Three Problems Facing the United States

Image Source: NYPost

Image Source: NYPost

1.     The National Security Agency (NSA)

In addition to the 2005 New York Times article, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts”, the recent disclosures by Edward Snowden reported by Glenn Greenwald (formerly of the Guardian) have cemented the fact that the NSA is conducting bulk surveillance on the civilian population of the United States, and the world.

The Executive Branch, and members of the Legislative Branch have consistently misled the public with respect to these programs. It even appears the Executive Branch has “substantially” misled the Judicial Branch on numerous occasions, according to a recently declassified FISA Court opinion.

A few excerpts from the decision and the Washington Post article where I saw the following quotes:

“For the first time, the government has now advised the court that the volume and nature of the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe,” John D. Bates, then the surveillance court’s chief judge, wrote in his Oct. 3, 2011, opinion.

Bates continued in a footnote, “the court is troubled that the government’s revelations regarding NSA’s acquisition of Internet transactions mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program.”

In response to these developments – we must begin an indictment and prosecution of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper; and the Director of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, for perjury to the Congress of the United States of America. Any prolonged failure to act in response to the deliberate misdirection of elected officials will only embolden future National Security figures to more boldly (if possible) obfuscate and mislead the Congress with impunity.

If we are truly a nation that respects the rule of law – we must begin by enforcing it in the halls of our own legislature.

Conclusion:

There must be swift and decisive actions to challenge the system of dragnet surveillance. Officials who misled the Congress, the Judicial Branch, and the public must be punished appropriately, and the gap between legal intention and execution must be bridged with comprehensive NSA Surveillance reform.

If you are interested in minimizing the amount of data that can be collected on your internet activity — see Prism Break.

Source: Yes Magazine

Source: Yes Magazine

2.The Trans Pacific Partnership

Aside from the disproportionate corporate influence and unprecedented secrecy under which these trade agreements are being negotiated, these two statements made by elected officials accurately represent my grievances with this trade deal.

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren said, “…if transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.” Source
  • Representative Alan Grayson stated, “what I saw was nothing that could possibly justify the secrecy that surrounds it…It is ironic in a way that the government thinks it’s alright to have a record of every single call that an American makes, but not alright for an American citizen to know what sovereign powers the government is negotiating away…Having seen what I’ve seen, I would characterize this as a gross abrogation of American sovereignty.” And finally he said, “it’s all about tying the hands of democratically elected governments, and shunting authority over to the nonelected for the benefit of multinational corporations…It’s an assault on democratic government.”

Any attempt by the Executive Branch to skirt the Legislative Branch by enacting a ‘fast-track’ (formally called Trade Promotion Authority) must be challenged. Such measures would allow President Obama to sign the agreement prior to congressional approval, before legislators read the final text. Congress would have to vote within ninety days to approve the deal retroactively, but debate would be limited and no amendments would be allowed. Source

Conclusion:

Congress should not grant the Executive “fast-tracking” authority. Congress should only approve the TPP if the content of the negotiations has been transparently discussed and debated on the floors of the Legislature and found to be beneficial to the public interest.

Some of the text of the negotiations have been leaked to the public. You can access them here.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has done a phenomenal job analyzing the leaked text of the negotiations.

If you are interested in organizing/protesting against the TPP — see the wonderful folks over at Flush the TPP.

Image Source: MN Progressive Project

Image Source: MN Progressive Project

3. Syria

It is widely acknowledged that the United States intelligence agencies are covertly assisting the Syrian rebels. United States allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are funding, training, and funneling weapons to the Syrian rebels. Quite recently Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, moved four destroyers into Syrian waters. Prior to the conclusion of the UN Investigation, Secretary of State John Kerry stated he, and the Administration, believed Bashar Al-Assad was responsible. We have since weathered that storm and found a diplomatic solution, no matter how clumsily.

But we must forcefully and vocally discourage any future attack and assert the (Article I, Section 8, Clause 11)[1] authority of the Congress to declare war. Congress needs to reassert that the War Powers Resolution does indeed apply to the current Administration, and any military intervention on a country that does not pose an immediate threat to the security of the United States is an act of aggression. Such measures are a gross violation of international law and of the public trust. We ought to push back against the Administration’s legal interpretation of the AUMF. It should not be a blank check for global military intervention.

Conclusion:

If we have learned anything from the prolonged occupation of both Iraq and Afghanistan, it is that United States involvement in the Middle East increases violence and adds to the destabilization of the region. Any strike by the US will further discourage a peaceful diplomatic solution. As guardians of the public interest, we must be a vigilant voice of reason amongst the cacophony of calls for pre-emptive war.


[1] [Congress shall have Power…] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water. – Article I, Section 8, Clause 11; United States Constitution. Cornell University Law School. 

 

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