1.7 The PATRIOT Act – Bush did: – He signed it into law. The PATRIOT Act permits the monitoring of phone conversations and email exchanges; access to personal files; grants greater power to deport immigrants; greatly expands the use of “national security letters;” and bars anyone, including the suspect’s lawyer from disclosing to anyone that such a letter was received. – Obama said: He condemned national security letters; “fishing” expeditions through personal records or private documents, library books, phone calls and emails. He condemned the idea of targeted persons having no rights to ” appeal for such a search in a court of law.” (Senate, December 2005) – Obama did: In October 2009, Obama joined the GOP in pushing for the renewal of key provisions of the PATRIOT Act and the law as a whole in 2010. In July 2010, the Obama administration began to pressure Congress to rewrite the PATRIOT Act to give the FBI the right to access any individual’s internet activity records without court oversight. In May 2011, the Act was extended for four years, with Obama spearheading the effort. The White House continues to push for expansion of the use of national security letters.
1.8 Warrantless wiretapping – Bush did: He began a broad, secret wiretapping program and did extensive data-mining; also, he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct mass surveilllance without warrants, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA), the Wiretap Act and the Fourth Amendment, with the illegal cooperation of major telecommunications companies. Lawsuits could not go forward because of the state secrets privilege. A Democratic-led Congress legalized warrantless wiretapping and provided immunity to telecommunications companies for “past and future cooperation” with the government. – Obama said: “I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill…” “No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people.” (Campaign statement, January 28, 2008) “Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.” (Campaign statement, October 24, 2007) – Obama did: After securing the Democratic nomination for president, Senator Obama voted against filibustering the FISA Amendment Act and voted for the bill itself, which granted unforeseen powers of surveillance to the president and total immunity to telecommunications companies. Obama took the Bush II extreme interpretation of the state secrets privilege one step further by stating that no lawsuit concerning surveillance against any U.S. government — part, present or future — can go forward, as this would “compromise national security.” The New York Times reported the NSA under Obama has exceeded even the modest limits it was supposed to follow. The Obama administration wants to make it easier to monitor Blackberry devices, Skype and Facebook.
1.9 Immigrant rights – Bush did: He introduced comprehensive immigration reform but it was shot down by the Senate. – Obama said: “But what I can guarantee is that we will have in the first year an immigration bill that I strongly support and that I’m promoting.” (Interview with Jorge Ramos on Univision, May 28, 2008) – Obama did: No bill was introduced and Obama directed vast resources to enforcement and border security. Deportations “skyrocketed” according to the pro-immigrant rights group, American Voice. The DREAM Act was defeated in the Senate at the end of 2010.
2. THE WARS, MILITARISM, THE ARAB AND MUSLIM WORLD – 2.1 Militarism – Bush did: He hiked military spending to Reagan-era levels and took the country into two disastrous wars. – Obama said: He was opposed to: “A dumb war. A rash war.” (Rally of Chicagoans Against War in Iraq, October 2002) He complained that spending $10 billion a month in Iraq stole from domestic funding. (Speech at NAACP Convention, July 12, 2008) – Obama did: He has surpassed Reagan and Bush in combined military spending. He has increased spending for and use of, Special Operations forces; secretly deployed them to 75 countries; and extended defacto “secret wars” to Somalia and Yemen. He has worked to deregulate arms exports. In November 2010, he issued an executive order granting waivers of the 2008 Child Soldier Prevention Act to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Yemen, in order to continue to provide them with military assistance.
2.2 Iraq – Bush did: He invaded Iraq and continued the war through his two terms in office. – Obama said: : “i will remove one or two brigades a month and get all of our troops out of Iraq in 16 months.” (First Presidential debate, September 20, 2008) By August 31, 2010, “America’s combat mission in Iraq would end.” (Convention of the Disabled American Veterans, August 2, 2010) – Obama did: He rebranded the mission in Iraq as “stability operations.” He reduced the number of troops in Iraq from 94,000 to 50,000 and reinforced this with 7,000 private security contractors. Obama wound up implementing the timeline of the Bush administration, thereby taking almost 36 months, not 16, to get all the troops out of Iraq.
2.3 Afghanistan – Bush did: He started a war with Afghanistan and continued it through two terms in office. – Obama said: “After 18 months (by July 2011) our troops will begin to come home (from Afghanistan). ” (West Point Military Academy, December 2009) – Obama did: He escalated the war and extended it into Pakistan’s border areas. The number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan during the first 18 months of Obama’s presidency exceeded the toll in the seven years of war under Bush. Obama essentially doubled the number of troops from when he took office.