bias of the US media is subservience to power, whoever happens to be wielding it.

Quote of the day

The state of the world today is in such a condition that a Nobel Peace Prize winner affirms permanent war and political murder. As Glenn Greenwald reports:

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to
Seal of the Office of the Director of National...make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.

Based on interviews with “current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies”, Miller reports that as “the United States‘ conventional wars are winding down”, the Obama administration “expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years” (the “capture” part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the “kill” part). Specifically, “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.” As Miller puts it: “That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”

In pursuit of this goal, “White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.” All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates “the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”

Greenwald continues by noting that the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which reports to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and which generates the “kill lists” for the President, has access to the extensive and diverse information collected at home and abroad, information nominally meant to provide a resource for deterring terrorists but information which also includes every American who has left a digital record from his or her life. Thus the federal institution charged with generating (unconstitutional) “kill lists” also surveys the behavior of and accumulates data on every American. Americans watch other Americans. They collect data on them — themselves! — and generate profiles which allegedly encapsulate the lives of those they study.
Greenwald summarizes his argument:

What has been created here — permanently institutionalized —is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a “matrix” that determines the “disposition” of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be “disposed” of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.

The upshot: What Greenwald depicts is the institutionalization and exercise of prerogative powers by the de facto sovereign of the United States. These powers are, by definition, extra-legal. The President with access to these powers governs unencumbered by the rule of law.

Yet, as Miller reports, “For an administration that is the first to embrace targeted killing on a wide scale, officials seem confident that they have devised an approach that is so bureaucratically, legally and morally sound that future administrations will follow suit.”

These administration officials and permanent government apparatchiks they work with are, in a word, deluded.

Update

Chris Floyd has this (among other things) to say about Barack Obama’s newly instituted system of murder:

Like last year’s NY Times piece that first detailed the murder racket being run directly out of the White House, the new Washington Post story is replete with quotes from “senior Administration officials” who have obviously been authorized to speak. Once again, this is a story that Obama and his team WANT to tell. They want you to know about the murder program and their strenuous exertions to make it permanent; they are proud of this, they think it makes them look good. They want it to be part of their legacy, something they can pass on to future generations: arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder.

Perhaps this fact should be borne in mind by all those anguished progressives out there who keep telling themselves that Obama will “be different, that he will “turn to the left,” if we can only get him a second term. No; the legacy of arbitrary, lawless, systematic murder is the legacy he wants. It is the legacy he has been building, with remarkable energy and meticulous attention to detail, day after day, week after week, for the past four years. This is what he cares about. And it is this — not jobs, not peace, not the environment, not equal rights for women and ethnic and sexual minorities, not the poor, not the middle class, not education, not infrastructure, not science, not diplomacy — that he will apply himself to in a second term. (Along with his only other political passion: forging a “grand bargain” with Big Money to gut the remaining shreds of the New Deal.)

Floyd had previously addressed this topic:

It is, I confess, beyond all my imagining that a national leader so deeply immersed in murdering people would trumpet his atrocity so openly, so gleefully — and so deliberately, sending his top aides out to collude in a major story in the nation’s leading newspaper, to ensure maximum exposure of his killing spree. Although many leaders have wielded such powers, they almost always seek to hide or obscure the reality of the operation. Even the Nazis took enormous pains to hide the true nature of their murder programs from the public. And one can scarcely conceive of Stalin inviting reporters from Pravda into the Politburo meetings where he and Molotov and Beria debated the lists of counterrevolutionary “terrorists” given to them by the KGB and ticked off those who would live and those who would die. Of course, those lists too were based on “intelligence reports,” often gathered through “strenuous interrogation techniques” or the reports of informers. No doubt these reports were every bit as credible as the PowerPoint presentations reviewed each week by Obama and his team.

And no doubt Stalin and his team were just as sincerely concerned about “national security” as the Aquinas acolyte in the White House today — and just as determined to do “whatever it takes” to preserve that security. As Stalin liked to say of the innocent people caught up in his national security efforts: “When wood is chopped, chips fly.”

Barack Obama has been a “system politician.” He will remain a system politician as long as he is President. Mitt Romney is a system politician. He will remain a system politician if he is elected President. The reforms Americans need to implement will not be the product of system politicians, especially those politicians who embrace death squads, murder by drone strikes and, to be sure, empire.

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