Ruth Marcus Sees President Obama as Obstacle to Oversight and Transparency

Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus sees the Obama administration as an obstacle rather than an enabler of “effective oversight and reasonable transparency; declining to publicly reveal operational details is understandable; refusing to reveal even its legal analysis of surveillance and other anti-terrorist activities is not.” [1] She also debunks the claim that Congress provides an effective check on abuses premised on national security interests: she points out that lawmakers must question intelligence officials without the benefit of expert staff; also, lawmakers, once briefed, are “captives of their classified knowledge: They cannot reveal what they have been told.”

Marcus also sees overreach in the order to Verizon, demanding “all call detail records” of all Americans. She notes that Section 215 of the Patriot Act authorizes intelligence officials to seek court orders when there are “reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.”

One of the prime arguments advanced by President Barack Obama for carrying out a massive surveillance program on U.S. citizens is that “If you see what I see” in regard to threats to American life, everyone will  understand why these measures to ensure the safety of all Americans were taken. Ever since the start of the Cold War, we U.S. citizens have been indoctrinated into the belief that the world is a very dangerous place. This indoctrination cannot be separated from the desire to justify a very high level of military expenditures and the building of a vast intelligence-gathering and surveillance empire.

Obama supporters contend that we are fortunate to have in office a president who uses his vast powers to conduct anti-terrorist operations moderately and judiciously, as a future president might use them much more aggressively; however, when you consider that Obama has greatly increased the number and the targeting of drone attacks; has become the first president to draw up “kill lists” of U.S. citizens; deployed U.S. Special Forces in 70 to 90 countries — according to the Special Forces chief — and set in place a surveillance program affecting all Americans, it seems very unlikely that a future president will engage in more extreme actions.

Some self-described or officially designated intelligence experts contend that Obama’s drone strikes and Special Forces military actions overseas are actually recruiting terrorists. Instructive in this regard is the statement scrawled on the inside of a boat in which the younger of two brothers implicated in the Boston Marathon bombings was hiding, revealing that he was extracting revenge for the carnege the U.S. was exercising on Muslims worldwide. This statement is an indication that Obama’s foreign policy may be fostering the very menace he claims he is working to reduce.

Ruth Marcus notes the transformation in President Barack Obama when she refers to his press secretary saying that Obama “certainy believes that Director Clapper has been straight and direct in the answers that his given.” Press secretary Jay Carney was referring to the answer of “no” that intelligence director James Clapper gave to Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), when Wyden asked him if there was in existence a surveillance program affecting millions of Americans. Marcus concludes that it is a transition from “most transparent (Obama) to least untruthful Clapper). Quite a fall.” [2]

 

A brief comment on the George Zimmerman verdict: One of the jurors in the George Zimmerrman trial — with her identity concealed — was interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper. The crucial passage in the interview came when Cooper asked her if the jurors ignored all that happened prior to the fight that ensued, culminating in the death of Treyvon Martin. The juror answered that the jurors did. She said they based their decision on George Zimmerman’s claims that his life was in danger when Treyvon got the better of him. Her claim was that the jurors believed the law compelled them to find Zimmerman not guilty. Neither Cooper nor the juror cited the Stand Your Ground law as the basis for the verdict but that must have been the case.

Malice must be proven in regard to a Second Degree murder conviction in Florida but malice does not apply to a manslaughter charge. Based on discussions of the manslaughter charge by trial commentators, state of mind does not seem to be a factor in manslaughter charges.

The interviewed juror said that on the initial vote, one juror was in favor of a Second Degree murder conviction; two were in favor of a manslaughter conviction and three were in favor of a not guilty verdict. After hearing all the evidence, half the six-person jury was in faovr of convicting George Zimmerman but they lost out to an assumption of Zimmerman’s state of mind.

What the various Stand Your Ground laws around the country set up is the situation in which an aggressor attacks a victim but if the intended victim gets an advantage in an ensuing struggle, the aggressor can kill lthe intended victim and claim self-defense.

Footnotes

[1] Ruth Marcus, “James Clapper’s ‘least truthful’ answer,” The Washington Post, June 13, 2013.

[2] Ibid.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Trayvon Martin: The Blaming the Victim Stage

Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old black teenager who was shot to death by a reputed Neighborhood Watch captain, named George Zimmerman. The fatal shooting, which happened a little over a month ago, has now reached the blame the victim stage. Trayvon’s mother has said that his life was destroyed and now the attempt is being made to destroy his reputation. About the only thing of any substance that has been brought up about Trayvon’s life is the finding of traces of marijuana in his backpack in school; however, that holds no relevance to the claim that he may have attacked Zimmerman. Very recently, a charge has been made that Trayvon swung at a bus driver. That charge seems to rest entirely on an email from a cousin, who made a reference to Trayvon swinging at a bus driver. There  apparently is no report of such an incident being made by a bus driver, nor is there any police report. Trayvon and his cousin may have been playing out a psychodrama without any real substance.

The other attempt to try to discredit Trayvon Martin and perversely try to justify the shooting by Zimmerman, is the circulation of a picture of him in baggy pants, “showing the finger”. The picture is apparently of another black teenager. The only aspect of Trayvon Martin’s history that could be relevant to the claim that he attacked George Zimmerman would have been a record of physically attacking others and such a record does not exist.

The story surfacing very recently is that Martin jumped Zimmerman from the back, toppled him and then drove his face into the pavement repeatedly, breaking his nose and bloodying his face. Allegedly, Trayvon tried to get Zimmerman’s gun from him. This story raises some questions. I don’t recall an initial report of a bloody-faced Zimmerman with a broken nose. Does Zimmerman now have a broken nose? Does his face show signs of bruising?  Two eyewitnesses who saw and heard the shooting from a kitchen window, went outside and saw George Zimmerman with his hands on Trayvon Martin’s back. One of the eyewitnesses said the two were within about ten feet of the prone Martin. Neither noticed anything unusual about Zimmerman, although one eyewitness said it was getting dark and the lighting was not good.

It is hard to believe that George Zimmerman would have allowed Trayvon Martin to get the jump on him. Zimmerman said in his call to the police that the guy he was observing was “up to no good.” Why would he have let someone who was “up to no good” overpower him from the back? Wouldn’t he have kept a wary eye on Trayvon Martin if he was walking away from him? I think I would have kept turning my head in that type of situation.

Supposing that George Zimmerman was somehow able to escape a situation in which he was totally overpowered and even get the upper hand, was it still necessary to shoot to kill his attacker? He had his gun out and Trayvon Martin was unarmed. With the huge advantage he had on Trayvon at that point, did the teenager pose such a threat to him that it was necessary to shoot to kill?

Racial stereotyping was brought into the case when Geraldo Rivera raised the issue of Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie and that made him appear to be more dangerous: to many people a hoodie conveys an image of black teenagers filled with menacing violence. A number of years ago, reports of a new generation of super-predator young people bent on violence traumatized many Americans.

So, besides the racial element, why might there be such a major effort to blame Trayvon Martin for initiating his death and exonerating his killer? A motivation that comes to mind is the fear that “Stand Your Ground” laws might be overturned because of this case. The National Rifle Association was the driving force behind the “Stand Your Ground” laws and the more it can promote the idea that using a firearm is a legitimate way to end what is perceived to be a potentially dangerous situation, the better it will be for gun sales. Fear is a great generator of gun sales and if people feel safer carrying a gun, but also know that they can claim self-defense if they mistakenly perceive a threat to them, they will be more inclined to arm themselves.

I have heard claims that the number of claimed self-defense shootings have tripled in Florida since “Stand Your Ground” was enacted but have not seen any law enforcement statistics. It would seem that making it easier to claim self-defense in a fatal shooting would impose a big burden on a prosecutor when someone is able to make an intended killing look like self-defense.

Finally, in regard to the local police force, standard police procedure is to interview everyone who has seen or heard anything in the course of an apparent murder. The local police force did not conduct such an investigation in the  killing of Trayvon Martin and did not do a toxicology test on George Zimmerman, only on Trayvon Martin.

It is a part of the deteriorated state of U.S. society that when firearms are such a major component of the high level of violence that we should be promoting the greater availability of firearms.