03.24.2014 07:00 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: Barack Obama, we no longer know ye

As I type this, a big sign from the 2008 Obama presidential campaign hangs above my head.
 
Around my office, there are no less than a half-dozen Obama campaign posters on the walls. They are still there, and they are easy to spot.
 
The precise moment at which Barack Obama broke many progressive hearts, however, is just as easy to ascertain: it came in June of last year, when it was revealed that the U.S. government – aided and abetted by the “Five Eyes,” the governments of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom – were literally spying on millions of their own citizens.
 
Obama’s response was swift and brutal. He stripped Edward Snowden, the source of the revelation, of his passport and charged him with espionage. He dismissed Snowden “a 29-year-old hacker.”
 
A 29-year-old hacker he may have been, but Snowden’s claims were not made without proof. He gave tens of thousands of backing documents to journalists.
 
The U.S. government and the Five Eyes listened on millions of phone conversations. They surveilled Internet records – everything from instant messages to emails. They mapped locations using cell phone data. They tapped into Google and Yahoo’s data centres to collect information on users.
 
And the targets of all of this surveillance activity? Not criminals or terrorists or hostile governments: just citizens. Millions of law-abiding citizens. You and me.
 
That all of this was illegal is beyond dispute. Our constitution, like the American variant, is full of many high-sounding words about “liberty” and “freedom,” and how you and I possess inalienable “rights” to ensure that we remain free and liberated.
 
But, as Edward Snowden’s appalling case suggests, we are neither. Tellingly, the post-Snowden response of Barack Obama – who came to power with a pledge to “strengthen whistleblower laws,” quote unquote – was not to rein in the shadowy agencies that had broken the law. His first response was to render the whisteblower a criminal, and destroy his life.
 
Oh, and he called those who toiled at the agency that coordinated the illegal spying “patriots.”
 
Conservatives, when they are in power, justify the curtailment of constitutional liberties with dark warnings about threats to our safety. That is, violating liberties in the name of protecting liberty.
 
Progressives like me are just as bad. When in power, we seek to abridge individual freedom by claiming to be acting in furtherance of the collective good.
 
None of it is new, either. More than 250 years ago, no less than Benjamin Franklin dryly observed that “the populace are never so ripe for mischief as in times of most danger.” And if there is no danger, make it up and say there is: after all, there are still plenty of teenage Gmail accounts that remain unseen by terrorist-seekers at the NSA.
 
So, will my former champion, Barack Obama, read this column, and its earnest plea for our constitutions to be worth the paper they are written on?
 
No need. The NSA likely tracked my keystrokes, intercepted my email to editors, and provided the president’s staff with a copy long before this morning’s paper hit the streets.
 
Welcome to the new era, where our “freedom” is gutted in the name of, you know, “freedom.”

.

42 Comments

  1. Coelocanth_Jones says:

    My progressive heart was broken much earlier. Once a Hope and Change blowhard like the best of us throughout 2008, I date my disgust with Obama to December 31, 2011, when he signed that presidential emergency powers, the name of which escapes me bill, into law. PRISM seems like a natural culmination. In the intervening year and a bit, I had the Drone Wars to keep me all hot and bothered

  2. John Werry says:

    Of just as much concern should be the “Little NSA’s” -service providers who hack (I have proof), relentless following of Twitter users by Toronto Police, weird threatening phone calls after oppositional opinions expressed on Twitter (oddly these stopped after Mr. Ford lost most of his powers). About the NSA I agree with everything Warren says. I learned about the NSA in the early 2000’s from a CBC or TVO Documentary so was surprised at everyone else’s surprise re Snowden’s revelations.. The details of the spying were the upsetting thing for me. If snoops have the technology, they will use it. Toronto Police are World renowned for cracking Computer crime. They are likely as good at snooping. No criticism of the lawful use of technology, criminals use it to perpetrate crimes so the Police should be there. They need a big watchdog fast though; the Ontario Ombudsman should suffice as well as a committee of Citizens. To Serve and Protect should have Zero to do with Politics!

  3. Brian says:

    I’m pretty sure the moment Barack Obama “broke progressive hearts” was a lot earlier than that, when he spared no effort or expense to nurse Wall Street back to health in 2009 after they did the financial equivalent of blowing up the world, held no one accountable, spent a year and a half trying to kiss up to the Republican Party, and put the likes of Tim Geithner in as Secretary of the Treasury and Robert Rubin the archpriest of financial deregulation in charge of the economic recovery – such as it was. Tim Geithner is now working on Wall Street since leaving the White House.

    There was an opportunity there to reset an economic landscape for average people that was well and truly pissed away, that we’ll probably never see again. Watching him commit that act of political malpractice was truly sad.

  4. bazie says:

    I lost my progressive faith in Obama about five years earlier than that…even if you just want to constrain yourself to the civil liberties file. Not quite sure why progressive ever thought he was anything but the pro establishment moderate he turned out to be.

  5. MississaugaPeter says:

    People disappoint us and we disappoint people.

    People change and we change.

    When I heard that Obama (and Hilary and McCain) had visited the Bilderbergers (in the middle of the night) in 2008 I stopped believing the hype.

    The funny thing is that now 4 of Canada’s official, relatively recent attendees have fallen from grace and may not be getting their calls answered: Conrad Black, Bernard Lord, Nigel Wright and Alison Redford (cost: $19,000 see below)

    http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2012/07/20/redford-releases-half-page-report-on-bilderberg-achievements/

    Yikes, the NSA is now following me too! It’s your fault WK!

  6. davidray says:

    we were a nation founded on laws
    this is what we learned this is what we saw
    these men torture these men lie
    their bombs fall and children die

    he is the captain there is the ship
    we saw the velvet but where was the fist

    these men torture these men lie
    their bombs fall and children die

    oh lord why why why
    is it always the innocent that die

    he is the pilot there is the plane
    the rear view mirror is filled with shame
    covered in blood like a biblical flood
    we could have done better so who is to blame

  7. Philippe says:

    Oddly enough, Ron Paul’s son and future (serious) presidential candidate Rand Paul is the only one going to bat for us on this one. And, he’s a tea partier. Go figure. If only that guy wasn’t so pro-gun + pro-life, he’d be a hell of a candidate. His views on foreign policy, crime & punishment + the NSA stuff are more progressive than anyone out there.

    • Patrice Boivin says:

      I worry that Rand Paul may be more of an opportunist than his principled father was. I wonder sometimes whether it’s better to have someone who lives by principles run for election, or someone who is more, er, fluid (unprincipled?) and more likely to follow what the polls say.

      Do politicians who abandon their principles due to polling still have a mandate? If governing just by polls, maybe it’s time to just let a computer implement policies if it’s all just based on some algorithm.

  8. Al in Cranbrook says:

    Mixed feelings about all this. Guess I’ve read too much about what goes on on the Dark Side, so to speak.

    Echelon is not new…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECHELON

    That it involves the US, Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand is not incidental. Five nations, with relatively identical democratic values born of common roots, that have spent a great deal of capital, both in money and blood, protecting freedoms around this world, and bailing a lot of other nations out of their troubles. While Britain suffered an air war directly, and Australia experienced an attack on its own shores in WW2, all five nations, almost uniquely in this world, have not had to wage war on their own soil in the defense thereof. Let’s hope we can keep it that way.

    I’ve read numerous books on the history of modern warfare, espionage, counter-intelligence, spying, etc. It was arguably the Guzenko affair here in Canada that first made it clear the west was involved in what would ultimately be known as the Cold War. One doesn’t fully understand the history of WW2 without reading “A Man Called Intrepid”, a book about a Canadian, William Stephenson, who became Churchill’s right hand in undermining Nazi Germany. “Gideon’s Spies”, a history of the Mosad that’s been revised and updated numerous times, and is a literal eye opener about what goes on in dark corners of this world…yet rest assured it’s still only a mere peek behind the curtains.

    From Al Qaida and God only knows how many cells operating under their umbrella, the Cosa Nostra, the Russian Mafia, the Yakusha, Columbian and now Mexican drug cartels, to name but only a few, the ruthlessness and cold blooded deeds of such quite literally unspeakable. What they have in common is that a) they don’t care about laws, and b) they understand precisely, with the best legal advice money can buy, how they can stuff our laws up our collective asses to hamstring us, do so with impunity, and laughing all the way to the banks.

    Not to mention some of the best minds money can buy to work the Internet for all its worth.

    Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were both wake up calls from hell. One thing both had in common was nobody believed either were even remotely possible, if even conceivable. The other thing they both had in common was what was essentially one big cluster unowhat inside the security systems that were supposed to prevent such events.

    It was some notable American like Franklin or Jefferson or whomever who said, to paraphrase: One who gives up some freedom for some security, deserves neither.

    History demonstrates, repeatedly, that the greatest threat to people and their freedom is most often their own government.

    However, history also demonstrates that such evil bastards as face us on many levels regard lack of decisive action and resolve as weakness to be exploited…which they inevitably do.

    So where do we draw the line? Before or after 2800 people are slaughtered in an act of blatant terrorism? …or a nuke detonating in downtown Any City, USA? …or maybe Canada? What president or prime minister wants anything remotely like that to happen on his watch? Forget about answering for why it could possibly have happened!

    And then there’s sexual abuse of children to generate porn for the Internet…frankly, I don’t care what they have to do to catch these degenerate bastards, for whom, IMHO, the death sentence would be letting them off too easy.

    Tough call. Glad I don’t have to make it.

    An aside: Just finished Clany’s last book, “Command Authority”, latest in the Jack Ryan series, released last year. It’s about an expansionist Russia that starts off by invading the Ukraine, starting off with the Crimea. More than a tad bit eerie, given current events.

  9. po'd says:

    Hard to condense the essence of it in a few words, social media like. He nurtured both health care and legislation for gays that was almost hard to imagine before his time, given the nature of the US and how the ranting Republican’s nonsense has permeated the consciousness of so many. He inherited wars but didn’t start any even when the great mouth breathing hoarde attempt to heap shame upon him for doing the right thing. He endured their mocking for the good of their country. Just one of many related points, why should their taxpayers always be on the hook for the interests of the world’s most wealthy people?

    Finally, in that job I doubt there still exists a way to avoid sleeping with both unsavory and obsessed people who are deeply embedded in the foreign policy and finance mechanisms, because they come from, exist in, both sides of the political spectrum and are entrenched.

    Not absolutely sure what our excuse is, but a clue may lie in what the Russian Ambassador said about Canada in his recent remarks. Something about Canada being a very dependent Country. The last time anyone tried to do something about that, our neighbor didn’t think much of the fellow and we still hear the oilheads howling about the NEP and the finger to this day.

  10. Patrice Boivin says:

    The No Agenda Show’s Adam Curry mentions what he calls “Obama-bots” and how they assumed a lot but now sometimes don’t know what to do, really. The Obama fans still have hope that Mr. Obama will fix some of the problems they hoped he would solve.

    I don’t know if he will be able to; sometimes I wonder how much power the US President actually has over the country, there are so many bureaucracies and so many conflicting interests. Things are the way they are because they serve some purpose or someone’s interests.

  11. Cameron Prymak says:

    According to one report, President Obama will shortly propose an end to the program. Now will he actually get bipartisan support or will Tea Partiers and their Republican subjects claim he’s jeopardizing the country’s safety?

  12. J Robinson says:

    When President Obama failed to close down Gitmo prison, I lost my hope for change. I know they say it’s complicated what to do with all the non-POWs, but come on, how can the leader of the free world think it’s acceptable to hold those people forever and not treat them as POWs?
    I like what he has accomplished on healthcare, and reigning in the US military around the world. However, I don’t like that he has just replaced them with all the black-ops death sentences with no trial.

  13. Bruce A says:

    I was certain that Mr. O wasn’t what his marketing campaign claimed and I hoped he’d prove me wrong. He lost me completely when the banksters got away and he kept Gitmo open. Granted the Tea Party has made his tenure miserable because of his background but ‘progressives’ make too big a deal out of sexual orientation and race. Those are very important and can’t be underestimated but decent employment, income inequality and surveillance are the issues that cut across those lines. Canadians should pay attention and not be so smug about things.

    PS The Intercept founded by Glenn Greenwald does give the public something to grasp on too.

    https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/03/25/obamas-new-nsa-proposal-democratic-partisan-hackery/

  14. david ray says:

    two words that will send a chill up your collective spines. Sarah Palin.

  15. e.a.f. says:

    I would suggest Obama is one of those who can divide his life and work into compartments. The Snowden affair is kept in one box along with the killing of Bin Laden and a national health care system in another. His love for his family in yet another. It is simply how some people get through life. Yes, many of us expected more, but is that a type of racism all on its own. Did we expect more from Obama because he was the first President of colour or because of his policies?

    Have civil liberties improved in the U.S.A. since Obama came into office? Not really. Walking, driving, shopping while black is still ac crime in the U.S.A. Not only do we have the issues you addressed but the U.S.A. is the only country in the Western Hemisphere who has a journalist in jail, for publishing what he thought. (Roger Shuler) Yes, its in Shelby County, Alabama, yes thats still in the U.S.A. Has anyone done anything about it? No. Is Don Siegleman a former Democratic Governor of Alabama still in jail? You bet. On some issues Obama is simply the lesser of two evils. Some of Obama’s practises are no different than those of previous Republicans, although not as bad as Bush and those of the current slate of Republicans. Obama has done little for the working person. Unions are still having problems surviving. The U.S.A. still has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The list goes on.

    Where the U.S.A. has made any progress, its been mostly in California, where an old guy got back into politics

  16. smelter rat says:

    As of March 11, 2014 10.7 million more Americans have affordable health insurance than were covered a year ago. I’ll mark that up as a success.

    • doris says:

      Al would it be cheaper than a govt-run single pay system – I doubt it! That was his promise to the electorate – he failed and then proceeded to pay off the insurance companies to get new problems called Obamacare. Give it a couple of years and he’ll be itching to take his name off it.

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