Barack Obama

Barack Obama delivers a speech at the Universi...

Cynic In Chief

Glenn Greenwald once again destroys the credibility of this vile and cynical tool. This time, Greenwald examines Obama‘s current position of medical marijuana, the Department of Justice legal harassment of medical marijuana dispensaries and his dishonest use of rule of law rhetoric to attack the medical marijuana industry. To be sure, Obama’s Department of Justice could not bother itself to prosecute Bush era criminals, Wall Street criminals, etc. These individuals and institutions are largely exempt from legal accountability. But not medical marijuana producers and distributors.

A despicable man.

The well-armed DHS

The Department of Homeland Security, another dubious post-9.11 artifact, recently ordered 450 million rounds of .40 cal. hollow-point bullets from the defense contractor ATK. The quantity ordered is massive when compared to the current population of the United States (estimated to be 309M as of 2010), and immediately raises questions about the purposes to which this ammunition will be put.

The quality of the item purchased is also questionable because these bullets serve only one purpose: To efficiently kill human beings. Because this kind of bullet is so destructive and deadly, the Hague Conventions of 1899 banned its use in international war.

David Lindorff asked some of the relevant questions generated by this disturbing news:

First of all, why does the DHS need so much deadly ammo? Are they anticipating a mass surge over the Mexican or Canadian border that would require ICE agents to slaughter the masses “yearning to breathe free”? Are there so many terror cells in America that they feel they need to be ready for a mass extermination campaign? Or are they worried that eventually the quiescent and submissive US population will finally decide it’s had it with the crooked banks and insurance companies, and are going to start taking the law into their own hands, so that the government will have to institute martial law and start gunning down masses of citizens?

If not any of the above, it seems to me that the order for 450 million rounds of ammunition, hollow-point or not, is pretty wildly excessive.

But secondly, I’d suggest we need to rethink this domestic obsession with killing. In the U.K., police are not routinely issued hollow-point rounds. Many other foreign police agencies also do not use them. Here in the US though, they are standard-issue for cops on the beat.

Finally, when it comes to Homeland Security, the situation is really different [than the kind of situations faced by most law enforcement officers]. Most of the gun-toting officers working for Homeland Security are not in the business of chasing down vicious killers. They are ICE officers who are going after border crossers, TSA personnel who are patting down air travelers, and the Federal Protective Service, who are really glorified building guards tasked with protecting federal property.

The work these armed personnel do can on occasion be dangerous, I’ll grant, but for the most part their work does not require killing people or dodging bullets. Do we really want them shooting to kill with hollow-point bullets?

The DHS has yet to publicly defend its purchase of this product. While its silence is unsurprising in the current political situation — which is defined by excessive governmental secrecy, global war-making, expansion of the security-surveillance apparatus, prosecution of whistleblowers, erosion of civil and political rights, suppression of popular dissent, etc. — it is disturbing in its own right, for a federal agency quietly and unnecessarily arming itself to the teeth provides just another data point among many which shows the United States abandoning the rule of law, a modern public sphere and a modern civil society.

Is it too soon to identify the government of the United States as a terrorist state?

Related articles

The ACLU sues the Obama administration

The reason for the suit: “…[T]he release of records related to the U.S. government’s ‘targeted killing’ of U.S. citizens overseas.” The Obama administration has selectively released information regarding assassinations carried out under the targeted killing program, which it otherwise cloaks with claims of national security. The ACLU suit seeks to subject this assassination program to public scrutiny and even legal contestation. Glenn Greenwald pointed to the tyranical aspect of America’s assassination program:

From a certain perspective, there’s really only one point worth making about all of this: if you think about it, it is warped beyond belief that the ACLU has to sue the U.S. Government in order to force it to disclose its claimed legal and factual bases for assassinating U.S. citizens without charges, trial or due process of any kind. It’s extraordinary enough that the Obama administration is secretly targeting citizens for execution-by-CIA; that they refuse even to account for what they are doing — even to the point of refusing to disclose their legal reasoning as to why they think the President possesses this power — is just mind-boggling. Truly: what more tyrannical power is there than for a government to target its own citizens for death — in total secrecy and with no checks — and then insist on the right to do so without even having to explain its legal and factual rationale for what it is doing? Could you even imagine what the U.S. Government and its media supporters would be saying about any other non-client-state country that asserted and exercised this power?

Killing American citizens now sits within the prerogative powers of the American President. This ‘achievement’ ought to be considered a threshold passed on a road that ends in a dictatorship.

Quote of the day

Seal of the United States Department of Justice

Recently, the American Department of Justice closed the file-sharing site Megaupload while also seizing its assets. It took these actions on the basis on an indictment for and accusation of piracy, not a conviction for committing a crime. This action by the Department of Justice, coming as it does days after the SOPA/PIPA blackout, raises due process concerns, as Megaupload’s counsel asserted here. Glenn Greenwald drew this conclusion from the event, its political implications and from the legal horizon of which the Megaupload closure is a conspicuous part:

The U.S. really is a society that simply no longer believes in due process: once the defining feature of American freedom that is now scorned as some sort of fringe, radical, academic doctrine. That is not hyperbole. Supporters of both political parties endorse, or at least tolerate, all manner of government punishment without so much as the pretense of a trial, based solely on government accusation: imprisonment for life, renditions to other countries, even assassinations of their fellow citizens. Simply uttering the word Terrorist, without proving it, is sufficient. And now here is Megaupload being completely destroyed — its website shuttered, its assets seized, ongoing business rendered impossible — based solely on the unproven accusation of Piracy.

Daily, it seems, Americans can watch the rule by law replace the rule of law, the prerogative state replace the normative state [Fraenkel, 2006 (1941)].

A dictatorship gestating

Reuters reports that (h/t to Glenn Greenwald who wrote about this matter):

American militants like Anwar al-Awlaki are placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions, according to officials.

There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel, which is a subset of the White House’s National Security Council, several current and former officials said. Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.

And:

The role of the president in ordering or ratifying a decision to target a citizen is fuzzy. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to discuss anything about the process.

The United States murders an American citizen

An armed drone finally killed Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen whom the Obama administration had marked for death. Mr. Awlaki’s murder becomes another milestone passed by the American political system in its effort to replace the rule of law by the rule by law.

Boogeyman dead — now what…?

No problem!

On Friday, government officials anonymously claimed that “a rushed examination” of the “trove” of documents and computer files taken from the bin Laden home prove — contrary to the widely held view that he “had been relegated to an inspirational figure with little role in current and future Qaeda operations” — that in fact “the chief of Al Qaeda played a direct role for years in plotting terror attacks.” Specifically, the Government possesses “a handwritten notebook from February 2010 that discusses tampering with tracks to derail a train on a bridge,” and that led “Obama administration officials on Thursday to issue a warning that Al Qaeda last year had considered attacks on American railroads.”

Boogeyman immortal!

The quote can be found in a Glenn Greenwald article addressing the use of bin Laden’s name to generate fear and yet another extension of the security-surveillance state.