Obama Continues Anti-Whistleblower Crusade

One of the hallmarks of President Obama’s time in office has been a relentless crusade against those who have blown the whistle on illegal activity by the government. Now with a classic Bush-style signing statement, he has continued that pattern of ensuring that the public never knows what is really going on. Mother Jones has the details:

Obama signed a new law expanding whistleblower protections for some government employees in November, and onJanuary 2, he signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, which extends similar protections to defense contractors who expose waste and corruption. But the NDAA signing came with a caveat that blindsided the bill’s backers and has some in the whistleblower community up in arms: In a signing statement, Obama wrote that the bill’s whistleblowing protections “could be interpreted in a manner that would interfere with my authority to manage and direct executive branch officials,” and he promised to ignore them if they conflicted with his power to “supervise, control, and correct employees’ communications with the Congress in cases where such communications would be unlawful or would reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential.”

“12 million contractors are going to be out in the cold because of this,” warns Jesselyn Radack, the national security and human rights director for the Government Accountability Project and a former whistleblower. “Asking employees to go to their boss before going to Congress defeats the purpose of blowing the whistle.” Radack adds that presidents “use signing statements to direct their subordinates on how to interpret and administer a law, and it can have substantial legal impact.” She points to George W. Bush’s signing statements on torture and the USA PATRIOT Act as examples, both of which allowed the former president to dodge parts of those laws.

“The language Obama used wasn’t defined, it’s completely ambiguous, and it’s already led to confusion,” says Angela Canterbury, director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight. “I can imagine contractors claiming that disclosures made by whistleblowers are ‘confidential,’ and I think it could likely have a chilling effect.”

Peter Van Buren, a former foreign service officer who wrote a book exposing contracting waste in Iraq (and was hassled by the State Department as a result) tells Mother Jones the signing statement “is merely another expression of [the Obama] administration’s hostile policy toward all whistleblowers…It disappoints me, and devalues my own efforts to bring transparency to the government.”

Under Obama, not a single Bush administration official, intelligence or military operative has been prosecuted for their role in the torture of detainees or the flagrant violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or the 4th Amendment. He has, in fact, done everything in his power to make sure no one has been held accountable for their crimes against the Constitution and the Convention Against Torture. But anyone who has revealed those crimes has been prosecuted to the hilt. I can think of few things as illiberal and regressive.

Comments

  1. eric says

    What is particularly annoying is that he comes from the senate. I could understand a president with a long executive background (like being a governor) being very aggresive in protecting the executive branch against legislative oversight. Such a person has always been on the same side in the debate. But a former senator should understand the legislative perspective on unlimited executive power, and why its bad.

  2. says

    Any time I bring this stuff up with people they try to talk about the “more important things” like a speech Obama gave where he acknowledged the existence of gay people or how he might not be cutting Social Security as much as a Republican would.
    I get the eyerolls and “tired of hearing it” crap and get lumped in as an “Obama-hater” along with right-wingers and birthers.

    I am told that my refusing to vote in my extremely un-swing state for any person for President who orders drone strikes against American citizens and who has pro-torture policies is “wasting my vote” and “a vote for the Republicans.”

    You point out that it’s just a race to the right, and they tell you the answer is to vote for the tortoise.

  3. says

    Jafafa:

    Because you miss the entire point of voting for the lesser evil. I have no respect for your line of thinking because you’re willing to cut off your nose to spite your face. Yes, vote for the tortoise over the hare, because that means less mess to clean up over the long run. Believe it or not, small wins are still wins. You can’t just throw a shit fit because you didn’t get everything you want.

    Do I approve of this? No. I suspect there’s probably a logical reason behind it, but that doesn’t make it any more morally correct, and it’s something we have to put the pressure on the White House about. If not Obama, then the next president. You should know by now that you have to keep fighting to keep what you have.

  4. says

    Why isn’t congress jumping up and down about this? Couldn’t they serve their constituents by applying the carrot and stick to the executive branch on our behalf? Instead of manufacturing crises? Gah!

    It’s not as if there’s Wall St money behind the expansion of the police state. :( What the hell is wrong with Obama? It seems like the Pentagon out-maneuvered Obama on the Afghan “surge” – he fell for the same “your menu today is: fish or fish. What do you prefer?” as the Pentagon pulled during the “surge” in Vietnam. You’d think Obama would have caught onto that trick by now. We have. So, is it just that building drones to watch people is such a growth industry that he’s doing it for the jobs? My theory is that there are so many policy-makers that are part of the revolving door profiteering on the police state/MIC that Obama’s getting zoomed the same way Kennedy and Johnson did.

    And speaking of “lesser of three evils” Hillary Clinton, who hasn’t seen a war she didn’t like, wouldn’t be any different from Obama with respect to the police state or the permanent wars. And we don’t even need to talk about the republicans. Gah!

  5. says

    Marcus:

    Who knows? They can’t do anything about signing statements. This one’s for the courts. I’m sure the ACLU is watching, though who knows if they’ll get involved.

  6. says

    BrianX You can’t just throw a shit fit because you didn’t get everything you want.

    Now, to be fair: we were lied to. Not just a little bit, but badly. And then we were offered a second helping as our hobson’s choice. Maybe more people should be throwing shit fits, mmm?

  7. says

    They can’t do anything about signing statements

    Yeah, because Congress has no way they can obstruct the President’s agenda to get him to stop doing that kind of shit. They’re helpless.

    No, they’re also betraying their constituents, they’re not helpless at all. There’s a difference.

  8. says

    What’s throwing a shit fit going to do? If you’re not playing politics as a long game, ur doin it rong. You have to work within the existing framework or you’ll rarely accomplish anything of value.

  9. Suido says

    @BrianX: Did you miss this part of Jafafa’s post?

    my extremely un-swing state

    Strategic voting is non-swing states should be for 3rd party candidates if you don’t like the 2 main party candidates.

  10. Freeman says

    BrianX: To reject a point is not to miss it. Political parties will offer more of whatever the people are voting for. Voting for lesser (as a matter of partisan perception) evil is how we got to this point where evil is all we’re offered to choose from. Your long game only leads to more evil. What’s your goal, and how will voting for evil, however lesser you perceive it, help you achieve it? If your goal is not more evil, you’re missing the point because that’s exactly what you’re getting.

    Our de facto two party system only stays that way because so many people mindlessly support evil out of partisanship and fear. We voters have the power to change the course, to turn the country around, away from evil. Instead we opt for minor course corrections a little bit to the left or right, but always toward more evil. It’s a losing strategy, bro.

  11. bradleybetts says

    @Freeman

    To quote that most sagacious of Cuttlefish:

    “Susie and Sandy Make a Mistake.”
    It was the first day of school and the children could vote,
    On the lunchtime vegetable they wanted most.
    Broccoli or beans were the only choice,
    Then Susie and Sandy raised their loud voice.
    “Beans are okay, but broccoli is terrible!
    “We want a third choice on the lunchtime table!
    “We’ll vote for carrots, yes, that’s what we’ll do!
    “We’ll make a big point, even though we will lose.
    The votes were counted until the day was done,
    And to their dismay, the beans lost by one.
    Now they were stuck eating broccoli all year,
    The option that Susie and Sandy most feared.
    “We voted our conscience!” they said standing tall.
    Their friends said, “Whatever. You just fucked us all.”

  12. says

    @BrianX #11 — It was Obama himself to ordered his supporters to hold his feet to the fire. How are we supposed to do that when those who dare to speak up are told to stop enabling the Republicans?

  13. kermit. says

    BrianX What’s throwing a shit fit going to do? If you’re not playing politics as a long game, ur doin it rong. You have to work within the existing framework or you’ll rarely accomplish anything of value.

    If I thought we had a long term I would have voted Green. A vote for Green is a message to the Democratic party that Republican Lite isn’t good enough. Global warming is the biggest threat to the human species in 60,000 years. Yet Obama is setting records for the number of oil drilling sites approved, seems to be buddies with the fossil fuel industry and the mainstream news media stenographers. (Global Warming – what’s that?) Seeing him continue the police state policies of Bush and extending them is not encouraging.

    We don’t have time. Maybe if he had lost or nearly lost because of votes for the Green party, the Democrats would have reconsidered their message. Of course a president Romney would have screwed things up so badly that we might not have been able to recover from it. Sigh.

    I hope that with Obama we can shift gears to the real issues (i.e. survival of the species) more smoothly after Mother Nature gets our attention (she got mine ten years ago).

    It’s not necessarily foolish to disagree with you on issues where we cannot know the outcome of our decisions.

  14. Freeman says

    @bradleybetts:

    Love the cuttlefish.

    But the prose expresses exactly the fear I mentioned — fear of perceived evil, of risking short-term loss for long-term gain, and of being blamed for someone else’s inability to attract a majority to their cause.

    To live and act on that kind of fear is to truly be fucked.

  15. Freeman says

    BTW: To complete Cuttlefish’s analogy, the next year Susie and Sandy swing the vote the other way, only to find the beans are no better than the broccoli.

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