While thousands of Americans, all across the United States, are engaged in violent protests against the election of Donald Trump, they actually have the Democrats and Republicans to blame. They created the power vacuum where Donald Trump will have virtually limitless power. By not opposing Barack H. Obama’s free for all approach to the use of presidential executive order, executive branch overreaches, and rulemaking, the liberal left, and the moderate right have given Trump all the power to be that tyrant so many are afraid he’ll become.
But since blanket statements are often based on how one feels at any given moment, it’s important to take a close look at the facts, all of which are sure to leave many of our readers disturbed. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, “Since becoming president in 2009, Barack Obama has significantly extended the use of drones in the War on Terror. Operating outside declared battlefields, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, this air war has been largely fought in Pakistan and Yemen.”
It has been the position of the sitting president that drone strikes were preferred over putting “boots on the ground” and he has maintained that position. The BIJ estimates that 801 individuals have lost their lives (2009-2015) in targeted drone strikes and that nearly 2,800 civilians have been killed in those strikes. But Obama can hardly shoulder all of the blame.
The balance of powers should have demanded an end to drone strikes, especially in countries where the use of force was not authorized. Remember Afghanistan and Iraq? Those were the only two countries wherein the U.S. was authorized to use military force, but that hasn’t stopped king Obama from punishing the chieftains of the world with predator missiles dropped from drones. The BIJ details how those strikes were also carried out in “Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya,” all sovereign nations.
Obama's drone war may be nothing compared to the Joint Special Operations Command and its activities. Thanks in part to the documentary Dirty Wars, produced by Anthony Arnove, Brenda Coughlin, Jeremy Scahill, and directed by Rick Rowley, we now know of Obama's kill squads which have been operating without much restraint in over 70 countries.
According to Naomi Wolf of The Guardian, the JSOC is, "a network of highly-trained, completely unaccountable US assassins, armed with ever-expanding "kill lists." It was JSOC that ran the operation behind the Navy Seal team six that killed bin Laden. And while many Americans may applaud bin Laden's assassination, they may be surprised to learn the work of the trained assassins is far-reaching and contains a kill list of ever-expanding names.
"JSOC operates outside the traditional chain of command; it reports directly to the president of the United States," Wolf writes adding JSOC's budget, "may be in the billions." Wolf openly questions the need for a sitting U.S. president to have his own personal mercenary force. "What does it mean for the president to have an unaccountable paramilitary force, which can assassinate anyone anywhere in the world?" she asks. As one former JSOC assassin stated, "There was a variety of abuses...(torture)...the president has made a political and military calculation to let the Joint Special Operations Command run wild," the unidentified operative stated adding he had "the full support of the White House."
1. Target Americans for extrajudicial assassination -- even children.
Have you ever heard the name, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki? He was Colorado-born American, was assumed to have been engaged in jihadi activity with his father, Anwar al-Awlaki, and was killed in a targeted U.S. drone strike on October 14th, 2011, in Yemen. Yemen!
While it is against the law for Americans to travel overseas to engage in terrorism, the killing of a 16-year-old American overseas by way of a drone strike, in a country where the U.S. is not at war, should be disturbing, even for the staunchest of patriots. Further still, neither of the two al-Awlaki's had been charged with any crime other than propagandizing jihad.
However, the Republican-dominated Congress, and loyal Democrats continued to allow the president to use his position of power to rain down fire on America’s enemies, wherever they may be, leaving some to question whether or not the same actions could take place on U.S. soil. And what was the reaction of the White House after they learned of the boy’s death? “Maybe he (Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki) should've had a more responsible father,” (White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs).
2. Listen to and spy on ANYONE they want, without warrant of justification.
Turning our attention to “The Cyber”, our nation’s cyber intelligence apparatus, under the Obama administration, Prism, Xkeyscore, and Tempora, have grown in size and scope. Thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know the NSA has been spying on ALL Americans (cell phones, text messages, emails, etc.).
Prism is the NSA’s data mining program. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, have all reportedly worked with the NSA to decrypt data to be used by intelligence analysts. As The Free Thought Project reported this week, Google has a very cozy relationship with clandestine operatives, and who doesn’t use Google? And the government uses a very private court to go about getting the dirt on you. Known as the FISA court, the government supposedly approves requests by intelligence gathering agencies through FISA, to authorize its invasion of privacy. Very rarely do the requests get denied.
Partnering with the GCHQ, a British intelligence service, the NSA has access to Tempora, the British version of Prism. It’s been reported the two countries actively share information they obtain through Tempora’s surveillance program, which taps into transatlantic cables which lie hundreds and thousands of feet below the Atlantic. The amount of data Tempora collects is massive, estimated to exceed “21,000,000,000,000,000 bytes (21 petabytes) per day…this enormous figure makes it virtually impossible to store all the data perpetually, so the content is deleted after 3 days, and metadata are usually kept for 30 days.”
Yeah right! According to Snowden’s leaked documents, the Brits use “intercept partners” to decipher the data collected through the Prism program. The identity of such private business entities is a closely guarded state secret.
The trophy in spying on hapless civilians, however, goes to the NSA’s Xkeyscore program, which is said to be so powerful it can spy on ALL communications of entire countries. Xkeyscore is said to be able to carry out cyber attacks on entire countries by targeting ALL of the countries “exploitable” machines (computers, servers, etc.), making it by far the most powerful piece of cyber warfare the world may know. And the intelligence analysts don’t need a warrant to use it. If an American is communicating with someone overseas, they can be fair game.
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All three of the aforementioned intelligence gathering machines, for lack of a better word, may have been useful in preventing terrorist attacks, and they may be comforting to some diehard patriots who feel they have nothing to hide. However, in the wrong hands, they can be used in some very destructive ways.
For the last eight years, they’ve been overseen by the Obama administration, and will soon be passed on to the Trump administration. Who knows what he’ll do with them when he gets a chance? As Snowden once said, “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sorts of things.”
3. Prosecute anyone who tells the truth.
As Americans start to warm up to the idea that Snowden is actually a freedom fighter who wishes for “the public” to determine how spycraft will be used, others are not so convinced. They still see whistleblower Snowden as a traitor to his country, who deserves to be executed for treason.
“Any analyst at any time can target anyone,” Snowden said in an interview, and we at The Free Thought Project believe that’s an invasion of privacy, an abuse of governmental power, and a slippery slope which no country should start down.
“Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded,” Snowden insisted and added nefarious analysts could take an innocent person and “paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer." Those statements and others are what some have said define Snowden as a freedom fighter.
In 2011, under the Obama administration, the Whistleblower Act of 1989 was amended to protect government employees, like Snowden, from reprisals if they discovered and reported instances of waste, abuse, and fraud.
But as The Free Thought Project has reported, those whistleblowers have been targeted nonetheless, leaving some like Chelsea Manning with the only other option to consider, leaking what they know.
Manning currently sits in the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for, “revealing to the world some of the atrocities of the Iraq War, including the 'Collateral Murder' video – footage taken in July 2007 from inside the cockpit of a US Apache helicopter as US troops onboard cut down 12 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters reporters. The video footage, together with some 500,000 Army documents that are now known as the Iraq War logs and Afghan War logs, was turned over to Wikileaks in early 2010.”
Oxford University recently awarded Manning in absentia, “for casting much-needed daylight on the true toll and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq; human rights abuses by U.S. and ‘coalition’ forces, mercenaries, and contractors; and the roles that spying and bribery play in international diplomacy” -- yet Manning is still wasting away in a cage.
Despite having promises by President Obama that no harm will come to federal whistleblowers, others who’ve tried to voice their grievances have been met with punitive measures for doing so. As The Free Thought Project reported in December of 2014, “Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project (reportedly said), ‘We advise intelligence whistleblowers to stay away from established channels to defend against retaliation. In our experience, they’ve been a Trojan horse, a trap that ends up sucking the whistleblower into a long-term process that predictably ends up with the whistleblower as the target.’”
Some whistleblowers are fighting back, however. As The Free Thought Project reported in 2015, “Thomas Drake, Diane Roark, Ed Loomis, J. Kirk Wiebe and William Binney have filed a lawsuit against the NSA, FBI, and DOJ, claiming that the highest ranking officials of those agencies attempted to silence them through prosecution, media smear tactics and occupational threats.” Their lawsuit contended they suffered the loss of their, “constitutional and civil rights, invasion of privacy, and retaliation for their roles as whistleblowers, including illegal searches and seizures, physical invasion of their residences and places of business, illegal detention as temporary false imprisonment, confiscation of property, cancellation of security clearances leading to the loss of their jobs and employment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, harassment and intimidation.”
Under the Obama administration, the wholesale spying on ALL Americans has been expanded. Whistleblowers who have tried to object, have been targeted for vicious harassment, as well as prosecution. With the knowledge Obama employs his own personal, unaccountable, and heavily funded mercenary force which has been killing people in over 70 countries, it appears the power of the president knows no bounds.
Drones have been steadily dropped in four countries where the U.S. is not at war, resulting in thousands of innocent bystanders being killed. Worse yet, at least two of those targeted individuals (TI’s) have been Americans, whose right not to be assassinated by their own government was ignored for the ostensible sake of national security.
Despite how patriotic one may be, every American has a right to due process, unless of course, you’re a TI to be killed in a drone strike. And worse still, the now president-elect Donald Trump told supporters in 2015 that “you have to take out their families.”
“When you get these terrorists,” he said reiterating, “you have to take out their families.” For eight years, the outgoing Democrat president has been taking out targeted individuals, as we’ve explained, and now the incoming president vows to continue the targeted killings of TI’s, promising to go one step further, to wipe out their entire family, all for the sake of ending terrorism once and for all.
All that will likely happen, as a result, is the creation of more terrorists. As far as a Trump presidency is concerned, his administration will inherit The Cyberwar machine, the mercenary power of JSOC, and all the power that goes with the presidency; executive order, rulemaking, and an allied Congress (Republican-ruled).
There will be nothing and no one to stop Trump from doing what he wishes, no balance of power, especially hidden powers. When will the existing branches of government begin to reign in the executive branch and insist he operate within the rules of engagement, protect ALL Americans' right to privacy, insist on due process (even for accused terrorists), and become accountable to, at least, a bipartisan oversight committee? Enough is enough. It's time to reign in the power of the executive branch. If Trump wants to show those who voted him in that he cares, he will immediately revoke and reverse the virtual executive dictatorship left to him by his predecessor. We here at the Free Thought Project won't be holding our breath.