Observer. From hope to fear: the broken promise of Barack Obama
Over the last two weeks, the world has seen an extraordinary series of revelations about the scale, size and activities of the National Security Agency under Obama’s administration. Though he came to power decrying the secret actions of Bush, Obama has embraced and extended many of the same activities. His NSA uses a secret court system to get permission for its shadowy work, hauls out “metadata” on millions’ of Americans’ phone calls, taps into the biggest and most powerful internet companies of the Information Age – Facebook, Skype, YouTube, Yahoo, Google – to monitor and snoop. Its tools have names like Prism and Boundless Informant, as if their inventors were all too aware that they resembled dystopian science fiction.
Yet Obama has flippantly dismissed the controversy. Resorting to the worst tactics of the Bush years, his message is: “Trust us. We’re the good guys.” And then Congress is briefed – in secret, of course – about the “dozens” of terrorist plots such industrial-scale espionage has stopped.
How on earth did we get here from Boston, 2004? Bush – a cipher of a politician whose only belief was in his right to rule – surrounded himself with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton and an army of whispering neocons. Obama does not have that excuse. When his staff meets to mull over the latest names in their killing programme – an event dubbed “Terror Tuesdays” – Obama himself is often present.
Neither is Obama ignorant of the law; he’s a constitutional law professor. In turning America into a national security state, the awful truth is that he knows full well what he is doing.