After US President Barack Obama entered office in 2009 pledging transparency and open government, it was a refreshing wind of change from the locked-down Bush years. The reality, however, has fallen dramatically short of the promise.
10. White House seizes phone records of Associated Press reporters
During a two-month period in 2012, the US Justice Department seized telephone records from some 100 journalists at AP offices in New York, Washington and Connecticut without providing any explanation. The government waited until May 2013 to inform the global news agency of the unprecedented surveillance, which naturally sparked a wave of consternation and not a little apprehension throughout the media world. “There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters,” AP Chief Executive Gary Pruitt said in a letter addressed to former Attorney General Eric Holder.
AFP Photo / Jean AyissiAFP Photo / Jean Ayissi
9. Emmy-award winning reporter accuses government of bugging her laptop
In her book, “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington,” former CBS anchor Sharyl Attkisson says she was informed that one of the US government’s intelligence agencies “discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool.” Further inspection of the laptop revealed classified US documents that were “buried deep” in her computer. The reason for the “plant,” according to her unidentified source, “was probably to accuse you of having classified documents if they ever needed to do that at some point.”
8. News correspondent’s emails monitored
In May 2013, Fox News correspondent James Rosen was accused under the Espionage Act of possibly being a “co-conspirator” in the 2009 release of classified information on North Korea’s nuclear plans based on interviews with his Washington source. It was revealed that the US government monitored Rosen’s emails, a clandestine activity that would seem to have little in common with the spirit of a free press. The charges came at a very peculiar time. Republican Senator Marco Rubio reminded that Rosen had been aggressively reporting on the 2012 Benghazi tragedy, which saw the US ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens killed during a massive protest. “The sort of reporting by James Rosen detailed in the report is the same sort of reporting that helped Mr. Rosen aggressively pursue questions about the Administration’s handling of Benghazi.” Was not-so-subtle pressure being exerted on Rosen to back off on Benghazi?
7. Obama’s ‘Insider Threat Program’
Following a wave of whistleblowing activities inside government agencies, an “Insider Threat Program” is being organized inside government agencies that “require all federal employees to help prevent unauthorized disclosures of information by monitoring the behavior of their colleagues,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In this atmosphere, instead of treating the disease of rampant intrusiveness of the sort revealed last year by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the government hopes to merely hide the symptoms of its abusive powers. Since 2009, seven government employees, including Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the media. AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee said some government employees have allegedly been told they could lose their jobs for talking to reporters, adding, “day-to-day intimidation of sources is also extremely chilling.”
6. Obama, the stage-managed president
Editors of The Associated Press condemned the White House’s latest novelty in the field of photojournalism of handing out press release-style pictures taken by his own staff photographers. These official photographs do little to capture history and are “little more than propaganda,” according to AP director of photography Santiago Lyon. Past presidential administrations were less restrictive about taking photographs, putting into doubt once again Obama’s claim that he aims for “the most transparent administration” in White House history.
US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Jewel Samad)
In July, 40 news organizations reminded President Obama in a letter that any attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear is a form of “censorship.” The candid communication provided a picture of the increasingly repressive atmosphere US journalists must contend with when attempting to provide coverage on stories connected to the government: “Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely: Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow. Public affairs officers might send their own written responses of slick non-answers.” Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported in September that members of the White House press-pool have complained that Obama media officials demand changes to their stories before they are disseminated to the public, allowing the White House to put a positive spin on stories.
AFP Photo / Saul LoebAFP Photo / Saul Loeb
4. Bye-bye military embeds
As the Obama administration has opened its latest military offensive, this time against the Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS] in Iraq and Syria, only a few photographs are trickling out of the war zone. Gone are the days when journalists were embedded in the military, documenting conflicts side-by-side soldiers as the action was happening. “News organizations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off – there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the S. bombers fly from,” complained AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Sally Buzbee.
Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Mark Wilson)
3. Guantanamo Bay information blackout
Despite early campaign promises to close down the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention center, the facility is not only still open but the Obama administration is keeping the public in the dark as the military tribunal against some 175 alleged terrorists enters its closing stages. Photo and video coverage is outright forbidden. This is strange considering that even the Nuremburg hearings against Nazi leaders – who killed far more people than Al-Qaeda – permitted the media a front-row seat at the international hearings. It is also a very unfortunate and telling footnote to the American claim that it wants to spread democracy around the world.
Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)Detainees participate in an early morning prayer session at Camp IV at the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base (Reuters / Deborah Gembara)
2. Investigation against NYT’s reporter James Risen
Following the publication of James Risen’s 2006 book, “State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration” ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was hit with felony charges for allegedly revealing classified information involving Iran’s nuclear program. Department of Justice lawyer Robert A. Parker, arguing that the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist should be forced to testify in the trial of Sterling, said there’s “no [reporter’s] privilege in the first place.” In June, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Risen, who now faces imprisonment for refusing to identify his source. “We can only hope now that the government will not seek to have him held in contempt for doing nothing more than reporting the news and keeping his promises,” his lawyer, Joel Kurtzberg, told the New York Times.
AFP Photo / Saul LoebAFP Photo / Saul Loeb
1. Hunting season for whistleblowers
The Obama administration has filed seven cases under the Espionage Act, the latest one against former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this June. Before Barack Obama was sworn into office in 2009, there had been only three cases of the government using the Espionage Act to prosecute government officials for blowing the whistle on questionable activities. “There’s no question that this has a chilling effect,” Mark Mazzetti, who covers national security issues for the New York Times, told the Washington Post. “People who have talked in the past are less willing to talk now.”
ISIS Video: America’s Air Dropped Weapons Now in Our Hands
In a new video, ISIS shows American-made weapons it says were intended for the Kurds but actually were air dropped into territory they control.
At least one bundle of U.S. weapons airdropped in Syria appears to have fallen into the hands of ISIS, a dangerous misfire in the American mission to speed aid to Kurdish forces making their stand in Kobani.
An ISIS-associated YouTube account posted a new video online Tuesday entitled, “Weapons and munitions dropped by American planes and landed in the areas controlled by the Islamic State in Kobani.” The video was also posted on the Twitter account of “a3maq news,” which acts as an unofficial media arm of ISIS. The outfit has previously posted videos of ISIS fighters firing American made Howitzer cannons and seizing marijuana fields in Syria.
ISIS had broadly advertised its acquisition of a broad range of U.S.-made weapons during its rampage across Iraq. ISIS videos have showed its fighters driving U.S. tanks, MRAPs, Humvees. There are unconfirmed reports ISIS has stolen three fighter planes from Iraqi bases it conquered.
The authenticity of this latest video could not be independently confirmed, but the ISIS fighters in the video are in possession of a rich bounty of American hand grenades, rounds for small rockets, and other supplies that they will surely turn around and use on the Kurdish forces they are fighting in and around the Turkish border city.
On Monday, White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said the U.S. government was confident that the emergency airdropped supplies for the Kurdish forces near Kobani were falling into the right hands.
“We feel very confident that, when we air drop support as we did into Kobani… we’ve been able to hit the target in terms of reaching the people we want to reach,” Rhodes told CNN. “What I can assure people is that, when we are delivering aid now, we focus it on the people we want to receive that assistance. Those are civilians in need. Those are forces that we’re aligned with in the fight against ISIL [the government’s preferred acronym for ISIS], and we take precautions to make sure that it’s not falling into the wrong hands.”
Rhodes was responding to questions about a Monday report in The Daily Beast that U.S. humanitarian aid was flowing into ISIS controlled areas near Kobani by truck. That aid was mostly food and medical supplies, not the kind of lethal weapons in the new ISIS video.
Senior administration officials said Sunday that three American planes dropped a total of 27 bundles near Kobani and more U.S. air drops could come as part of the joint U.S.-Iraqi effort to aid Kurdish fighters in the Kobani area. The supplies were provided by Kurdish authorities, the official said.
In the new footage, the weapons appear to be U.S. made. There have also been at least 135 air strikes against ISIS in the area, according to the State Department.
The airstrikes and air drops appear to be having an impact. The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer, reporting from the Syrian border, said the morale in Kobani has shifted in the last 24 hours. But ISIS continues to hold major swaths of territory in and around Kobani, despite widespread media reports to the contrary. And the civilians there are suffering, badly.
“I think what this represents is the President recognizes this is going to be a long-term campaign against ISIL; and that we need to look for whatever opportunity we can find to degrade that enemy and to support those who are fighting against ISIL on the ground,” a senior administration official told reporters.
According to WHO, “98% [of confirmed cases] have an incubation period that falls within the 1 to 42 day interval.”
The fiancee of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan will be released from quarantine today. However, the CDC mandated 21-day quarantine period Louise Troh along with her son and two nephews endured is only half of the recommended period.
The World Health Organization states, “Recent studies conducted in West Africa have demonstrated that 95% of confirmed cases have an incubation period in the range of 1 to 21 days; 98% have an incubation period that falls within the 1 to 42 day interval. WHO is therefore confident that detection of no new cases, with active surveillance in place, throughout this 42-day period means that an Ebola outbreak is indeed over.”
The CDC will also release 43 people held under quarantine that had contact with Duncan while he was symptomatic.
Western interventions have produced nothing but colossal failures in Libya, Iraq, and Syria
by GARIKAI CHENGU | GLOBAL RESEARCH | OCTOBER 20, 2014
This week marks the three-year anniversary of the Western-backed assassination of Libya’s former president, Muammar Gaddafi, and the fall of one of Africa’s greatest nations.
In 1967 Colonel Gaddafi inherited one of the poorest nations in Africa; however, by the time he was assassinated, Gaddafi had turned Libya into Africa’s wealthiest nation. Libya had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy on the continent. Less people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands.
After NATO’s intervention in 2011, Libya is now a failed state and its economy is in shambles. As the government’s control slips through their fingers and into to the militia fighters’ hands, oil production has all but stopped.
The militias variously local, tribal, regional, Islamist or criminal, that have plagued Libya since NATO’s intervention, have recently lined up into two warring factions. Libya now has two governments, both with their own Prime Minister, parliament and army.
On one side, in the West of the country, Islamist-allied militias took over control of the capital Tripoli and other cities and set up their own government, chasing away a parliament that was elected over the summer.
On the other side, in the East of the Country, the “legitimate” government dominated by anti-Islamist politicians, exiled 1,200 kilometers away in Tobruk, no longer governs anything.
The fall of Gaddafi’s administration has created all of the country’s worst-case scenarios: Western embassies have all left, the South of the country has become a haven for terrorists, and the Northern coast a center of migrant trafficking. Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia have all closed their borders with Libya. This all occurs amidst a backdrop of widespread rape, assassinations and torture that complete the picture of a state that is failed to the bone.
America is clearly fed up with the two inept governments in Libya and is now backing a third force: long-time CIA asset, General Khalifa Hifter, who aims to set himself up as Libya’s new dictator. Hifter, who broke with Gaddafi in the 1980s and lived for years in Langley, Virginia, close to the CIA’s headquarters, where he was trained by the CIA, has taken part in numerous American regime change efforts, including the aborted attempt to overthrow Gaddafi in 1996.
In 1991 the New York Times reported that Hifter may have been one of “600 Libyan soldiers trained by American intelligence officials in sabotage and other guerrilla skills…to fit in neatly into the Reagan Administration’s eagerness to topple Colonel Qaddafi”.
Hifter’s forces are currently vying with the Al Qaeda group Ansar al-Sharia for control of Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi. Ansar al-Sharia was armed by America during the NATO campaign against Colonel Gaddafi. In yet another example of the U.S. backing terrorists backfiring, Ansar al-Sharia has recently been blamed by America for the brutal assassination of U.S. Ambassador Stevens.
Hifter is currently receiving logistical and air support from the U.S. because his faction envision a mostly secular Libya open to Western financiers, speculators, and capital.
Perhaps, Gaddafi’s greatest crime, in the eyes of NATO, was his desire to put the interests of local labour above foreign capital and his quest for a strong and truly United States of Africa. In fact, in August 2011, President Obama confiscated $30 billion from Libya’s Central Bank, which Gaddafi had earmarked for the establishment of the African IMF and African Central Bank.
In 2011, the West’s objective was clearly not to help the Libyan people, who already had the highest standard of living in Africa, but to oust Gaddafi, install a puppet regime, and gain control of Libya’s natural resources.
For over 40 years, Gaddafi promoted economic democracy and used the nationalized oil wealth to sustain progressive social welfare programs for all Libyans. Under Gaddafi’s rule, Libyans enjoyed not only free health-care and free education, but also free electricity and interest-free loans. Now thanks to NATO’s intervention the health-care sector is on the verge of collapse as thousands of Filipino health workers flee the country, institutions of higher education across the East of the country are shut down, and black outs are a common occurrence in once thriving Tripoli.
One group that has suffered immensely from NATO’s bombing campaign is the nation’s women. Unlike many other Arab nations, women in Gaddafi’s Libya had the right to education, hold jobs, divorce, hold property and have an income. The United Nations Human Rights Council praised Gaddafi for his promotion of women’s rights.
When the colonel seized power in 1969, few women went to university. Today, more than half of Libya’s university students are women. One of the first laws Gaddafi passed in 1970 was an equal pay for equal work law.
Nowadays, the new “democratic” Libyan regime is clamping down on women’s rights. The new ruling tribes are tied to traditions that are strongly patriarchal. Also, the chaotic nature of post-intervention Libyan politics has allowed free reign to extremist Islamic forces that see gender equality as a Western perversion.
Three years ago, NATO declared that the mission in Libya had been “one of the most successful in NATO history.” Truth is, Western interventions have produced nothing but colossal failures in Libya, Iraq, and Syria. Lest we forget, prior to western military involvement in these three nations, they were the most modern and secular states in the Middle East and North Africa with the highest regional women’s rights and standards of living.
A decade of failed military expeditions in the Middle East has left the American people in trillions of dollars of debt. However, one group has benefited immensely from the costly and deadly wars: America’s Military-Industrial-Complex.
Building new military bases means billions of dollars for America’s military elite. As Will Blum has pointed out, following the bombing of Iraq, the United States built new bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Saudi Arabia.
Following the bombing of Afghanistan, the United States is now building military bases in Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Following the recent bombing of Libya, the United States has built new military bases in the Seychelles, Kenya, South Sudan, Niger and Burkina Faso.
Given that Libya sits atop the strategic intersection of the African, Middle Eastern and European worlds, Western control of the nation, has always been a remarkably effective way to project power into these three regions and beyond.
NATO’s military intervention may have been a resounding success for America’s military elite and oil companies but for the ordinary Libyan, the military campaign may indeed go down in history as one of the greatest failures of the 21st century.
By Kristina Wong – 10/11/14 09:09 AM EDT
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s new memoir, Worthy Fights, has garnered attention for its tough critique of President Obama’s foreign policy.
But the book includes many other revealing stories from Panetta, a long-time Washington insider, who also served in the House of Representatives and in other administrations.
Here are five interesting revelations from Panetta’s book:
1) In 2010, CIA operatives located an al Qaeda operative directly responsible for a suicide bombing attack on an agency base in Afghanistan that killed seven Americans.
Panetta struggled with whether to order a strike against the operative at his home, where his wife and two children also lived, according to intelligence reports.
After consulting with the White House, Panetta finally ordered the strike, and the operative was killed, along with his wife.
“We all understood that if our target was spared in order to protect his family, he would strike at us again, and without the compunctions that we had regarding the death of civilians,” Panetta writes.
2) Panetta didn’t intend to resign from the Nixon administration in 1970.
At the time, Panetta was heading the Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s Office of Civil Rights.
The job had put him at odds with some Southern conservatives who wanted to slow the desegregation of public schools and Panetta felt he did not have the support of the White House.
Panetta submitted a letter of resignation to the White House, intending it to be a symbolic protest and which his then-boss, Secretary Bob Finch, rejected.
His opponents within the administration, though, seized on the incident to push him out.
On Feb. 17, 1970, Panetta woke up to read a Washington Daily News headline claiming: “Nixon seeks to fire HEW’s rights chief for liberal views.”
It was reported that Panetta had submitted his letter of resignation, and that it was accepted. Panetta drafted a new letter of resignation and submitted it to Finch.
3) Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law, then-Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-Pa.), saved President Clinton’s fiscal year 1994 budget as a freshman lawmaker.
In 1993, Panetta was director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton. While the House and Senate passed a budget on close votes, Congress still had to vote on a reconciliation bill.
When Mezvinksy first voted no, Panetta sent then House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) to the chamber to turn her around. She agreed to switch to yes if Clinton agreed to visit her district and explain the bill to her constituents.
Panetta agreed, and the bill passed by one vote.
Panetta was also responsible for dispatching aides to find Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) during the Senate’s vote. He had slipped out to see the movie “What’s Love Got to Do with It.”
“I don’t often lose my temper, but I did then,” Panetta writes, describing his use of several expletives.
4) On President Clinton’s birthday in 1995, Panetta, who was then the White House Chief of Staff, and his two deputies, Erskine Bowles, and Harold Ickes, rode horses around the White House grounds.
The incident is captured in a photo in the book, showing the three men in jeans, button-down shirts and cowboy hats.
“None of us is much of a cowboy,” Panetta writes in the caption.
5) Panetta saved the Naval Postgraduate School from closure.
In 1976, Florida Democrat Rep. Bob Sikes, then-chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on military construction, was reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee for not disclosing holdings he had in a Pensacola bank he helped establish and a company that profited from defense work.
Panetta and fellow freshman lawmakers successfully circulated a letter demanding that Sikes be removed from his chairmanship. Sikes then took aim at the school, located in Panetta’s district.
Panetta writes that he confronted Sikes directly, urging him not to get even with him in a way that would harm the military. The school survived, and Sikes retired soon after.
With his second and final term in office nearly half-way done, United States President Barack Obama, who enjoyed record popularity after first being elected in 2008, is struggling to keep up with the ratings of wildly unpopular predecessor George W. Bush.
Fallout isn’t unexpected during so-called “lame duck” sessions in which reelection is ruled out and campaigning for office is no longer as routine as conducting otherwise official business. However, President Obama finds himself unusually isolated as even members of his own party try to distance themselves from the leader, whose policies became extremely unpopular with the majority of Americans.
In recent weeks, Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate, ex-cabinet officials and even former president Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, have raised objections about the administration’s policies. According to polling data provided by Gallup, Obama’s job approval rating for the week ending October 5 was 43 percent — merely a few points from the all-time low, 38 percent, recorded in September, and a far cry from his best of 69 percent at the start of his presidency in 2009.
Compared to his predecessor, Gallup’s statistics suggest Pres. Obama’s approval rating at this point is on par with how George W. Bush was perceived by the public at about the same time during that leader’s two-term stint in office. Both presidents’ approval ratings hovered closed to around 40 percent halfway through their respective second terms — or at a little more than 2,000 days in office — although Bush’s eight-year tenure ultimately ended with him leaving the White House in early 2009 with only one-third of Americans approving of his administration, according to Gallup.
But whereas Republicans largely stood by Bush Jr. even after the disastrous Iraq War and financial crisis of 2008, Democrats do not show the same level of support for their party’s leader, even on the eve of mid-term elections.
Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democratic contender for position of Senate minority leader, spent “40 painful seconds,” the Washington Post reported this week, “…refusing to say whether she voted for President Obama” during an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board on Thursday. There, the Post reported, Obama is more unpopular than anywhere else in the US — so much so that a candidate that described as being a “life-long Democrat, whose father represented Kentucky for the party in the state House and who herself has been on the ballot in the state on the Democratic ticket,” distanced herself from Obama.
A number of the president’s policies surrounding current events with international implications — particularly the White House’s handling of the so-called Islamic State insurgency, immigration reform and a potential Ebola outbreak, to name a few — have been critiqued by both the left and right, but largely by opponents who have taken advantage of the seriousness of the issues to lampoon the president regardless of what action he recommends for the US. Even Democrats, however, have set their sights on Obama for one issue specifically lately, which is all too easily tied directly to the White House: the ongoing and ever-intensifying scandal surrounding the US Secret Service and a number of security lapses suffered during this administration.
With the Washington Post reporting this week that the 2012 Colombian prostitution scandal involving the president’s security detail extended behind the Secret Service and involved a White House volunteer, questions of a cover-up ordered from within the administration stand to make next month’s elections an uphill battle for any politician tied too close to Washington.
“Unlike some of the earlier incidents, where Republicans and Democrats joined together to criticize the Secret Service, the Cartagena case has the potential to provoke partisan clashes on Capitol Hill and create political problems for Obama,” reads an excerpt from a CBS News report published on Friday this week.
With respect to international issues, the White House’s recent handling even spurred critique this month from Jimmy Carter, a former US president who, while known for advocating for peace, said this administration wrongly hesitated before finally beginning air strikes last month on the group calling itself the Islamic State.
“First of all, we waited too long. We let the Islamic State build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria,” Carter told the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth, Texas. “Then when [ISIS] moved into Iraq, the Sunni Muslims didn’t object to their being there and about a third of the territory in Iraq was abandoned.”
Leon Panetta, the former secretary of defense under Pres. Obama, has also spoken up lately to condemn the administration in a book that has been considered to be largely “anti-Obama,” even if Panetta played a critical role in the president’s cabinet from 2009 through early last year as both Pentagon chief and CIA director.
In the aftermath of the publicity that has surrounded Panetta’s new book in recent days, National Journal writer Ron Fournier wrote that the former DOD chief has merely printed what other members of the Democratic Party have been scared to say.
“A senator. A House member. A former presidential campaign manager. An adviser to President Obama. All Democrats, these officials have made it a habit to call or email me almost every week of Obama’s second term to share their concerns about the course of his presidency,” he wrote recently. “They ask only that I don’t identify them. Some fear retribution; others don’t want to compromise their financial or political standing inside their party. These Democrats speak admirably about the president’s intellect, integrity, and intentions, but they question his leadership—an admittedly squishy term that can be unfairly deployed against people with the guts to lead. But their critiques are specific, consistent and credible—and they comport with what many other Democrats are telling other journalists, almost always, privately.
“Leon Panetta speaks for them now,” he opined.
Cornel West, the acclaimed intellectual who previously supported Obama for president ahead of the 2008 election, has been adamant lately about speaking up against the current administration.
“The unprecedented historical symbolism of the first Black president has misled many if not most Black people to downplay his substantial neoliberal policies and elevate his [and his family’s] brilliant and charismatic presence,” West writes in a new book of his own. “The Obama presidency has been primarily a Wall Street presidency, drone presidency, mass surveillance presidency unwilling to concretely target the new Jim Crow, massive unemployment, and other forms of poor and Black social misery.”
A widening gap between the “haves and have nots” is but one of many contradictions between the rhetoric that inflamed enthusiasm of millions of voters who believed in “Hope” and “Change” and the reality of the Obama’s governing. “The most transparent administration of all times,” as was promised, turned out to be among the most hostile to journalists and whistleblowers to the extent that media organizations like the Associated Press had to openly criticize its stonewalling practices.
“[O]fficials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government,” the AP and other groups warned last November in a letter to the White House sent after wire photographers found themselves being increasingly barred from administration events.
An adamant critique of the Iraq War and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, President Obama made extrajudicial drone killings a signature mark of his administration. Unprecedented level of casualties, including civilians who were considered “collateral damage,” has sparked anti-American sentiments in the Muslim world to new levels. Even Washington hawks had to admit that while George W. Bush’s administration was trying to capture and debrief suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and other secret prisons, the current administration preferred to avoid complications related to questionable interrogation tactics and has chosen a more straightforward way: killing the suspects.
But it doesn’t mean that secret prisons ceased to exist. Even after signing an executive order to close the Gitmo in 2009, Obama hasn’t taken any steps to actually shut down the facility since. Moreover, despite demands from the Afghan government, the US managed to keep it’s even more secretive detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan for years; although the venue has to be transferred to Afghan control by the end of 2014, its prisoners’ fate is still unclear. Just like dozens of Gitmo detainees who were cleared for release years ago but remain in US custody indefinitely, they too might find themselves in some other secret prisons under command of the president who once campaigned for peace and promised to change the way the world sees America forever.