THE BLOG

Unfortunately, Obama Is Expanding the Imperial Presidency

10/01/2010 02:40 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A recent Global Research article by Tom Burghardt provides a chilling (if also somewhat hyperbolic) account of recent raids on activists in what many are now calling a reprise on the 1960s CONTELPRO project, which was aimed mainly at the Black Panthers and other black militant groups.

The worst of the current raids may be that many of us assumed, expected, even demanded, that the Obama administration would back off from Bush's Imperial Presidency project, in which the federal administration arrogated to itself the right to investigate, harass, and even arrest without trial anyone who they considered to be dangerous to their "national security" policies. We know from recent events that the Obama administration has extended at least some of these efforts (maybe all of them), including giving the FBI unfettered rights to open anyone's emails for the purpose of furthering any "investigation" (as compared to Bush, who gave them this right only if they were investigating "terrorism").

This article points to more of the same. Two points I found particularly telling. First:

With Friday's raids, the federal government under "change" huckster Barack Obama, has taken their repressive program to a whole new level, threatening activists with the specter of being charged with providing "material support of terrorism." A felony conviction under this draconian federal law (Title 18, Part I, Chapter 113B, § 2339B) carries a 15 year prison term.

If you push past the pungent "change huckster" label for our esteemed president, the point here is that the new legal structure allows the government to raid the offices of an anti-war group (this one is in Minnesota) and -- upon finding that they provided leaflets, rhetoric, or any other activity that can be construed by the government as helping the cause of, say, Iraqi's attempting to expel the U.S. from their country (by any means that the U.S. government deems unacceptable and therefore "terrorist") -- they can be arrested and convicted of a crime carrying 15 years in jail.

Maybe the worst part of this is not the existence of such a law, but the fact that in Minnesota and a few other places, the Obama administration has launched raids against ordinary activist groups under the banner of "investigating" possible violations of this law. It gives the government a carte blanche to raid any group at all; and this means they can mete out punishment (even if no prosecutions take place in the form of these investigatory raids and subsequent arrests) to virtually any activists the FBI dislikes, with the threat of sustained prosecution if they "find" anything tying the group by even the flimsiest thread to "terrorism."

Here is another chilling point:

Recently, the secrecy-spilling web site Public Intelligence posted 137 bulletins produced by the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR), an American-Israeli company, under terms of a $125,000 contract to the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security.

Billing itself as 'the preeminent Israeli/American security firm providing training, intelligence and education to clients across the globe,' ITRR is part of a large, but little understood nexus of 'public-private partnerships' fusing state and corporate surveillance against leftists and environmentalists.
Amongst the targets of ITRR's alarmist screeds were anti-drilling and environmental activists, permanent quarry for corporate spies and provocateurs, as the web site Green Is The New Red (GNR) amply documents.

There are two particularly alarming elements to this little fact. First, notice that this is a private firm hired, not by the U.S., but by the "Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security." With the proliferation of private security firms (like the notorious Blackwater, but there are many others) built with the vast dollars of the U.S. federal government and by a few other governments (notably Israel), otherwise incapable local and state governments can now engage in harassment and repression without have to invest in creating their own apparatus. They can simply hire one of these already-created agencies for targeted activities against whoever they dislike. (And keep in mind that their private status allows, as good old Mission Impossible (the TV shows, not the knock-off movies) used to say, the government to "deny all knowledge" of their nefarious activities.)

Then second, notice who they are targeting: "anti-drilling and environment activists." Since they have already institutionalized the term "eco-terrorists," they can now harass, arrest, and -- under the new laws -- prosecute anyone who opposes various environmental degradations (in this case the horrendous "fracking" to obtain natural gas from underground shale, which is spreading underground poison in vast areas of Pennsylvania). So, those of us who derive some comfort from the hope that they were restricting themselves to attacking people and groups who were protesting U.S. foreign policy, can now see that opposition to domestic policy is also subject to attack. And keep in mind, it no longer has to emanate from the federal government. Local governments can simply hire mercenaries to attack whoever they dislike for opposing whatever local atrocity they seek to continue.

The only bright side is that large numbers of people continue to organize and protest, undeterred by the draconian threats of the Imperial Presidency.

Somewhat the worst for wear.