Obama extends illegal spying of citizens and foreigners

The measure also enables the government to continue spying on foreigners with American ties


Barack Obama started 2013 receiving criticism from activists for human rights supporters in the U.S. after extending two controversial measures, both remnants of the Administration of George W. Bush and his spying and detention practices.

The current president extended a program to spy on foreigners who live in the U.S. as well as Americans who maintain contact with them and, against his own judgment, gave approval for a Pentagon funding bill that opposes his own promise to close the detention center at the Guantanamo Naval Base, which was opened by Bush in 2002.

On the penultimate day of the year, the president ratified a five-year extension of the Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Program, that allows U.S. spy agencies to trace calls and emails of foreign citizens who without any proof are deemed as suspects who may pose a risk to the national security of the United States.

Written during the last years of the administration of George W. Bush, the law allows foreign espionage  without warrants. With the measure, the United States gives itself the prerogative to carry out such spying without the consent of foreign governments and to hide the findings from those governments.

The law was actually tested back in 1978, but was modified and expanded in 2008 to, among other things, allow spying of U.S. citizens who maintain contact with foreigners, provided the latter task is to obtain information in other countries.

“The Bush Administration’s program of surveillance without controls that once was considered a radical threat to the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution [which protects against arbitrary searches], has been institutionalized for five more years,” says Michelle Richardson, legal adviser of the American Civil Liberties Union.

On Thursday, in addition, Obama signed the Defense Authorization Act of 2013, which allows the financing of the Pentagon with about 633,000 million dollars, to which the Obama administration has intentionally attached the payment given to soldiers, so congressmen who might be against his spying and endless war policies are unable to vote against it.

The Capitol, however, sent the bill to the president with a major disincentive: in three sections, prohibits the transfer of detainees in Afghanistan and Guantanamo, a move that lawmakers believe will prompt Obama to keep Guantanamo open for the forseeable future, and that breaks one of the promises of his 2008 campaign.

“I object to this provision,” Obama said in a statement added to the text to ratify the law, “which replaces what should be a determination of Congress, based on the factual and professional advice of counter-terrorism and law enforcement on when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees,” said Obama as he tried to remove responsibility from his shoulders.

“In this Annex, the president reserves the right to veto such specific prohibition. Initially, Obama sought to transfer some detainees to U.S. soil, but found considerable resistance on Capitol Hill.

Despite his firm opposition to these and other measures adopted by the Bush administration during his two tenures, Obama, a constitutional lawyer, has failed miserably to remove regulations that violate the most basic principles that helped create and maintain the United States as a place where both citizens and foreigners could be assured that their civil liberties would be safe.

Obama has not only maintained Bush’s violations of the Constitution, but he has also empowered his  executive office while undermining and eroding hundreds of years of legal achievements that guaranteed that due process was the rule and not the exception.

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