Obama went unchallenged, now Trump inherits huge powers, ‘kill lists’

A placard condemns Obama's drone wars.
President Barack Obama 'not only retained the controversial Bush policies, he expanded on them'.

Powers that went largely unchallenged during the Obama administration are now in the hands of President-elect Donald Trump — and that’s a frightening prospect.

From expanding mass surveillance to justifying drone kill lists, President Barack Obama “not only retained the controversial Bush policies, he expanded on them,” as commentator and law professor Jonathan Turley wrote in 2011.

And despite outcry from civil liberties groups, Democrats let it happen.

“Even though many Democrats admit in private that they are shocked by Obama's position on civil liberties, they are incapable of opposing him,” Turley wrote at the time. “Some insist that they are simply motivated by realism: A Republican would be worse.

“However, realism alone cannot explain the utter absence of a push for an alternative Democratic candidate or organized opposition to Obama's policies on civil liberties in Congress during his term. It looks more like a cult of personality. Obama's policies have become secondary to his persona.”

The president-elect, of course, has a different persona.

“The nightmare that civil libertarians have warned of for years has now tragically come true: instead of dismantling the surveillance state and war machine, the Obama administration and Democrats institutionalized it — and it will soon be in the hands of a maniac,” wrote Trevor Timm in The Guardian on November 9, citing Obama-enshrined policies on torture, Guantanamo prison, government secrecy, surveillance, and drones. 

“What horrors are in store for us during the reign of President Trump is anyone’s guess, but he will have all the tools at his disposal to wreak havoc on our rights here at home and countless lives of those abroad,” Timm continued.

Conor Friedersdorf wrote at The Atlantic: “Current precedents give Trump the ability to wage war under an Authorization to Use Military Force that’s been stretched to cover half the globe; to order drone killings in a dozen countries; to preside over mass surveillance on American citizens; to indefinitely detain human beings without trial at Guantanamo Bay; and much more.

“Many Democrats ignored these dangers when they controlled the White House and the Senate. Even as Trump won the Republican nomination they showed little concern. Now they will more pay attention, as they did when George W. Bush was president, but probably won't have the power in Congress to stop Trump alone.”

WikiLeaks added on Twitter: “Remember how you legalized: Assassinating anyone; NSA mass spying; Prosecuting publishers; CIA drones everywhere.”

The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill, co-author of The Drone Papers, likewise voiced concern — and laid blame on Democrats. He tweeted: “Many Democrats believed in holding only GOP presidents accountable. Now they are in a bed of their own making.”

Indeed, Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote in The Week long before Trump was elected: “In their lack of jealousy for their constitutional powers, in their opportunistic indifference when the president inserts American troops into a handful of civil wars in the Middle East without congressional approval, in their utter passivity and cravenness before the Executive branch, our ruling class has been implicitly crying out for the rule of a tyrant.

“Donald Trump is just answering the call.”

[Reprinted from Common Dreams.]