3 Rights We Lost Under Obama
Among a free people, rights can not easily be oppressed in large form or short order. They are lost on the periphery with a slow curtailing based on reasonable and even well-intentioned initiatives. The result is less freedom, fewer rights and a decreased ability to legally fight back. The following losses are only steps, but they are large steps on a path that leads to a far worse country then we have ever known.
The Right to Privacy
First by a whistleblower, then by the media and eventually admitted to, it was revealed that the Obama administration is spying on more Americans than any other President. A few try to dismiss this by saying “it is mostly just metadata” that is being kept forever, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) correctly states that this metadata is a tool used to uncover your sexual orientation, private beliefs, religion, political leanings and everything that free people have the right to choose whether or not is public knowledge. No other entity has legal access to all of this information, This is a unique power the President is using that strips Americans of a fundamental right to privacy. The ACLU’s strong opposition to the Obama administration explains:
A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study a few years back found that reviewing people’s social networking contacts alone was sufficient to determine their sexual orientation. Consider, metadata from email communications was sufficient to identify the mistress of then-CIA Director David Petraeus and then drive him out of office.
The “who,” “when” and “how frequently” of communications are often more revealing than what is said or written. Calls between a reporter and a government whistleblower, for example, may reveal a relationship that can be incriminating all on its own.
Repeated calls to Alcoholics Anonymous, hotlines for gay teens, abortion clinics or a gambling bookie may tell you all you need to know about a person’s problems. If a politician were revealed to have repeatedly called a phone sex hotline after 2:00 a.m., no one would need to know what was said on the call before drawing conclusions. In addition sophisticated data-mining technologies have compounded the privacy implications by allowing the government to analyze terabytes of metadata and reveal far more details about a person’s life than ever before.
To further underscore the point, a nice piece by Kurt Opsahl outlines:
What [government officials] are trying to say is that disclosure of metadata — the details about phone calls, without the actual voice — isn’t a big deal, not something for Americans to get upset about if the government knows. Let’s take a closer look at what they are saying:
They know you called the suicide prevention hotline from the Golden Gate Bridge. But the topic of the call remains a secret.
They know you spoke with an HIV testing service, then your doctor, then your health insurance company in the same hour. But they don’t know what was discussed.
They know you received a call from the local NRA office while it was having a campaign against gun legislation, and then called your senators and congressional representatives immediately after. But the content of those calls remains safe from government intrusion.
They know you called a gynecologist, spoke for a half hour, and then called the local Planned Parenthood‘s number later that day. But nobody knows what you spoke about.
Should you make any of the above calls, would you want any of this information about you or you child to be kept by strangers forever and, potentially, made public or used against you? There are many ways people working within any administration can use this very private detail in personally, professionally or legally damaging ways. If you don’t care, consider this: With this access to metadata, the British would have been able to single out the major players in the American Revolution before the revolution began. This is well detailed by Duke Professor Kieran Healy . With this knowledge, the weight of a large government could have been used to harass, impede or in some way crush these leaders before the revolution began. The ripple effect of democracy, liberty and even human rights extending from the American Revolution would all be ripped away from us due to the simple use of metadata. In the same way, those working toward the Civil Rights bill could have been identified and had the weight of government brought down on them. The movement could have been suffocated early.
Healy uses very basic points of association and still was able to reveal people leading a fight for freedom. The much larger and more specific amount of metadata that Obama’s domestic spying program keeps, plus modern sophisticated data analysis, enables any administration to find and target any group they want — all in secrecy. This is chilling. Even if you trust Barack Obama, there will be another George W or even a Trump in office at some point that you will hate and fear. Do you really trust every president with that power? I do not and I pray you do not.
It needs to be noted and remembered that the government purposely tried to keep this invasion of your privacy a secret from you and would have continued to keep it a secret from you were it not for the self-sacrifice of Edward Snowden who exposed the program.
On the subject of your right to privacy being suppressed, a smaller, but still significant, new intrusion into your privacy by this administration is that the government is now tracking your activity and can put files on your computer when you access government websites. This is a reversal of the long-standing policy of forbidding any such action. The ACLU rightfully explains that these new tools “can be used to track an Internet user’s every click and are often linked across multiple websites; they frequently identify particular people.”
This change happened suddenly and without debate of any sort. The ACLU’s Christopher Calabrese sums up the privacy infringement like this:
“No American should have to sacrifice privacy or risk surveillance in order to access free government information. No policy change should be adopted without wide ranging debate including information on the restrictions and uses of cookies as well as impact on privacy.”
The Right to Be Free from Government Discrimination and Oppression
President Obama appointed two people to high positions at the IRS, the maximum he is allowed to appoint, and these appointees singled out conservative groups for extreme scrutiny and shut them out of a tax-exempt status that liberal groups and others were given unfettered access to. For the few who might think this is not a big deal, I imagine they would happily support singling out, scrutinizing and obstructing only groups run by Progressives, African-Americans, protectors of LGBT rights or Jews? Would that be oppression that we should fight against? Of course it is and we should fight…regardless of the group being oppressed.
Below is a small sample of the invasive, unnecessary and strange interrogation that Obama’s people demanded of Conservative groups. Many are not even answerable as they specifically ask for information from the future. Keep in mind that, even if answered, the groups were still prevented from getting their application processed.
“Provide details regarding all training you have provided or will provide. Indicate who has received or will receive the training and submit copies of the training material.”
“Are you on Facebook or other social networking sites? If yes, provide copies of these pages.”
“Please explain in detail the derivation of your organization’s name.”
“Please provide copies of all your current web pages, including your Blog posts. Please provide copies of all of your newsletters, bulletins, flyers, newsletters or any other media or literature you have disseminated to your members or others. Please provide copies of stories and articles that have been published about you.”
“Please indicate the percentage of time and resources you have spent or will spend conducting these activities in relation to 100 percent of all your activities”
“Provide copies of the agendas and minutes of your Board meetings and, if applicable, members ship meetings, including a description of legislative and electoral issues discussed, and whether candidates for political office were invited to address the meeting.”
“Provide the following information for the expenses you have incurred for the years from inception to the present. Also, provide the same information for the expenses you expect for 2012, 2013 and 2014.”
To try and stop the truth from getting out, the Obama administration’s Inspector General in the IRS, the President’s sole person required to investigate anything amiss in the IRS, was intimidated from launching a full investigation out of fear for his job.
The response from the president was to simply remove a temporary manager, who likely had nothing to do with this, and allow the main offender, Lois Lerner, to gracefully retire and collect her full retirement.
Along with the IRS bludgeoning of people who think differently, those who disagree with the President have been made to feel the weight of the government in other ways. Some methods are as direct as having his supporters report friends and family who disagree with him and a subsequent email list to target unsolicited emails. Other methods are more indirect. Regular Americans simply disagreeing with this President have been pummeled with personal tax detail being made public, calls from the FBI, audits and more. Eric Erickson details this well, and explains:
IRS agents not only harassed conservative groups, evangelical groups, and Jewish groups, but also leaked their confidential tax information to left-leaning groups. The National Organization for Marriage and other groups had their donor lists leaked subjecting those donors to harassment. A Romney donor was harassed by the IRS. More than one person has emailed me to say that after they reported themselves to firstname.lastname@example.org they were audited by the IRS — in one case audited several times about just one tax year.
One awful display of discrimination and harassment by Barack Obama’s administration is a small group that focused itself on fighting voter fraud. As if the discrimination by the President’s people in the IRS was not bad enough, the FBI and other armed and intimidating government agencies harassed and menaced these innocent people without any cause.
Whether you hate or support Libertarians, Conservatives or any group should not affect the gravity of this issue. When it comes to the oppressive force of the weight of the US Government bearing down on innocent people, we are all potential victims. Even if someone trusts Barack Obama, he will be out of power and, at some point, a new President will use these methods to oppress people championing other ideas or, perhaps, even you or me directly. This is why we all should be horrified at this purposeful erosion of the sacred American tradition of a free and powerful opposition. Without it, I guarantee every American’s thoughts, beliefs and rights will be suppressed eventually.
The Right to Choice in a Free Market
Prior to the Obama presidency, Americans had the right to purchase or not purchase anything their means allowed. The ACA now requires Americans to buy a product simply because they breath. Officially now, the US government can force any US citizen to purchase a gun, an SUV or anything the government feels would be better for them to purchase. That did not exist before. This can be any done with any product as long as the penalty is treated like a tax, as the ACA skillfully does with the new health insurance penalty. The next administration, citing studies linking “conceal carry” laws to a reduction in crime, can make it illegal not to own a gun. Yes, our government now has the legal power to force you to purchase a gun. One may think that the American people would rise up and stop something like this, but that has been proven not to work. Over 70% of the public was against Obamacare and it was rammed through using an unprecedented maneuver that potentially violated the rules. This directly denied the people their voice and the minority their input. This is exactly what Thomas Jefferson urged lawmakers against when he said
“Great innovations should not be forced on a slender majority — or enacted without broad support.”
Great words from a respected intellect and powerful voice for freedom and liberty. He would be horrified to know the US Government can now force Americans into a market and into a purchase. This is far worse than a tax on tea.
Originally published at Observe & Opine.