Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Obama had a kill list," wrote journalist Jeremy Scahill on Twitter. "Now Trump will." (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

Obama Went Unchallenged, Now Donald Trump Will Have a 'Kill List'

'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'

Deirdre Fulton

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 at the Guardian on Wednesday, citing Obama-enshrined policies on torture, Guantánamo 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. "We should have seen this coming, and we should have put in place the safeguards to limit the damage."

Conor Friedersdorf similarly argued at The Atlantic:

For years, I have been urging President Obama and Congress to tyrant-proof the executive branch as best they can, before it's too late. With an unknown quantity headed for the Oval Office, that project is more vital than ever. 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 trail 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:

And The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill, co-author of"The Drone Papers," likewise voiced concern—and laid blame on Democrats—in a series of tweets:

Indeed, Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote at 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."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Black Mississippi State Senators Stage Walkout as Critical Race Theory Ban Passed

"We cannot continue to stumble into the future backwards," said one Black senator who taught for 33 years. "That's what this bill does."

Brett Wilkins ·


Buddhist Monk and Peace Activist Thích Nhất Hạnh Dead at 95

"He inspired so many good people to dedicate themselves to working for a more just and compassionate world."

Jessica Corbett ·


Draft Order Shows Trump Considered Using Military to Seize Voting Machines

"This was part of the records that Trump was fighting to keep from the January 6th committee," one government watchdog noted.

Brett Wilkins ·


Groups Warn US Lawmakers Against Fueling 'New Cold War' With China

A policy of hostility toward Beijing, says a global justice advocate, has "become a convenient excuse for pushing a corporate, militarist agenda."

Jessica Corbett ·


Democracy 'On the Line' Says Bowman After Protest Arrest

"I will not stand by and I will not stay quiet while the fate of our democracy continues to hang loosely by a thread that the Senate is hellbent on tearing apart."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo