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The Progressive

Obama Leaves Bush-Cheney Repressive Apparatus Standing

Civil libertarians cheered the election of Barack Obama, and with good reason.

Bush and Cheney had trampled all over our rights and liberties.

And as someone who taught constitutional law, Obama denounced the Presidential power grabs and pledged to address them.

But he hasn't followed through on that pledge.

This week, the Senate is holding a hearing on the reauthorization of some expiring-and troubling--sections of the Patriot Act. The Obama Administration wants to reauthorize them nonetheless.

One of these is Section 215, which allows the FBI to slap National Security Letters on bookstores and libraries and thereby find out who has been checking out or buying which book. This is a violation of our right to privacy and to Free Speech, and Obama should know better.

Obama's Administration is also making the outrageous claim that it can detain anyone it wants at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, and then deny that person all access to due process and habeas corpus.

Nor has Obama made any move to rectify the blatant denial of due process that is embedded in the Military Commissions Act, which allows the President to designate anyone an enemy combatant and jail you. If you're not a U.S. citizen, he can jail you as an "alien enemy combatant," and you may never see a judge or a lawyer for the rest of your life.

Nor has Obama withdrawn National Security Presidential Directive 51, which gives to the President extraordinary powers over the other branches of government at every level in times of an emergency that he himself declares.

These examples strongly suggest that Obama doesn't have the will to tear down the edifice of oppression that Bush and Cheney constructed.

As a result, we remain today a much less free country than we were eight years ago. And it looks like we'll remain that way tomorrow.

Even if Obama doesn't use these powers against us, a rightwing successor like Sarah Palin sure might.

This is one issue where libertarians and progressive need to get together on, in a hurry.

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Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is senior editor of The Progressive magazine.

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