The Obama administration’s war on irony

I came across this little gem in a news report on the NSA whistleblowing story about how the Obama administration has issued charges of espionage against Edward Snowden.

As Snowden made his latest disclosures, the US issued an extradition request to Hong Kong and piled pressure on the territory to respond swiftly. “If Hong Kong doesn’t act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong’s commitment to the rule of law,” a senior Obama administration official said. [My italics-MS]

I honestly don’t know how these people can say these things with a straight face. Here we have an administration with a long history of torture, murders, indefinite detentions, renditions, kangaroo courts, and massive secretive surveillance of practically everybody, solemnly lecturing other countries about needing to comply with the rule of law. What is worse, what the Obama administration means by this is for other countries to ignore their own laws and snap to it and immediately comply with US demands. Can there be any clearer example of an imperialistic mindset?

It seems like the US is ticked off with Hong Kong for allowing Snowden to leave and not arresting him and handing him over to the US. In its response, the Hong Kong authorities rebuffed US charges and said that it was the US that was not fully complying with the law.

The Hong Kong government said on Sunday he had left of his own accord “through a lawful and normal channel” and said the request filed by the US did not fully comply with legal requirements. Pointedly, it also said it wanted Washington to clarify Snowden’s claims that the US had hacked targets in the territory.

The move came two days after the US announced it had charged him with espionage and hours after the US stepped up pressure on Hong Kong to issue a provisional warrant for Snowden’s arrest with a view to his surrender.

It looks like we are in for a cat-and-mouse game with many countries involved and we are going to learn a lot about how international law works, though in this case international politics may play a bigger role than international law.


  1. TGAP Dad says

    I have a minor quibble with torture, unless by “this administration” you mean the executive branch entirely, regardless of the presidency. Obama (supposedly) ended torture, and one would presume also the rendition that precedes some of it.

  2. says

    Pointedly, it also said it wanted Washington to clarify Snowden’s claims that the US had hacked targets in the territory.

    USAians fail to realise that it is the US government that should being indicted for crimes (inter alia espionage and attacks on privacy) against the people and state of Hong Kong. Snowden has committed exactly zero crimes from our perspective.

  3. Mano Singham says

    Obama has continued the practice of rendition of people to countries that routinely practice torture as an interrogation technique so I consider him to be as culpable of implementing a torture practices as Bush/Cheney. His weasel words and slipperiness on this issue is to enable his followers to claim a moral high ground he does not deserve.

    Furthermore his atrocious treatment of Bradley Manning is so close to being clearly torture as to constitute a difference without significance.

  4. CaitieCat says

    Further to what Mano mentioned at 2.1, there’s the use of doctors to force-feed untried detainees at Guantanamo, which several international doctors’ groups are calling unethical at the least, and torturous at the worst. And that’s all on Obama’s administration. There’s Obamas enormously violent (and greatly-increased over King George II’s use 2001-2008) use of drone strikes on “pattern” targets, which seem to make a habit of bombing wedding parties like a bolt from the blue.

    There are ways in which Obama’s administration has been better than KG2’s on these issues, and ways it’s been worse. It’s not at all unreasonable to be deeply disillusioned with the Obama administration’s inability to get much daylight between their policies and the House of Halliburton’s reign.

  5. Jeffrey Johnson says

    I’m hopeful that the real issue that Snowden’s revelations (confirmations) have raised are becoming more visible in the press. The initial outcry was mostly focused on individuals upset about their own privacy. This is something to be concerned about, but it seems to be missing the larger issue, which is the expanding abuse of secrecy in the government.

    Today a new McClatchy piece exposes the “Insider Threat Program” within the government. This is bigger news than PRISM, in my opinion. It lacks the romance and excitement of a rogue insider seeking international asylum, so it probably won’t get the attention that Snowden has gotten.

    There is a thoughful piece in the NY Times by Max Frankel, which proposes a full open court system, similar to the Tax Courts, to create restrictions and oversight on the security state. Freedom is not free, and worth the costs.

    It is important to remember that the primary purpose of the First Amendment is not to guarantee individuals the rights of self-aggrandizement by making shocking statements and gaining attention for it. The purpose is to guarantee that abuse of power in the government is checked by public scrutiny. This is why free press, free speech, and freedom of assembly exist, so that citizens can find out what the government is doing, can talk about it, and can show their opposition.

    The spread of government secrecy, not the PRISM surveilance, is the cancer that will rot the Republic. PRISM is an inconvenience to individuals. Government acting in secret beyond the scrutiny of citizens is a threat to the entire nation. The secrecy is the power that could enable PRISM data to be used to destroy the lives of innocent people. With good public oversight, review, and recourse to the courts, PRISM is not such a threat.

  6. says

    allowing Snowden to leave and not arresting him and handing him over to the US

    In many countries it’s illegal to extradite someone to a country that has the death penalty or which tortures prisoners. Sucks being a pariah state.

  7. says

    With good public oversight, review, and recourse to the courts, PRISM is not such a threat.

    Meanwhile, back in the real world, water is wet.

  8. says

    Obama (supposedly) ended torture

    The US prison systems’ use of solitary confinement is arguably torture. The forced feeding of political prisoners on hunger strike definitely is. The conditions under which Bradley Manning was imprisoned were torture enough that even the UN dared complain.

    You’d think it was torture if it was being done to you.

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