I’ve been seeing a barrage of posts by many of my friends lamenting that such a dignified man is leaving office to be replaced by a coarse caudillo. Barack Obama is certainly very intelligent, and I suspect that he, Michelle, and their children are very nice people, but I regard him as only a placeholder president.
As described in Listen, Liberal, which I am most of the way through reading, our outgoing president initially enjoyed a supermajority in Congress, but instead of executing the will of the American people as a whole, catered to the concerns of about ten or twenty percent of Americans: highly-educated, successful professionals.
While most people wanted Wall Street to be reformed, Obama bailed out the institutions and guaranteed millions upon millions in bonuses.
While most people wanted peace, Obama continued war-for-profit and escalated assassination via drones.
While most people wanted a single payer system, Obama settled for a mandated gift to private insurance companies.
While most people wanted a more transparent government, Obama has persecuted whistleblowers.
And today, while people are praying that he will pardon Chelsea Manning, we read this:
In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.
The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.
Previously, the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information.
Now, other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions.
But Patrick Toomey, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the move an erosion of rules intended to protect the privacy of Americans when their messages are caught by the N.S.A.’s powerful global collection methods. He noted that domestic internet data was often routed or stored abroad, where it may get vacuumed up without court oversight.
“Rather than dramatically expanding government access to so much personal data, we need much stronger rules to protect the privacy of Americans,” Mr. Toomey said. “Seventeen different government agencies shouldn’t be rooting through Americans’ emails with family members, friends and colleagues, all without ever obtaining a warrant.”
Update20170118: President Obama has commuted the sentence of Army whistleblower Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Lopez Rivera, and has pardoned retired Marine General James E Cartwright, who had been convicted of lying to the FBI. Obama has reportedly pardoned or reduced the sentences of a few hundred non-violent drug offenders.No one is sure whether Julian Assange will make good on his promise to face extradition to the US in exchange for Manning’s commutation.