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This article was first posted halfway through Barack Obama’s first term as president, with a lead paragraph stating that “little has changed from the Bush era when it comes to issues such as the War on Terror, civil liberties, militarism, corporate influence on government, secrecy, and environmental policy.” This statement is no longer valid: it has become challenging to keep up with all the ways in which the president has not only embraced, but expanded and institutionalized, George W. Bush’s most radical policies.

Two significant shifts have happened during the first months of Obama’s second term. Firstly, the reality of the president’s true policies has finally penetrated mainstream discussion, spurred on by the Guantánamo hunger strikes, revelations about en mass domestic surveillance, prosecution of journalists and whistleblowers, as well as by the growing consciousness about the drone assassinations. Secondly, freed from the pressures of reelection, the White House has become free to move even further to the right, and away from the president’s liberal base. With all this in mind, I am posting my final updates to this text, which shall serve as a summary – albeit still an incomplete one – of Obama’s first term.

The argument here is not that Obama is a uniquely conservative Democratic politician — or a unique politician in any respect. On the contrary, this should serve as a case study illustrating the state of our two-party system.

[03/18/2016: Check out my new blog here!]





1.1 Habeas corpus


Bush suspended terrorism suspects’ right to habeas corpus. By branding them “unlawful enemy combatants” and by imprisoning them in Guantánamo Bay, his administration argued that they are not protected by the Constitution or by the Geneva Conventions, and can be imprisoned indefinitely without evidence or charges. The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that Guantánamo Bay detainees do have the right to habeas corpus. [1]

A constitutional scholar with a law degree from Harvard, Obama argued strongly against the Bush administration’s disregard for civil rights, calling them “the essence of who we are”: “As a parent, I can also imagine the terror I would feel if one of my family members were rounded up in the middle of the night and sent to Guantánamo without even getting one chance to ask why they were being held and being able to prove their innocence. … By giving suspects a chance – even one chance – to challenge the terms of their detention in court, to have a judge confirm that the government has detained the right person for the right suspicions, we could solve this problem without harming our efforts in the war on terror one bit.” [2] (Senate, September 2006)

Shortly after assuming office, Obama appealed a district court ruling that granted prisoners in Afghanistan the right to challenge the legality of their detention, adopting the legal argument straight from the Bush DOJ. [3] This was well before his political opponents exerted public pressure to this effect. There is little or no evidence against a significant portion of U.S. detainees held on suspicion of terrorism, and many are known by the administration to be innocent. [4] In May 2010, Obama won the case in a DC Circuit Court of Appeals (see point 1.2 below). [5][6]

Standing in front of the original Constitution at the National Archives in May 2009, Obama introduced a staggering new expansion of executive power: In addition to using military tribunals (see point 1.3), the administration would now retain the right to indefinitely hold detainees deemed dangerous, even if they were known to be innocent of any crime, without charges, and without their day in either a court or a military tribunal. [23] This was the first time in U.S. history that the executive branch asserted the right to imprison people indefinitely on suspicion that they might commit a crime in the future. [24][25][26]

In December 2011, Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, causing outrage among human rights and civil liberties organizations. [6a][6b] The bill formally codifies the U.S. Government’s right to arrest anyone anywhere on suspicion of terrorism-related crimes, including U.S. citizens, and to imprison them indefinitely without trial. [6c] Misconceptions about the bill abound. [6d][6da] Ambiguously-worded and misleading statements from the White House and the president have given the impression that Obama objected to the codification of indefinite detention without trial. However, both Bush and Obama had already claimed to legally have — and had exercised — this power. Obama’s earlier veto threat and subsequent statements expressing “serious reservations” about the bill were prompted by the administration’s opinion that indefinite detention of suspects should happen at the sole discretion of the president, without interference from Congress. These opinions are unambiguously expressed in a White House policy statement on the proposed bill, as well as in Obama’s subsequent signing statement. These same statements also refer to the “flexibility” needed to “incapacitate” dangerous individuals, which includes the president’s claimed right to assassinate U.S. citizens without charges or trial, a power Obama has already exercised (see point 1.6). [6e][6f] As described multiple times by Senator Carl Levin, the White House specifically demanded that provisions excluding U.S. citizens on U.S. soil from indefinite military detention be removed from the bill. In other words, the negotiated “modifications,” which Obama stated were necessary for him to sign the bill, include broader powers to ignore habeas corpus rights, not safeguards to protect them. [6g][6h] Calling the decision a “historic tragedy,” Human Rights Watch concluded, “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.” [6i]


1.2 Closing Guantánamo Bay


In 2006, Bush and many high-ranking officials in his administration stated publicly that they want to close down Guantánamo. [7] The facility had become a PR disaster for the U.S., due to torture, homicides, and its very reason for existing, which was to escape legal oversight. [8][9] There was, however, never any backtracking by the Bush administration on the legality of the practices in Guantánamo.

“Guantanamo has become a recruiting tool for our enemies. The legal framework behind Guantanamo has failed completely, resulting in only one conviction. … The first step to reclaiming America’s standing in the world has to be closing this facility. As president, Barack Obama will close the detention facility at Guantanamo.” [10] (Organizing for America website)

One of Obama’s first executive orders was to shut down Guantánamo (which Bush had also promised to do), along with secret CIA prisons abroad. [11] Obama’s strategy from the start, however, was to move Guantánamo detention practices elsewhere while continuing to argue for their legality (see point 1.1 above). He was denied funding by the Senate to transfer Guantánamo detainees — into continued indefinite detention without legal rights — to a prison complex in Illinois, dubbed “Gitmo North.” [11b][11c] The administration was more successful with the Bagram Detention Center: In May 2010, Obama won his case at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, making Bagram – infamous for its own cases of torture and homicide – a new legal black hole for the administration. [12][13][14] This prompted eight major civil liberties and human rights groups to sign a joint letter opposing the entire closure. [15] Guantánamo has still not been closed, long after Obama’s self-imposed deadline of January 2010. If and when it eventually is, it “will have little meaning if the administration leaves in place the policies that the prison has come to represent,” as ACLU director Jameel Jaffer stated. [16] The “small print” in the executive order also kept open such secret CIA facilities as were deemed “for temporary use.”

On March 8, 2011, Obama issued a new executive order, formally codifying the permanent role of the Guantánamo Bay facility in the administration’s policy of indefinite detention, and as the location for military tribunals (see 1.3 below). [16b][16c]

At the beginning of Obama’s second term, a number of detainees started a months-long hunger strike – one of many since 2005 – with the majority eventually joining in. Attempts by the prisoners either to have their grievances addressed or to starve to death have been met with brutal force-feeding by tube, despite protests by the American Medical Association and the Red Cross. A number of senior American doctors, writing in The New Englang Journal of Medicine, described Guantánamo as a “medical ethics–free zone.” [16d][16e]

A majority of the inmates have long been cleared for release, but may still spend the rest of their lives detained there. [16f]


1.3 Military tribunals


Dubbed “kangaroo courts” by human rights organizations, the military tribunals introduced by Bush permitted testimony extracted through torture and hear-say to be used as evidence, and permitted withholding evidence from the defendants, so as to ensure convictions for detainees who would not be found guilty in a civilian trial. [17] At the same time, the Bush administration also tried a number of terrorism suspects successfully in civilian courts. [18]

“By any measure, our system of trying detainees has been an enormous failure. … This legal black hole has substantially set back America’s ability to lead the world against the threat of terrorism, and undermined our most basic values. Make no mistake: we are less safe because of the way George Bush has handled this. My approach is guided by a simple premise: I have confidence that our system of justice is strong enough to deal with terrorists.” [19] (Press conference, June 18, 2008)

“[Obama] will reject the Military Commissions Act, which allowed the U.S. to circumvent the Geneva Convention in the handling of detainees.” [10] (Organizing for America website)

Shortly after rejecting detainees’ right to habeas corpus (see point 1.1), Obama began the fight to bring back military tribunals, causing an uproar among human rights and civil rights groups. [20][21][22] In October 2009, Obama signed the Military Commissions Act of 2009 into law. Attorney General Eric Holder has also assured critics that, in the unlikely case that a terrorism suspect is found not guilty by a civilian court, the administration will imprison him anyway, using what they call the president’s “post-acquittal detention powers.” [27] As the administration has also retained the right to decide who will be heard in court, who in a military tribunal, and who will be detained without any type of legal process, the question of civilian courts has become merely a symbolic one: whoever is deemed by the administration to be a terrorist will be imprisoned, in all cases (or killed; see point 1.6 below).

The first military tribunal under Obama began in August 2010, against Omar Khadr. He was a 15-year-old child soldier in 2002, when he was captured in a legitimate firefight in Afghanistan, and has grown up in Guantánamo. Confessions were coerced from him through torture: the wounded Khadr was interrogated immediately after capture; drugged and handcuffed to a stretcher; threatened with gang rape and death; hooded and chained with his arms suspended in a cage-like cell; forced to urinate on himself and used as a human mop; and was subjected to sleep deprivation for the following eight years. These coerced confessions were admitted as evidence in the tribunal. [28] The U.N. Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, condemned the proceedings, saying they will jeopardize the status of child soldiers around the world: “Since World War II, no child has been prosecuted for a war crime.” [29]

In April 2011, the administration announced that they had reversed their position on trying Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 plotters in a civilian court, and will instead try them in military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay. [29b][29c]


1.4 Extraordinary renditions


Called an “illegal tool” of the U.S. by the European Parliament, another method to capture and interrogate terrorism suspects by the Bush administration was the program of “extraordinary renditions” – meaning disappearances, and the outsourcing of interrogation and torture to other countries. [30] Bush held the legal view that the U.S. can imprison people of any citizenship from anywhere in the world as prisoners of war, as the entire world is a “battlefield” in the “War on Terror.” [31]

“To build a better, freer world, we must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of the American people. This means ending the practices of shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law.” [32] (Foreign Affairs, summer 2007)

With an executive order in early 2009, Obama explicitly authorized the CIA to continue extraordinary renditions. [33] Like Bush, Obama has claimed that diplomatic assurances, along with oversight, will make sure that torture won’t be used – but this has not been the case. The first documented rendition under Obama was that of a Lebanese white-collar criminal, Raymond Azar, in April 2009. He and a friend were seized by eight armed FBI agents; he was hooded, stripped naked and photographed, given a body cavity search, shown a picture of his family and told he’d never see them again unless he confesses, driven to Bagram, shackled to a chair for seven hours, placed in an unheated metal shipping container during a cold storm, and deprived of sleep. [34][35][36]

Obama has also endorsed the view that the entire world is a “battlefield,” and that anyone anywhere can be a legitimate target – even for assassination, and including U.S. citizens living abroad (see point 1.6). [37]


1.5 Torture


Using euphemisms such as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” the Bush administration approved various forms of torture in the interrogation of individuals suspected of links to terrorism, and ushered in a culture permissive of torture within the CIA and the military. As evidenced by autopsy reports posted online by the ACLU Accountability Project, at least one hundred people — probably more — were tortured to death in U.S. custody, including at the so-called ‘Camp No’ in Guantánamo. Approved techniques used have included controlled drowning (“waterboarding”), insects placed in a confinement box, sexual humiliation, slamming people against the wall, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, stress positions, etc. Detainee treatment in Iraq – at Abu Ghraib prison, as well as at Camp Nama under the watch of Gen. Stanley McChrystal – included both approved techniques and indiscriminate forms of torture, such as rape, various forms sexual and other humiliation, urinating on detainees, repeatedly striking injured body parts, dragging detainees on the floor from ropes tied to legs or penises, and pouring phosphoric acid on their bodies. [6]

In June 2010, Physicians for Human Rights and the Red Cross reported that medical professionals and the CIA had participated in human experimentation on detainees to further develop torture techniques. [38]

Bush’s categorical reply to questions concerning the issue was, “The United States doesn’t torture.” [39]

“… We have to understand that torture is not going to either provide us with information, and it’s also going to create more enemies. And so as a strategy for creating a safer and secure America, I think it is wrong-headed, as well as immoral. … And I think that we’ve got to do a thorough investigation on this.” [40] (October 4, 2007; MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”)

“The United States will not torture.” [41] (January 2009, after signing his third executive order)

Torture was already banned before Obama took office, and before Bush took office, by various international and domestic laws. Limiting interrogation techniques to those specified in the Army Field Manual was reaffirmed again in the Detainee Treatment Act at the beginning of Bush’s second term. Obama’s executive order didn’t change anything concerning the legality of torture, nor did it do anything to ensure enforcement of existing laws (quite like the executive order to close down Guantánamo in one year did nothing to close it down). On the contrary, with his “we must look forward, not backward” doctrine, Obama issued blanket immunity to everyone and anyone who authorized, destroyed evidence of, or committed torture – shielding them not only from prosecutions, but from investigation. Even though the executive branch has no legal right to decide which laws are enforced or which crimes investigated, this has been the practice under Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder (as it was under Bush). Former detainees who have been released as innocent, and who have been victims of torture, have been barred by the administration from suing the Government (see point 4.1). [42][43][44][45]

As confirmed by an Open Society Institute report by Joseph Horowitz, released in October 2010, and as reported earlier by a number of media outlets, the U.S. maintains a (formerly secret) prison in connection with the Bagram Airbase, operated by the Joint Special Operations Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency, where abusive interrogations continue. [46] As Scott Horton of Harper’s Magazine wrote: “The Horowitz report … helps establish that the Obama Administration brought change to the formal, public detentions policy while continuing the abusive secret operations of JSOC and the DIA.” The Red Cross is denied access to this facility, known as the “Tor Jail” (Pashtun for “Black”). [47]

The nearly 400,000 reports written by military personnel in Iraq and published by WikiLeaks confirm that U.S. troops, as a matter of policy, handed detainees over to Iraqi forces for torture, and have interrogated them after torture while they were still visibly injured. The leaks also document cases of detainee abuse by U.S. troops. The forms of torture used by Iraqis included electric shocks and drilling holes in kneecaps. The revelations prompted immediate and world-wide calls for investigation into possible war crimes by coalition and Iraqi forces under Bush and Obama, voiced by, among others, the United Nations and by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of Britain. [48][49][50][51][52][53]

Also as a matter of policy, the U.S. has transferred prisoners to “Department 124,” a prison run by the Afghan National Directorate of Security, even as the Red Cross, human rights organizations, and the UN reported egregious use of torture. Outsiders, including the Red Cross, were barred from visiting the prison, with the exception of American military personnel and the CIA, who collaborated with the interrogators. From 2007 onwards, Canada and Britain began to halt detainee transfers to Department 124, due to credible allegations of torture. The U.S. only reacted in August 2011, as the UN was about to release a report on its findings. While the NDS is an Afghan Government intelligence agency, almost its entire budget is paid for by the United States. [53b][53c]

As the International Committee of the Red Cross found, treatment of Guantánamo detainees still violates the Geneva Conventions, one of the most egregious examples being the death of an inmate by force-feeding with a tube. [54][55][56] Prisoners at Guantánamo, and a human rights lawyer, have described the conditions at the prison camp as worse after the presidential elections. [57][57b]

Obama has also explicitly authorized the CIA to continue “extraordinary renditions” to other countries, resulting in torture (see point 1.4). [33][34]

May 2009 saw the confirmation of General Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s choice to head the American military campaign in Afghanistan, who oversaw interrogations at Camp Nama during the Iraq torture scandal, and had personally promised to deny the Red Cross access there. [58] At the same time, Obama reversed his promise to comply with a court order to release photographs of torture committed by members of the U.S. military. [59] John Brennan — CIA director George Tenet’s chief-of-staff who was involved in the authorization of torture, as well as in presenting the faulty intelligence used to attack Iraq (see point 2.2) — was Obama’s “favorite nominee” to head the CIA. After the public outcry around Brennan’s nomination, Obama appointed him as his top counterterrorism adviser instead. Dubbed Obama’s “assassination czar” by critics, Brennan is the number one official overseeing the CIA’s secret kill list and drone program (see point 2.4). [133ag]

Obama has personally defended the abusive treatment of the alleged army whistleblower, Pfc. Bradley Manning. [59b] In an apparent attempt to coerce Manning to give incriminating testimony on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and to set an example to other would-be leakers, Manning, who was not convicted of any crime, was kept in solitary confinement for 10 months (see point 4.2). He was not allowed to exercise in his cell, and was forced to be naked for morning inspection. [59c] Manning’s treatment prompted the UN to open an investigation into possible torture, and received condemnation from human rights organizations, as well as the editorials of The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In addition, a March 2011 letter signed by over 300 leading experts on constitutional law questioned Obama’s “fundamental decency” in handling the case. [59d][59e][59f][59g][258] Before his trial even began, Manning had been kept in prison for one and a half years. [59h]


1.6 Assassination of U.S. citizens


After the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration authorized the CIA and the military to compile a list of “high value targets” who could be killed on sight without legal oversight. [60]

“I also reject the view … that the president may do whatever he deems necessary to protect national security, and that he may torture people in defiance of congressional enactments. … And as noted, I reject the use of signing statements to make extreme and implausible claims of presidential authority. Some further points: The detention of American citizens, without access to counsel, fair procedure, or pursuant to judicial authorization, as enemy combatants is unconstitutional.” [61] (Interview with The Boston Globe, December 2007)

After expanding his own presidential authority by asserting the right to decide on terrorism suspects’ guilt without any legal process, and to detain individuals on suspicion of possible future crimes (see point 1.3), Obama took the expansion of executive power one step further: In January 2010, the Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, testified before Congress that the Obama administration is reserving the right to include Americans on the assassination list, and kill them anywhere abroad at any time, without legal oversight. This constitutes death penalty without due process, a much more radical power than merely imprisoning Americans. The number of Americans on the list is unknown, but includes at least four names, possibly dozens. [60][62]

Most targeted killings are conducted by the CIA with remote-controlled, unmanned drones (see point 2.4), condemned by the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston, as well as by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, who has questioned the programs legality under international law. [63][133am]

In April 2010, the Obama administration publicly confirmed that it had authorized the killing of American cleric and Al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki. [63][64] After a number of attempts, on September 30, 2011, the assassination was successfully carried out in Yemen by a Predator drone attack, constituting the first extrajudicial execution of a U.S. citizen in the War on Terror. In addition, the CIA and JSOC knowingly killed another U.S. citizen, Samir Khan, though Khan was apparently not even included on the assassination list. The Government had tried to bring charges against both men several times, but had given up due to lack of evidence. [64b][64c] A week later, a U.S. drone strike killed Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, also a U.S. citizen, and his 17-year-old cousin. [64d][64e]


1.7 The U.S. PATRIOT Act


The U.S. PATRIOT Act, signed into law by Bush after the September 11 attacks and widely criticized as unconstitutional, gave the president unforeseen powers to monitor phone conversations and email exchanges, and to access personal files such as medical and financial records. It also gave law enforcement and immigration authorities greater powers to detain and deport immigrants at their own discretion. The PATRIOT Act also vastly expanded the use of “national security letters” by the FBI (and reportedly also the CIA and DoD). These are documents that can be issued by the agency without the approval of a judge, mandating the recipients to submit data and records pertaining to other individuals (such as clients or patients), and barring them from disclosing to anyone, including their lawyer, that they received such a letter. [65][66]

“This is legislation that puts our own Justice Department above the law. When national security letters are issued, they allow federal agents to conduct any search on any American, no matter how extensive, how wide ranging, without ever going before a judge to prove the search is necessary. … If someone wants to know why their own Government has decided to go on a fishing expedition through every personal record or private document, through the library books you read, the phone calls you have made, the e-mails you have sent, this legislation gives people no rights to appeal the need for such a search in a court of law. No judge will hear your plea; no jury will hear your case. This is plain wrong. … We owe it to the Nation, we owe it to those who fought for our civil liberties, we owe it to the future and our children to make sure we craft the kind of legislation that would make us proud…” [67] (Senate, December 2005)

In October 2009, Obama joined the GOP in pushing for the renewal of key provisions of the PATRIOT act, and of the law as a whole in 2010. After getting rid of the existing, inadequate protections of civil liberties included in the bill, and rejecting all proposed reforms aimed to protect civil liberties, the Senate Judiciary Committee, including nearly all of its Democrats, voted to pass the law at the express urging of the president. Many Democrats had vehemently condemned the law during Bush’s presidency. In July 2010, the Obama administration began to pressure Congress to rewrite the PATRIOT Act so as to give the FBI the right to access any individual’s Internet activity records without court oversight. In May 2011, a bipartisan effort by the leadership of both parties pushed through another 4-year extension of the law. The effort was spearheaded by Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, both vocal opponents of the law during Bush’s presidency. Meanwhile, some Democratic senators have voiced concerns about the administration’s interpretation of the PATRIOT Act, which they claim contradicts the letter of the law and further expands its scope, based on a legal theory which the White House insists is “a secret” from the public. (See also section 4.) [68][69][70][70b][70c]

The White House continues to push for the expansion of the use of national security letters. [71][72]


1.8 Warrantless surveillance


The Bush regime began a broad, secret wiretapping program, not only to listen in on Americans’ phone conversations abroad, but to conduct data-mining of domestic phone calls, emails, text messages, and other electronic communication. Bush authorized the NSA to conduct this mass surveillance without warrants, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the Wiretap Act, and the Fourth Amendment, with the equally illegal cooperation of major telecommunications companies. [73] After The New York Times uncovered the existence of this program in December 2005, the DOJ under Bush argued that lawsuits regarding the surveillance could not go forward, as this would violate the “state secrets” privilege, thereby compromising national security. [74] In July 2008, the FISA bill was amended by a Democratic-led Congress, to legalize warrantless wiretapping, and to provide immunity to telecommunications companies for “past and future cooperation” with the Government. [75]

“I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens. No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are.” [75b] (Woodrow Wilson Center, August 2007)

“I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill. Ever since 9/11, this Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. … No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people – not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed. That is why I am co-sponsoring Senator Dodd’s amendment to remove the immunity provision. Secrecy must not trump accountability. We must show our citizens – and set an example to the world – that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient.” [76] (Campaign statement, January 28, 2008)

“To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.” [77] (Campaign statement, October 24, 2007)

After changing his position: “Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I’ve chosen to support the current compromise. I do so with the firm intention – once I’m sworn in as president – to have my Attorney General conduct a comprehensive review of all our surveillance programs, and to make further recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.” [78] (Campaign statement, July 3, 2008)

After securing the Democratic nomination for president, Senator Obama not only voted against filibustering the FISA Amendments Act, but, along with Republicans, voted in favor of the bill itself, which granted unforeseen powers of surveillance to the president, and total immunity to telecommunications companies (see last quote above). [79] This move was defended by many Obama supporters who pointed out that the law does not provide immunity to authorities who implemented the program, back when it was “still” illegal. Upon assuming the presidency, however, Obama promised to “look forward, not backward,” and blocked any efforts to investigate the surveillance (or other) crimes committed during Bush’s tenure, or to bring lawsuits against the perpetrators. To do this, the administration took Bush’s already extreme interpretation of the “state secrets” privilege one step further: no lawsuit concerning surveillance, against any U.S. Government – past, current, or future – can ever go forward, as this would “compromise national security” and because “no one has standing” to sue the government. (See point 4.1 below.) [80][81][82][83] As the Electronic Frontier Foundation stated: “This isn’t change we can believe in. This is change for the worse.” [84]

Electronic surveillance and data-mining on a massive and expanding scale continued throughout Obama’s first term, while he vowed to veto any bill that requires the president even to subject his surveillance activities to more congressional oversight – the lack of which enabled Bush to implement the NSA program secretly. [85][86]

At the beginning of Obama’s second term, the disclosure of top-secret documents by the former NSA employee Edward Snowden revealed the staggering extent of NSA’s domestic and international spying under Obama, causing an international uproar. [86a][86b] The ongoing revelations have so far shown, among many other things, that the NSA collects the majority of all electronic communications by Americans, and conducts similar bulk collection in other countries (as per NSA Director Keith Alexander’s motto “Collect It All”); [86c] has worked in tandem with companies such as Google, Yahoo, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft so as to have direct access to their servers; [86d] has legally compelled large telecoms, such as Verizon, to hand over their customers’ data; [86e] spies on heads of state and private companies in friendly countries, as well as on officials in the EU and the UN; [86f][86g] has embedded commercial encryption software with weaknesses for backdoor access, thus jeopardizing the safety of sensitive communications all over the world; [86h] and has minimal standards for keeping the agency from eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without a specific court order, which analysts have repeatedly ignored. [86i][86j]

Obama, who had advocated reigning in the NSA and ending bulk collection of citizens’ data before becoming president, [86k] has tried to assure the American public and people all over the world that U.S. surveillance is specific and targeted, only concerned with security, and under a robust regime of checks and balances. However, the secret FISA court is known to rubber stamp virtually every NSA request, and even when an entire bulk collection program has been deemed illegal by the court, the NSA has continued it for years, repeatedly lying to the court about the nature of their operations. [86l][86m] Congressional oversight doesn’t rise above the level of a fig leaf, either, with director of national intelligence James Clapper lying about NSA’s activities to Congress, under oath but with impunity; the Senate Intelligence Committee awash with campaign money from the security industry and headed by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), whose husband has made the couple a vast fortune investing in private security contractors; and members of Congress either denied basic information about the NSA’s activities, or prohibited by law from discussing what they know. [86n][86o][86p][86pa]

Obama has claimed that he “welcomes the debate” on surveillance, while condemning Edward Snowden, without whom no debate would have been possible. In response to the fallout, he has set up an “independent NSA review panel” — composed of security state insiders and headed by DNI James Clapper himself. [86q][86r]


1.9 Immigrant rights


Bush attempted to introduce comprehensive immigration reform, and wanted to resolve the status of the over 10 million illegal immigrants already in the country. His plans included a temporary guest worker program, a crackdown on employees knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, and tightening border security. This legislation was defeated in the Senate. [88]

“We cannot weaken the very essence of what America is by turning our backs on immigrants who want to reunite with their family members, or immigrants who have a willingness to work hard but who may not have the right graduate degrees. This is not who we are as a country. Should those without graduate degrees who spoke Italian or Polish or German, instead of English, have been turned back at Ellis Island?” (The Senate, June 6, 2007)

“I cannot guarantee that it is going to be in the first 100 days. 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. And I want to move that forward as quickly as possible.” [89] (Interview with Jorge Ramos on Univision, May 28, 2008)

While criticizing Bush’s plans for an immigration overhaul, what Obama promised during the campaign was essentially the same package that Bush had proposed (and that McCain flip-flopped on): securing the border, a crackdown on employers, and a guest worker program. [90][91] This was a major part of his campaign platform, and he vowed to make it a top priority during his first year in office. While no other aspect of reform has been addressed, Obama has succeeded in directing vast resources to enforcement and border security. Deportations under his administration have “skyrocketed,” according to the pro-immigrant rights group America’s Voice, whose executive director Frank Sharry stated, “It’s remarkable that Barack Obama as a candidate spoke so movingly about how our enforcement priorities were wrong – and now he’s exceeded the Bush administration level.” [92] According to Mary Moreno, a spokesperson for the Center for Community Change, “He’s deporting more people, trying to be tougher; it’s like Bush on steroids.” [93]

Obama rallied bi-partisan support for the bill, which he signed into law in August 2010, allocating $600 million to send 1500 more border patrol agents and two unmanned aerial drones to the U.S.-Mexico border. [94] Obama’s approval rating among Hispanic voters fell by more than 20 percentage points during 2010. [95] The DREAM Act, a proposed law that would have given some young immigrants brought up in the U.S. the chance to achieve legal status though college studies or the military, was defeated in the Senate at the end of 2010. [96]





2.1 Militarism


Bush hiked the nation’s military spending back to Reagan-era levels, and took the country into two catastrophic wars, one of them under false pretenses and in violation of international law. [97][98][99][100]

“What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.” [101] (At the rally of Chicagoans Against War in Iraq, October 2002)

“If people tell you that we cannot afford to invest in education or healthcare or fighting poverty, you just remind them that we are spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. And if we can spend that much money in Iraq, we can spend some of that money right here in Cincinnati, Ohio, and in big cities and small towns in every corner of this country.” [102] (Speech at 99th NAACP Convention, July 12, 2008)

In a historically bad economic situation, incomparable to that of 2002 (see first quote above), Obama has surpassed Bush and and Reagan in defense spending, with the largest combined budget for the military since World War II. These hikes have been accompanied by constant, misleading statements about “cuts” in the Pentagon’s budget. [103][104][105][106][107] Meanwhile, Obama has signalled imminent cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (see point 3.4). Obama has hiked the spending on, and use of, Special Operations forces, secretly deployed them to 75 countries, and extended de facto “secret wars” to Somalia and Yemen. Moreover, he started a full-fledged military campaign in Libya (see point 2.7). [108][109][110][111][112]

The Obama administration has worked to deregulate arms exports, so as to widen America’s already dominant market share in the world, and to boost the business of the U.S. arms industry. In October 2010, Obama approved a $60 billion arms deal, the biggest in U.S. history, with the repressive Saudi regime. [113][114][114b]

In November 2010, Obama issued an executive order granting waivers of the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen, so as to continue providing them with all forms of military assistance. This took NGOs working in the field of child soldiers completely by surprise, and prompted 29 leading human rights organizations to sign a letter protesting the decision, as well as strong objections from human rights officials within Obama’s own State Department. After the waiver was granted, National Security Council Senior Director Samantha Power assured the NGO community that the White House would use their leverage to “work from inside the tent,” and promised that after one year the law would be implemented in full. As the one-year deadline was approaching, on October 4, 2011, Obama issued another waiver of the law for the same countries. Yet another waiver was granted a year later, in October 2012, making the law de facto null and void. This was only days after Obama had stated, in a speech at a Clinton Global Initiative event: “When a little boy is kidnapped, turned into a child soldier, forced to kill or be killed – that’s slavery. It is barbaric, and it is evil, and it has no place in a civilized world.” [114c][114d][114e][114f][114g][114h][114i][114j][114k]


2.2 Iraq


“If we had chosen a different path, the right path, we could have finished the job in Afghanistan, and put more resources into the fight against bin Laden. And instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Baghdad, we could have put that money into our schools and hospitals, our roads and bridges – and that’s what the American people need us to do right now.” [115] (Speech on Potomac primary night, February 12, 2008)

“I will remove one or two brigades a month, and get all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months. … Let there be no doubt: I will end this war.” [102] (First Presidential debate, September 26, 2008)

“As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made clear that by August 31, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing — as promised and on schedule.” [115b] (Convention of the Disabled American Veterans, Atlanta, August 2, 2010)

Obama had a tremendous advantage against his Democratic primary opponents, as he was not yet a senator when Congress authorized Bush to use force against Iraq. His Iraq policy has, however, merely followed the dictates of President Bush. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were both proponents of the Iraq war, and Robert Gates continued with Obama as his first Secretary of Defense in the same job he had under Bush. [109][116]

What the White House called “withdrawal” from Iraq meant that most of the troops were, in fact, left in the country, while their mission was rebranded as “stability operations.” According to the top American military spokesman in Iraq, Stephen R. Lanza, speaking to the New York Times, “In practical terms, nothing will change; we are already doing stability operations.” [116b] Conversely, the remaining troops are still engaged in military operations. Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, speaking on Democracy Now, described the withdrawal: “If I wouldn’t have seen it on CNN, I wouldn’t have been aware of it at all.” [116c] Obama reduced the troops in Iraq from 94,000 to 50,000, and reinforced them with 7,000 new private security contractors (provided with arms, including Blackhawk helicopters, by the State Department), on top of the approximately 100,000 non-combat private contractors already in the country. This rebranding effort has also meant more lucrative deals for paramilitary contractors such as Blackwater, known for their reckless disregard for civilian lives and the law. [116c][117][117b][117c]

Rather than delivering on a campaign promise, Obama has merely followed the policy put into place by President Bush and General David Petraeus. The “final” withdrawal date of December 31, 2011, followed a timeline negotiated between the Bush administration and the Iraqi Government, implemented in their status-of-forces agreement of November 2008. [117d][118] The Obama White House aggressively lobbied against implementing the agreement, and to keep thousands of troops in the country indefinitely, while insisting on immunity for American soldiers. [118a] The Iraqi Government eventually rejected the prolonged military presence, because of the U.S. insistance on immunity, forcing Obama to abide by the Bush-Petraeus withdrawal plan. [118ab] This was partially due to an incident (documented in a cable published by WikiLeaks) in which American troops executed 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s, as well as five children, one of them a 5-month-old toddler, and called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence. [118ac] A small army of mostly private contractors, controlled by the State Department, will nonetheless stay in the country indefinitely. [118ad][118b]

As the so-called “end of combat mission” was taking place in August 2010, Iraq had just seen its deadliest month since 2008, according to numbers provided by the Iraqi Government. At the same time, Iraq, like many other Middle Eastern countries, was seeing growing pro-democracy, anti-corruption demonstrations, which were met with a violent crackdown and the imprisonment of 300 journalists, dissidents, artists, lawyers, and activists by the U.S.-backed government. The Obama administration refused even to acknowledge these events when discussing the Arab Spring (see point 2.6). The beginning of Obama’s second term also marked the tenth anniversary of the occupation, with the country’s infrastructure still in shambles, millions displaced, and violence again rising sharply.


2.3 Afghanistan


“After 18 months [by July 2011], our troops will begin to come home [from Afghanistan]. These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan. … I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force, and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We have been at war for eight years, at enormous cost in lives and resources.” [124c] (West Point Military Academy, December 2009)

In a December 2010 open letter to the president, 23 experts on Afghanistan criticized Obama’s failing, unsustainable war strategy and pointed out the worsening conditions in the country. [125] Obama has escalated the war, and expanded it into Pakistani border regions, relying increasingly on drone attacks (see point 2.4 below). The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan during the first 18 months of Obama’s presidency surpassed the toll taken by seven years of war under Bush. At the beginning of Obama’s second term, civilian casuelties again spiked sharply, up 23% from 2012 according to the U.N. Having caused scores of civilian deaths, the U.S. military presence in the Middle East continues to foment anti-American sentiment and terrorism. Meanwhile, finding Osama bin Laden (who was killed in Pakistan), defeating al-Qaeda (nearly all of whom have left the country), rebuilding Afghanistan, winning hearts and minds, or diminishing the threat of terrorism all seem to be either impossible or counterfactual goals for the war, which costs $6.7 billion of borrowed money each month. In 2010, the Obama administration began to shift its strategy towards negotiating with the Taliban — whose toppling was the primary stated aim of the initial occupation — about a possible power-sharing deal. [126][126b][127][128][129][129b][130]

President Hamid Karzai came to power with the help of the U.S. in 2001, and has remained in office through two elections, both of which were widely reported as being tainted by rampant fraud and intimidation. [130a][130aa][130ab] Karzai’s brother, a heroin trafficker, is on the CIA’s payroll. [130ac][130ad] Much of the country is ruled by various warlords or by the Taliban, not the central government in Kabul, whose corruption and inefficiency are well-documented. [130ae][130af]

As with Iraq, Obama’s promise to start bringing the war to a “responsible” end beginning in July 2011 did not materialize. At the beginning of Obama’s second term, there were 66,000 troops in Afghanistan – more than double the amount from when he took office. The current stated timeline for the withdrawal is 2014. There has been no official word yet as to how large the “residual” military presence would be in 2015 and beyond, but figures up to 30,000 have been suggested – this would be the average number of troops in Afghanistan throughout Bush’s presidency. [130b][130c]


2.4 Drone attacks


The Bush administration implemented a program of bombing Al Qaeda members and militants in the Pakistani tribal region along the border with Afghanistan, using unmanned drone aircraft, which have caused extensive civilian casualties. Most of the drone attacks are covert CIA operations, as opposed to military operations: little information is released to the public, and the media has no access to the targeted areas. The CIA cannot assess the precise extent of the damages, either, as it is operating the drones by remote control far from the targets, mostly from Langley, Virginia. [131]

Obama took over this program, quickly doubled the number of drones, and has kept expanding their use at a dramatic pace. Within one year, he had authorized twice as many drone attacks as Bush did during his entire presidency. Towards the end of 2010, the rate further escalated, to about one every day, contributing to a total of 118 attacks for the year. Since the end of Bush’s term, the CIA has also been authorized to target individuals in Pakistan whose names are not known. According to the Brookings Institute, for each militant, ten civilians are killed, including women and children, while the New America Foundation estimates that one in three are civilians. [131][131a][131b][132][132b][133] In August 2011, the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism published an investigative piece on the true extent of the drone attacks. Using the most conservative estimates and meticulous methodology possible, [133a] and counting as civilians only those whose identities they could confirm beyond doubt, TBIJ calculated a minimum of 2,347 dead, including 392 verified civilians, among them 175 children. As of June 2012, the total number killed in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen combined was between 2800 and 4200, with civilian casualties possibly topping 1000. [133ab] The New America Foundation’s analysis of newspaper reports about drone strikes in Pakistan arrives at the approximately same number of deaths. [131a] Under Obama’s command, drone attacks have become a global military strategy, used in six different countries — as opposed to one under Bush — in both declared and undercover wars. [133ac] Among other observers, TBIJ has documented deliberate targeting of rescuers, as well as of mourners at funerals, in one case killing as many as 83 attendees. [133ad] In April 2012, Obama escalated the use of drones in Yemen even further, by approving the use of “signature-strikes,” i.e., targeting of suspects whose identities are not known, based on behavioral patterns. [133ae]

Obama has placed himself at the helm of the CIA’s assassination program. Suspects are targeted first through the inclusion of their names on a secret CIA “kill list.” Obama leads the weekly meetings with officials where “nominations” are made, then personally signs off on the killing of individuals on the list. He is guided in his choices by his top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, a former high-ranking CIA official under Bush who was involved in authorizing the use of torture, as well as in the faulty intelligence used to justify the Iraq War (see points 1.5 and 2.2). As multiple officials have confirmed, the White House has adopted a de facto take-no-prisoners policy, in an effort to avoid the hassle of capture and imprisonment. The list includes names of teenage girls as young as 17, and of American citizens, a number of whom have already been executed — including the 16-year-old son of Anwar al-Awlaki (see point 1.6). There is no legal oversight, no trial or evidence is required, and there is no possibility of legal recourse for a person included on the list. [133af][133ag]

White House officials and Obama himself have insisted that drone strikes are precice and used cautiously, with minimal collateral damage. In June 2011, John Brennan went so far as to claim that there hadn’t been “a single collateral death” for an entire year — a demonstrably untrue statement. These claims are based in yet another policy decision by an administration primarily concerned with appearances: as revealed to the New York Times by numerous officials, Obama has adopted a redefinition of the term “militant” as meaning “all military-age males in a strike zone.” In other words, almost no one killed by a U.S. drone strike can, by this definition, be counted as a civilian. [133af] Another facet of the administration’s publicity campaign is the paradoxical status of the CIA drone campaign’s very existence as a state secret. The administration reveals politically beneficial information about strikes through constant anonymous leaks to the press, and even discusses the program publicly — though strictly on the president’s terms. Any attempts to shed light on this widely known and publicly documented program through courts, however, are simply discarded, based on the irrational claim that the program is too secret for the administration to even acknowledge “its existence or nonexistence.” [133ah][133ai][133aj][133ak][133al] This has been a systematically used tactic to maintain secrecy and to avoid legal oversight by the Bush and Obama administrations (see point 4.1).

Philip Alston, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings, has harshly criticized the program, its lack of transparency, pointed out the “risk of developing a ‘Playstation’ mentality to killing,” and warned against the likelihood of other countries copying U.S. tactics (see point 1.6). The U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has questioned the programs legality under international law. [133b][134][133am]

While the stated objective of the drone campaign is to combat terrorism, the never-ending slaughter of innocent civilians foments anti-American hatred and creates entire generations of new terrorist recruits, as pointed out by various studies, neutral observers, and even accused terrorists. (See point 2.5 below.) As the New York Times summarized: “Drones have replaced Guantanamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants”. [139d][128][133af][133an][133ao][133ap][133aq][133ar][133as]

Obama has introduced surveillance drones along the U.S.-Mexico border (see point 1.9), and authorized a wide expansion of the use of domestic drones. The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that up to 30,000 drones will be flying in the U.S. airspace by the end of the decade. [6c][133at][133au][133av][133aw]

During a White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Obama made jokes about the targeted killings: “Jonas Brothers are here… Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but boys, don’t get any ideas. Two words for you: Predator drones. You will never see it coming. You think I’m joking?” [134b]


2.5 Popularity in Arab and Muslim countries


Bush was widely mistrusted in the Arab world and Muslim majority countries – following a long history of pained relations with the U.S. – due to his automatic support for Israel under all circumstances, to the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to poorly-worded statements such as vowing to start a “crusade” after the September 11 attacks. [135]

“I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings. … There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, ‘Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.’ That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.” [136] (Cairo University, June 4, 2009)

After his verbal outreaches to the Muslim world – most notably in the Cairo speech, and the Nowrūz (Persian New Year) greeting to Iranians – President Obama’s popularity in Middle Eastern and Muslim countries was on the rise. A year after the speech, during which U.S. foreign policy remained virtually unchanged, the popularity of the president and of the U.S. plummeted, according to a number of surveys. According to the Pew Research Center, “the modest levels of confidence and approval observed in 2009 have slipped markedly.” [137] A July 2010 poll by the Brookings Institution showed an even sharper decline in attitudes towards the president, nearing Bush’s approval ratings. [138] “There were a lot of illusions about Obama because he has African and Muslim roots,” said Aya Mahmoud, 22, a student at Cairo University, according to a McClatchy article. “Turns out the speech was all just hype.” [139] By 2011, his personal approval rating had plummeted lower than Bush’s worst numbers. [139b][139c]

Obama has waged war in three predominantly Muslim countries (see points 2.2, 2.3, and 2.7). He has dramatically accelerated and widended the use of drones around the globe, conducting strikes in altogether six Muslim countries and making drone strikes the new recruiting tool of choice for terrorist organizations (see point 2.4 above). As pointed out by a number of studies — including a 2004 Pentagon report, commissioned by then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld — as well as various neutral observers and accused terrorists themselves, the invasions and the on-going slaughter of civilians around the globe are among the most important causes of anti-American terrorism. [139d][128][133af][133an][133ao][133ap][133aq][133ar][133as] The Obama administration supports Israel regardless of its actions — the occasional lack of enthusiasm notwithstanding — while supplying it with increased amounts of weapons, in breach of the Geneva Conventions. Obama has also continued the Bush policy of threatening to bomb Iran (in August, 2010, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, went on “Meet the Press” and discussed an “existing U.S. attack plan” on Iran). [140] His response to the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa has, however, provided the most poignant illustration of his true policies (see point 2.6 below).


2.6 Pro-democracy uprisings


Bush followed the U.S. tradition of propping up and funding friendly dictators in the Arab world, while claiming that a cornerstone of his foreign policy was the effort to spread democracy. This was also one of the stated goals of invading Iraq. [140b]

“You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called ‘allies’ in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.” [101] (At the rally of Chicagoans Against War in Iraq, October 2002)

“The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that. But we can make a difference. I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back, and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms: our opposition to violence directed at one’s own people; our support for a set of universal rights, including the freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders; our support for governments that are ultimately responsive to the aspirations of the people. Born, as we are, out of a revolution by those who longed to be free, we welcome the fact that history is on the move in the Middle East and North Africa, and that young people are leading the way. Because wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States.” (Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Libya, March 28, 2011) [284b]

Obama’s actual policies towards repressive regimes in Arab countries have been clearly illustrated by his response to the wave of pro-democracy revolts and demonstrations in North Africa and the Middle-East, known as the Arab Spring.

Tunisia. The first uprising took place in Tunisia, a country that, under the dictatorship of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, had long enjoyed massive amounts of U.S. military aid. The revolt caught the administration off-guard. While the Ben Ali regime was trying to quell the unrest by shooting into crowds of protesters, the Obama administration rushed to defend him. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that they would “not take sides,” emphasized the “very positive aspects of our relationship with Tunisia,” and indicated that the U.S. would wait to see what happens. Meanwhile, Ben Ali received another $12 million in emergency military aid, even as the protests were unfolding. [141][142][143][144]

Egypt. Obama was a staunch supporter of Hosni Mubarak, and both Obama and Hillary Clinton have described him as a “friend.” As with Tunisia, Obama dithered in his response to the events in Egypt, one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid. The administration weighed in only after the revolution had clearly been successful. Obama then tried to prop up Omar Suleiman – Mubarak’s intelligence chief and America’s local partner in its rendition and torture program – as a new strongman in Egypt, despite growing resentment from the Egyptian public. Suleiman’s rise to power came to halt, however, when he stated on Egyptian TV that his country was “not ready for democracy.” As the protests continued even after Mubarak’s ouster, the U.S. Government approved shipping arms to the oppressive Supreme Council of the Armed Forces while it was violently cracking down on the uprising, in addition to perpetrating scores of serious human rights abuses. The Obama administration rejected a bill that would have ties aid to Egypt with the country’s democratic development, out of fear of alienating the ruling SCAF. Obama’s popularity in Egypt, as well as elsewhere in the Arab world, has sunken lower than Bush’s during the end of his presidency (see point 2.5). [145][146][147][148][149][149b][149c][149d][139b][139c]

Bahrain. Home of a U.S. naval base, the small island nation of Bahrain has been an important ally in providing logistical support for the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, while U.S. companies have won a number of large contracts from the ruling royal al-Khalifa family. The years leading up to the Bahraini uprising saw worsening oppression, with increasing repression of civil society, egregious violations of human rights, and rising inequality between the country’s poor Shi’ite majority and well-to-do Sunni minority. In addition to killing scores of protesters, with mostly U.S.-provided arms, forcefully removing the wounded from hospitals and disappearing doctors and nurses who treated them, the royal family invited Saudi-Arabia and five other Gulf nations to send in their armies to crack down on the unrest. Obama criticized the use of violence in the wake of the Bahraini uprising, but while the U.S. initiated attacks in Libya based on threats to Libyan civilians, Bahrain’s military actions against its own citizens have provoked no concrete U.S. measures (see point 2.7 below). During a June 2011 meeting with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, Obama and Hillary Clinton praised the royal family for their efforts to bring about “national dialogue” and reaffirmed their support for the regime. Meanwhile, the crackdown has continued, with protesters brutalized, detained, and convicted in military tribunals. In his Septeber 2011 UN speech, Obama reaffirmed America’s “close friendship” with the Bahraini Government, only a week after yet another planned shipment of arms to Bahrain, worth $53 million, was announced. Many analysts have noted that a democratic Bahrain, with its Shi’ite-majority, might bolster Iran’s influence and negatively impact U.S. interests in the region. [150][150b][151][151b][151c][151d][151e][151f]

Yemen. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been one of the most important partner’s in America’s fight against Al Qaeda. In exchange for generous amounts of military aid, Saleh gave the U.S. free range to conduct bombing campaigns in his country, and promised to falsely attribute these attacks to Yemeni forces. Saleh has always repressed opposition to his rule, and the pro-democracy protests that began in the spring of 2011 were met with a violent crackdown. Hundreds of unarmed protesters have been killed and wounded by government forces, including snipers. While the protesters were repeatedly pleading to Obama, the White House was forcefully lobbying to keep Saleh’s family in power. Both Secretary of State Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates have publicly emphasized America’s good relationship with Saleh, and Gates has called the government-orchestrated violence an “internal problem” in which the U.S. will not interfere. The U.S. began using increasingly critical language only after Saleh’s position became clearly untenable. At the same time, it was quietly negotiating for the president’s safe exit and the transition of power to another high-ranking official from Saleh’s government. [151b][296b][297][298][299][300]

Libya. In stark contrast to Obama’s response to other Arab regimes’ use of violence and threats against civilians — especially U.S.-backed Bahraini Government’s effort to intimidate protesters with military action, and the Syrian army’s systematic attacks on protesters — Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s rhetoric was seen as justification for a full-scale attack; read more under point 2.7 below.

Iraq has seen its own wave of protests calling for real democracy and an end to corruption, a fact which the Obama administration has refused even to acknowledge when discussing the Arab Spring. The protests have been met with a violent crackdown by the U.S.-backed government, as well as the imprisonment of 300 journalists, dissidents, artists, lawyers, and activists. [124b] (See also 2.2 Iraq)

In Morocco, King Mohammed VI has faced demonstrations whose demands have been more modest than those in neighboring countries. The Obama administration has stepped up to support the king, a close U.S. ally, and the autocratic ruler was praised by Hillary Clinton as, paradoxically, a potential leader for democratic reform in the region. [301]

Syria, a long-time enemy of Israel and the U.S., has seen some of the most alarming levels of violence. The government has been criticized by the Obama administration and other Western powers, but the response has been very cautious. [302][303]


2.7 Attack on Libya


Bush’s stated goals for the occupation of Iraq included bringing democracy to the Middle East, while critics have assumed that the strategic advantage of having a military presence in Iraq, linked to the country’s oil wealth, was the most important factor. The war was also critcized for undermining the UN’s role in international conflicts, though the Bush administration argued that Security Council Resolution 687 authorized the use of force (“all necessary means”) against Iraq. [283] Bush came under fire from a slew of high-ranking Democrats, including Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry, when he argued that he had the right to take military action in Iran without authorization from Congress. [283b]

“We’ve accomplished these [military and diplomatic] objectives consistent with the pledge that I made to the American people at the outset of our military operations. I said that America’s role would be limited; that we would not put ground troops into Libya; that we would focus our unique capabilities on the front end of the operation and that we would transfer responsibility to our allies and partners. Tonight, we are fulfilling that pledge … Of course, there is no question that Libya -– and the world –- would be better off with Qaddafi out of power. … But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake. The task that I assigned our forces -– to protect the Libyan people from immediate danger, and to establish a no-fly zone -– carries with it a U.N. mandate and international support.” [284] (Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Libya, March 28, 2011)

“The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.” (Interview in The Boston Globe, December 20, 2007) [284b]

Colonel Muammar Qaddafi had long been a pariah within the international community, while Libya as a country has been of great interest both to the U.S. and to Europe, due to its location and its oil resources. In 2009, Qaddafi made Western powers nervous by threatening to nationalize the country’s oil fields, which are largely run by European and North American companies. [284c] Obama’s decision to wage war in Libya stands in stark contrast with his response to other Arab regimes’ threats and actual use of violence and military action against their civilians (see point 2.6 above).

In the wake of Qaddafi’s threats to violently suppress the uprising, the UN Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the use of force to implement a no-fly zone and to protect civilians. [285] Some two weeks after claiming that regime-change is not the objective of the attack, Obama published a joint op-ed with Prime Minister David Cameron and President Nicholas Sarkozy, stating that military action will not stop until Qaddafi is ousted. [285b] Following Qaddafi’s remarks about “cleansing Libya house by house,” the claimed objective of the attack was to protect civilians in Benghazi from genocide. [285c] While there is no doubt that Qaddafi was a brutal tyrant, the interpretation of his rhetoric and the prospect of a genocide have been strongly contested by a number of analysts and journalists. In his rambling speech prior to the attack, Qaddafi addressed his ultimatum to militants, and promised to grant amnesty to anyone who “throws away their weapon.” There were no genocides in the large cities Qaddafi gained control over at the beginning of the war, but the hostilities have caused, an are still causing, an increasing number of civilian deaths. [285d][285e][285f]

The attack on Libya took place without any public discourse. Moreover, it was never debated, let alone approved, even by Congress, despite multiple requests by congressmen and caveats by high ranking military officers, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates. [286][287][288][288b] Despite protests from Congress, Obama continued bombing Libya even after the end of the 60-day “grace period” provided by the War Powers Act of 1973 — though, to begin with, the law only authorizes military action in response to a national emergency resulting from an attack against the U.S. [288c][288ca][288cb] Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich has described Obama’s use of war powers as an unconstitutional and possibly impeachable offense which is making his presidency “indistinguishable” from Bush’s, and warned early on of the risk of fulminating a civil war. [288d] Security Council Resolution 1973 on Libya only authorizes the use of force to protect civilians. The argument for the legality of a war in Libya, whose de facto goal from the beginning was to oust Qaddafi, is based on the resolution’s reference to “all necessary measures” — language similar to that in Resolution 687, which Bush used to claim he had a UN mandate to attack Iraq. [283b][285]

Little is known about the forces to whom the U.S. and NATO have provided military support, and there is evidence that some of them have fought in the ranks of Al Qaeda. [289] They are headed by the National Transitional Council, which consists mostly of former high-ranking members of Qaddafi’s government, business men, and academics. [289a][289ab] Despite Obama’s promise to hand over responsibility to allies, the U.S. remained firmly in charge of the military campaign in Libya, even well after the country slid into a civil war. [288e][289b][290][290a] The administration promised not to send ground troops into Libya, but Obama secretly authorized covert action by CIA paramilitary officers to aid the rebels. [288f] As early as April 2011, Al Jazeera reported a statement from one of their sources that, in addition to training in secret facilities by U.S. and Egyptian special forces, the rebels were receiving high-grade weapons from abroad, in violation of the arms embargo on Libya. [290b][291] Instead of preventing a genocide, the U.S.-led military campaign may have enabled one. Human rights organizations have documented war crimes and atrocities on both sides, including the shelling of civilians. In particular, the black migrant worker population of Libya has been the target of apparently racially motivated attacks by the rebels, who have used the presence of sub-Saharan mercenaries in the country as a pretext. This has resulted in arbitrary mass arrests, lynching, rape, and looting. According to Amnesty International, thousands of people have been arrested by the rebels for suspected sympathies with Qaddafi, without any legal oversight. Both Amnesty and Doctors Without Borders have documented an on-going pattern of systematic detainee abuse and torture by the NTC forces and militias, in many cases resulting in deaths. [290ab][290ac][290ad][290ae][290af][290ag][290ah][290aha]

A week after Qaddafi’s forces were driven out of Tripoli, Ambassador Gene A. Cretz participated in a conference call with around 150 American companies hoping to profit from the regime change. In his comments to reporters — described by the New York Times as “a rare nod to the tacit economic stakes in the Libya conflict” — Ambassador Cretz said, “We know that oil is the jewel in the crown of Libyan natural resources, but even in Qaddafi’s time they were starting from A to Z in terms of building infrastructure and other things … If we can get American companies here on a fairly big scale, which we will try to do everything we can to do that, then this will redound to improve the situation in the United States with respect to our own jobs.” [290ai]


2.8 War on Drugs


Following long-standing U.S. policy, Bush continued the so-called War on Drugs, a strategy that combines aggressive enforcement of prohibition laws in the U.S. with military aid and intervention in countries involved in production and trafficking. Providing rehabilitation to addicts — rather than imprisoning non-violent offenders, mostly from ethnic minorities, by the hundreds of thousands each year — has not been part of the policy, despite countless studies demonstrating that treatment is the most efficient and cheapest approach to the drug problem. Describing the drug trade as a form of terrorism, Bush secured public support for increased spending on the War on Drugs. [151g][151h][151i]

In addition to providing a pretext for extending military influence over countries in Latin America (most notably by funding the Colombian Government’s fight against left-wing guerillas), the War on Drugs has exacerbated drug-trade-related violence in Mexico. Under Bush, the U.S. began to heavily fund the Mexican Government in its militaristic crackdown on cartels, resulting in increasing levels of civilian deaths, as well as human rights abuses by Mexican soldiers and police officers. In addition, aerial crop fumigation programs in Latin America have endangered fragile ecosystems and the health of local populations. [151j][151k] A combined effect of all these draconian measures is to inflate the price of illegal drugs (including cannabis), which, in turn, increases the profits and the power of drug cartels. However, they have not had any discernible impact on drug consumption. [151i][151l][151la] As the Associated Press recently concluded in a lengthy analysis article, after 40 years and a trillion dollars, the War on Drugs has not met any of its goals. [151m] Meanwhile, there is a powerful corporate interest in maintaining the status quo. While the U.S. has only 5% of the planet’s population, it holds 25% of the its prisoners, way ahead of even Russia and China. The ever-growing prison population has created a booming market for the private prison industry. [151n]

“Someone once said that ‘… long minimum sentences for first-time users may not be the best way to occupy jail space and/or heal people from their disease.’ That someone was George W. Bush – six years ago. I don’t say this very often, but I agree with the president. The difference is, he hasn’t done anything about it. When I’m president, I will. We will review these sentences to see where we can be smarter on crime and reduce the blind and counterproductive warehousing of non-violent offenders.” [151o] (Howard University, September 28, 2008)

“We have to think more about drugs as a public health problem… We have been so focused on arrests and incarcerations, interdictions, that we don’t spend as much time thinking about how do we shrink demand.” [151p] (YouTube Q&A, January 27, 2011)

Dismissing concerns about an increasing U.S. military presence in Colombia as a “myth,” President Obama said: “There have been those in the region who have been trying to play this up as part of a traditional anti-Yankee rhetoric. This is not accurate. … We have no intent in establishing a U.S. military base in Colombia. … We have no intention of sending large numbers of additional troops into Colombia, and we have every interest in seeing Colombia and its neighbors operate peacefully.” [151q] (Speaking to Hispanic media reporters, August 2009)

Obama has hiked the funding for the War on Drugs. While claiming that it is allocating more resources to rehabilitation, the Obama administration’s spending on punishment dwarfs the resources used for treatment at an even greater budget ratio than under Bush. The disproportionate racial bias in drug law enforcement remains at least as egregious as before. In June 2011, the international non-profit organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) released a report focusing on the legacy and current state of Washington’s War on Drugs. The report states: “Nowhere is the contrast between President Obama’s spoken words and policy toward drugs clearer than in the comparison between spending for punishment and interdiction (supply reduction) and spending for prevention, treatment and other health approaches (demand reduction).” [151l] The revolving doors between the administration and private prison industry were clearly demonstrated in October 2010, when Obama appointed Stacia Hynton as the Director of the U.S. Marshal Service. Prior to her appointment, her consulting firm had as its sole client the GEO Group, the second largest private corrections corporation in the country. The GEO group has contracts with the federal government worth hundreds of millions of dollars, including tens of millions with the U.S. Marshals Service alone. [151r][151s] The prison industry did experience a minor slump a deacade ago, but during Obama’s first term it has been stronger than ever. [151t][151u]

Even as the rate of drug-war-related civilian deaths in Mexico skyrockets, the Obama administration continues to finance Mexico’s militaristic crackdown on drug cartels, while ignoring human rights violations by Mexico’s law enforcement and military. Despite the massive and increasing human cost (at least 46,000 deaths by the end of 2011), high-ranking administration officials have defended the approach. Michele Leonhart, Obama’s head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, even claimed that the killing of at least one thousand Mexican children by cartels, as reported by the Child Rights Network in Mexico, was “a sign of success in the war against drugs.” [151v] Under Obama, the funding for aerial crop eradication with herbicides in Latin America has remained unchanged. In addition to inflating drug prices, this strategy merely shifts the cultivation elsewhere, sometimes in a ping-pong fashion: In the ’90s, due to “succesful” crop fumigation operations, the coca fields relocated from Peru to Colombia. In June 2010, the NY times reported that the tide had shifted, with coca cultivation again surging in the tropical valleys of Peru, possibly reclaiming its position as the lead producer in the world. [151w]

In Colombia, Obama has created multiple U.S. militarty bases and deployed American troops and aircraft, in addition to continued military aid, despite the country’s appalling record of human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings. [151x][151y][151z][151aa][151ab]

As highlighted in the report released by LEAP, the White House has concentrated on attempts to rebrand the War on Drugs, without introducing any legislative or administrative reforms. In a 2009 Wall Street Journal interview, Gil Kerlikowske, Obama’s current “Drug Czar,” expressed his desire to banish the idea that U.S. is fighting a war. “Regardless of how you try to explain to people it’s a ‘war on drugs’ … people see a war as a war on them,” Kerlikowske stated. In March 2011 he declared: “We certainly ended the drug war, now almost two years ago, in the first interview I did.” Similarly, the Obama administration has tried to convince the public that it supports states’ rights to enact medical marijuana laws while actually undermining such efforts at nearly every turn. The Obama administration gave great fanfare to an October 2009 memo suggesting that those in compliance with state law should not be prosecuted, leaking it to the press late on a Sunday night to ensure heavy media coverage. However, the rate of raids on medical marijuana providers has increased under Obama, with more raids during his first term than during Bush’s entire tenure. Kerlikowske has also publicly stated that the marijuana has “no medicinal benefit,” and that publicly making such claims contributes to its popularity as a recreational drug. [151l][151ac][151ad][151ae][151af]

Obama did reduce the disparity between federal mandatory sentencing for convictions related to crack cocaine as opposed to powdered cocaine, but stopped short of eliminating it. [151ag]





3.1 Election funding


Following the common practice of legal corruption in Washington, Bush accepted campaign donations from large corporations in exchange for friendly policy. For example, new employees for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission under Bush were hand-picked by Enron. Bona fide oilmen themselves, Bush and Cheney handed out massive public subsidies to oil and gas companies. The administration’s subservience to corporate interests shaped Bush’s isolationist stance on global climate negotiations, among other things. [152][153]

“In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. … If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” [154] (Midwest Democracy Network Questionnaire, September 2007)

After changing his position: “Instead of forcing us to rely on millions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs, you’ve fueled this campaign with donations of $5, $10, $20, whatever you can afford. And because you did, we’ve built a grassroots movement of over 1.5 million Americans. … You’ve already changed the way campaigns are funded because you know that’s the only way we can truly change how Washington works.” [155] (Campaign statement via video on June 19, 2008)

“I’m Barack Obama, and I don’t take money from oil companies or Washington lobbyists, and I won’t let them block change anymore.” [157] (Campaign commercial during the primaries)

In June 2008, after winning the Democratic nomination, Obama gave up on his pledge to lead by example on the preservation of the public financing system, and his team proceeded to raise more money than any other political campaign in history. [155][156][157][158] Though the fundraising success was portrayed by the campaign as a grass-roots response to Obama’s candidacy, a vast portion came from corporations, mostly from Wall Street, the top corporate contributor being Goldman Sachs. [155][159] Subsequently, President Obama’s entire economic team has consisted of Wall Street insiders – most notably Tim Geithner, the former NY Fed Chair – and nearly all of them Goldman Sachs alumni: Treasury’s Chief of Staff Mark Patterson, Director of the White House’s National Economic Council Larry Summers (resigned in September 2010), their mentor and Obama advisor Robert Rubin, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler, in addition to many other high-ranking members of the administration. Obama’s most recent cabinet appointment from the banking industry is the JPMorgan Chase executive William Daley, his new chief of staff. [160][161][162][163][164][165] Dean Baker, one of the first economists to foresee the crisis in the housing market, described this as equivalent to “having Osama bin Laden in charge of the war on terror.” [166]

Despite accepting large sums from oil and gas companies, as well as from lobbyists, Obama insisted on the contrary during the elections. This was plainly not true, as was pointed out even by his disgruntled primary opponent – and his future Secretary of State – Hillary Clinton, who called it “false advertising.” For example, Obama is the number one recipient of campaign contributions from BP. [157][167][168][169]

Funding the future president was an enormously lucrative investment for Wall Street; see point 3.2 below. Obama’s health reform efforts were also led by insurance industry insiders, such as former Wellpoint VP Liz Fowler; see point 3.3.


3.2 The bank bailout, the foreclosure crisis, and financial reform


After the banking sector’s reckless actions had led the global economic system to the verge of total collapse, Bush initiated its rescue with taxpayer money.

“The Treasury must use the authority it’s been granted and move aggressively to help people avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. We don’t need a new law or a new $300 billion giveaway to banks like Senator McCain has proposed. … I’ve proposed a three-month moratorium on foreclosures so that we give people the breathing room they need to get back on their feet.” [170] (St. Louis, Missouri, October 18, 2008)

“It does offend our values when executives of big financial firms that are struggling pay themselves huge bonuses even as they rely on extraordinary assistance to stay afloat.” [171] (October 22, 2009)

Obama continued the bank bailout, and expanded it into the trillions. [172] With an economic team run by Wall Street insiders and Goldman Sachs alumni (see point 3.1 above), many of whom were directly responsible for the dismantling of regulation that led to the crisis, it is no surprise that the president’s policy has catered to the banks’ interests. Most notably, rescuing the insurance giant AIG enabled the Obama administration to extend a behind-the-scenes bailout to hand-picked banks, including Goldman Sachs (to the tune of $13 billion). [173][174]

By design, Obama’s financial reform bill has done nothing to control the behavior of banks. Simon Johnson, the former chief economist for the IMF, has pointed out how the legislation demonstrates that the American system isn’t one of free market economy; instead, the country is ruled by a financial oligarchy which is making the Government unable or unwilling to legislate change. “There is simply nothing [in the financial reform bill] that will rein in our largest financial institutions,” Johnson observed. “[T]he White House punted, repeatedly, and elected instead for a veneer of superficial tweaking. Welcome to the next global credit cycle – with too big to fail banks at center stage.” [175][164] This view is shared by, among others, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, who wrote: “No reform … is better than a cosmetic reform that just covers up failure to act.” [176]

Banks, rescued with public money, are awarding themselves with record-breaking bonuses. [177] The Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz commented: “Having created these problems, they [Geithner, Summers, et al] had an incentive, quite frankly, to try to say … ‘OK, we’ve had an accident. … Let’s not try to interfere how they spend the money, because that’s not the way we do things,’ so that they could take that money, rather than recapitalize, give it out in bonuses or dividends.” [178] Nevertheless, already during the presidential campaign, Obama joined Bush in making sure that the TARP legislation would not curb executive salaries or bonuses – a goal he has successfully pursued since, even while making statements implying the contrary.

The passage of the financial reform package boosted the stock value of big banks. According to Bloomberg News, 2009-2010 has been the best 24-month period for the U.S. banking industry ever. [179][180]

Meanwhile, unemployment has reached historic levels, beyond the worst-case-scenario that the Obama administration predicted in the absence of a stimulus bill. [181] Home foreclosures are continuing in the millions, at a record-breaking and accelerating pace, while the administration is touting what it sees as its successes in recovery. As of August 2011, the number of home forelosures was around 9.2 million. [182][182b][183] After having survived on handouts of public money, the banks still have absolute freedom to seize people’s homes. Towards the end of 2010, it was also revealed that banks around the country are engaged in wide-spread fraud to foreclose on homes illegally and without proper vetting; these cases are being investigated by the Attorneys General of all fifty states. [184] This revelation has prompted calls for a national moratorium on foreclosures – a proposal rejected by Obama, despite his campaign promise to implement such a moratorium even in the absence of outright fraud. [185]


3.3 The health care bill, insurance companies, and big pharma


“We’ll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process.” [186] (Town hall meeting in Chester, VA., August 21, 2008)

“At the heart of this debate is the question of whether we’re going to accept a system that works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people, because if this vote fails, the insurance industry will continue to run amok. They will continue to deny people coverage. They will continue to deny people care. They will continue to jack up premiums 40 or 50 or 60 percent as they have in the last few weeks without any accountability whatsoever. They know this. And that’s why their lobbyists are stalking the halls of Congress as we speak, and pouring millions of dollars into negative ads. And that’s why they are doing everything they can to kill this bill. So the only question left is this: Are we going to let the special interests win once again?” [187] (Rallying for public support for the bill, George Mason University, Arlington, VA., March 19, 2010)

While the merits and failures of the health care bill can be debated, it is a matter of fact that the legislation was a huge victory to some of the most powerful corporations in the country. Contrary to Obama’s claims, special interests such as hospitals, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies were, in fact, lobbying and advertising aggressively in favor of the bill: according to the Center for Public Integrity, they used a staggering $1.2 billion on their overall lobbying effort in the run-up to the vote. Their support for Obama’s legislation is hardly surprising, as it does nothing to prevent the rise of health care premiums, mainly due to the omission of a public insurance option. While the White House has tried to spin the numbers in various ways, no one is projecting that premiums will go down, merely that they won’t continue to rise as sharply. [188][189][190]

Making good on a back-room deal with big pharma, Obama helped kill a provision in the bill that would have enabled cheap drug imports from abroad, citing “safety concerns.” After spending weeks denying that any secret negotiations took place, a leaked internal memo confirmed that Obama had secretly promised this giveaway. [191] Obama also negotiated away the public option very early on, while continuing to make public statements advocating for it. [192][193]

After the passage of the bill, health insurance companies’ stocks soared in anticipation of the resulting massive profits – after the industry had already seen a 250% increase in profits within the previous decade. For the first time, their political contributions have shifted decisively from Republicans to Democrats. [194][195][196]

Obama’s health reform efforts were led by people such as Senator Tom Daschle and former Wellpoint VP Liz Fowler, both with extensive ties to the insurance industry, who have made fortunes shuttling back and forth between government and private corporations. Fowler led the drafting of the health reform bill, and was then hired by the Obama administration to implement the law. [197][198][199]

The bill has been described by many Democrats as “making health care for all Americans a right, not a privilege,” even though the Congressional Budget Office predicts that more than 20 million people will remain uninsured in 2019. It has also been hailed as a measure that will “prevent companies from denying patients coverage,” even though the law puts big corporations even more firmly in charge of the system than before, and is riddled with loopholes that will enable them to deny their state-mandated customers coverage. [200][201] The legislation will only take effect in 2014, two years after the next presidential elections.


3.4 Social Security, social programs


During his second term, Bush attempted to privatize Social Security and cut benefits, warning that the program has to be “fixed” before it goes bankrupt. [166] This argument, often heard from both parties, is not true: the program is running a surplus of over $2.5 trillion. The Government has, however, borrowed the entire surplus from the Social Security Agency and spent it on other things, including tax cuts for the wealthy and wars. Many in the establishment, particularly Republicans, would like to avoid paying the debt back to the workers whose paychecks the money came from, and to have them work for longer with less benefits. [202][203][204]

Solvency could be secured immediately and indefinitely if high-earning Americans – those with salaries of over $100,000 a year – were not exempted from paying the same portion as lower-earning workers. [205]

“Obama and Biden will protect Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries alike. And they do not believe it is necessary or fair to hardworking seniors to raise the retirement age.” [206] (Campaign statement still on Obama’s website)

“Social Security is not in crisis. There are some fairly modest changes that could be made without resorting to any newfangled schemes that would continue Social Security for another 75 years, where everybody would get the benefits they deserve.” [207] (Town hall meeting, Columbus, OH, August 18, 2010)

“The best way to approach this is to adjust the cap on the payroll tax so that people like myself are paying a little bit more and the people who are in need are protected.” [208] (Meet the Press interview, November 11, 2007)

In December 2010, the co-chairs of the Obama-appointed National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform reported to the president on their findings. The stated task of the commission had been to recommend ways to balance the budget, but it was an open secret that a key goal was to help legislate cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – though the cuts will have little impact on the deficit. Obama created the commission with an executive order, and its work was conducted in complete secrecy. Its findings were already determined when the members were selected: most of them are either known to have an agenda against Social Security, or are representatives of big business. Obama’s personal appointees include co-chair Alan Simpson, a Republican who has called Social Security “a milk cow with 310 million tits” and spent most of his life trying to cut it, and David Cote, the CEO of the defense contractor Honeywell, who has vested interest in making sure that the military budget is not tampered with. [209][210][211][212][213]

The commission released its findings safely after the midterm elections, during which the Democrats, headed by the president, had campaigned on protecting Social Security from the Republicans. As expected, they suggested steep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The co-chairs also proposed tax cuts, mainly benefiting the wealthy and corporations, that would probably add to the deficit. This took place shortly before Obama agreed with the Republican leadership to extend another $700 billion in tax breaks to the wealthiest people in the country (see point 3.5 below). Without a super-majority, however, the commission’s proposal was not given an up-or-down vote. [214][215][216][217][217b] Only two months after gifting tax cuts to the wealthy, Obama unveiled his budget proposal for 2012, which includes painful cuts mainly to social programs that help low-income and poor Americans – before even starting negotiations with Republicans. [217b]

During the debt ceiling negotiations in the summer of 2011, Obama again proposed slashing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, as well as ending a number of social programs — not merely as a compromise with the GOP, but because, in his own words, this would be “fair and balanced,” and because “we can’t afford [these programs] right now.” [217c][217d][217e]


3.5 Bush tax cuts and corporate taxes


Bush passed two laws, in 2001 and 2003, to lower tax rates for individuals. The laws have added hundreds of billions of dollars to the national deficit, and are mostly benefiting the wealthiest people in the country. Since the 1970s, the richest one percent of the population has seen its income triple, while middle class wages have stagnated and the poverty rate has increased. The tax cuts were claimed to promote economic growth and create jobs, but the numbers show that this did not happen. The legislation was set to expire at the end of 2010. [218]

In 2004, Bush signed corporate tax legislation that gave $136 billion in tax breaks to businesses, farmers, and other groups. Ostensibly intended to help US manufacturers, the bill was widely criticized as being full of corporate giveaways and tax breaks for multinational companies that send jobs overseas, and special interests such as oil and gas producers. [293]

“I want to provide a tax cut for 95% of Americans. 95%. If you make less than a quarter million dollars a year, you will not see a single dime of your taxes go up. If you make $200,000 a year or less, your taxes will go down. … Now, in contrast, Senator McCain wants to give a $300 billion tax cut: $200 [billion] of it to the largest corporations, and $100 billion of it to people like CEOs on Wall Street. He wants to give the average Fortune 500 CEO an additional $700,000 in tax cuts. That is not fair. And it doesn’t work.” (Second presidential debate, October 2008)

“We will take those tax breaks away from the wealthiest Americans and put them in the pockets of hard-working Americans.” (Campaign rally, February 18, 2008)

“We will stop letting American companies that create jobs overseas take deductions on their expenses when they do not pay any American taxes on their profits.” [294] (Address to Congress, May 4, 2009)

In December 2010, during the last weeks of Democratic majorities in both chambers, Obama struck a deal with the Republican leadership to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans through 2012. He also handed the Republicans a massive cut in estate taxes for estates valued at $5 million or more. In exchange, he received a 13-month extension of unemployment benefits, and modest gains in tax relief for lower- and middle-income earners. [219]

In an effort to promote the proposed bill, Obama resorted simultaneously to Republican talking points and to his old campaign rhetoric, claiming that the tax cuts could “create millions of jobs,” while admitting (in an interview on NPR) that the deal would not create “a single job.” He continued: “I’ve said repeatedly that I think [the tax cuts] are not a smart thing to do, particularly because we’ve got to borrow money, essentially, to pay for them. The problem is, is that this is the single issue that the Republicans are willing to scotch the entire deal for.” [220][221][222] To fund this handout to millionaires and billionaires, the U.S. will have to borrow an additional $700 billion. [223]

The White House and Congress have yet to address corporate tax reform. Obama has proposed legislation to that effect, but also wants to lower the corporate taxes even further from Bush’s rates. [295] In the meantime, Obama has appointed Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of GE, to head the new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. GE, the nation’s largest corporation, paid no taxes in 2010 despite profits of $5.4 billion from U.S. activity (in addition to $14 billion internationally), and even claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. The company has eliminated a fifth of its U.S. workforce since 2002, while increasing overseas employment. [296]


3.6 Free trade agreements


“Trade deals like NAFTA ship jobs overseas and force parents to compete with their teenagers to work for minimum wage at Wal-Mart. That’s what happens when the American worker doesn’t have a voice at the negotiating table, when leaders change their positions on trade with the politics of the moment, and that’s why we need a president who will listen to Main Street – not just Wall Street; a president who will stand with workers not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.” [224] (Victory speech on the Potomac primary night, February 12, 2008)

“We need to use the hammer of potential opt-out as leverage to get environmental and labor standards enforced … I don’t think NAFTA has been good for Americans, and I never have.” [225] (Primary debate with Hillary Clinton on MSNBC, February 26, 2008)

In fact, as senator, Obama had been mostly supportive of free trade legislation, and only adopted his protectionist rhetoric during the primaries. This was a particularly important issue among blue-collar voters in Ohio. [226]

During Obama’s presidential campaign, his senior economic adviser was Austan Goolsbee, later the chief economist of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. In early February 2009, while Obama was using strong words to criticize NAFTA, Goolsbee met with the Canadian Consul General in Chicago, Georges Rioux. In a memo written to the Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson, Goolsbee is quoted as cautioning the Canadians that while NAFTA will be a hot topic in the primaries, Obama’s criticism “should be viewed as more about political positioning,” that Obama is not “interested in fundamental changes to the agreement,” and that, going forward, the campaign’s tone would change. Shortly thereafter, according to Canada’s CTV News, a senior member of the Obama campaign called Wilson personally, telling him “not to be worried about what Obama says about NAFTA.” [227][228]

After securing the Democratic nomination, in an interview with Fortune magazine titled ‘NAFTA not so bad after all,’ Obama downplayed his earlier statements: “Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified. Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don’t exempt myself.” During the rest of the campaign, Obama’s stance was that he would not want to renegotiate NAFTA “unilaterally.” [229]

During his first trip abroad as president, Obama met with the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper. In a joint press conference, he pledged that nothing should disrupt the flow of free trade between the neighboring countries. “Now is a time where we have to be very careful about any signals of protectionism,” Obama said. [230] According to The Washington Post, during a May 2010 visit to the U.S., the Mexican labor minister Javier Lozano Alarcón stated that Mexico “never put much stock in his promise to begin with.” [231]

In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama announced he would begin negotiations with the EU on the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA, also known as TTIP), which would constitute the largest free trade agreement in history. [231b] The pending deal has not been negotiated openly in national parliaments on either side, or in the European Parliament, but behind closed doors, between top U.S. and EU officials and corporate lobbyists. In a July 8, 2013 letter addressed to President Obama and EU leaders, 60 consumer rights and environmental organizations from Europe and the U.S. denounced the exclusive and opaque nature of the negotiations and voiced grave concern that the deal will lead to lower regulatory standards, with adverse effects on consumer interests, workers’ rights and the environment. [231c] Writing in The Guardian, economist Dean Baker points out that the economic benefits for ordinary households in the most opitimistic projections are neglible. TAFTA, written with and for large economic interests, targets “non-conventional trade barriers” – such as regulation of fracking, genetically modified food, the banking sector, etc. [231d]

The Obama administration has simultaneously joined in, and aggressively pushed forward with, another expansive free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with 11 countries on either side of the Pacific (including Canada, Chile, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and others). These negotiations have been, if possible, even more secretive than those around TAFTA: even elected officials have been barred from seeing the draft text of the agreement – while 600 “corporate advisors” have been party to formulating it. Leaked drafts of the text indicate that the deal would oblige signatories to change their laws to abide by the TPP, giving corporations an unprecedented level of freedom with issue such as food safety, medicine costs, controlling the internet, and shipping jobs overseas, while gutting regulation on things such as genetically modified foods, tobacco, financial products and transactions, etc. [232][232b][232c][232d]





4.1 The state secrets privilege


The original intention of the so-called “state secrets” privilege was to give the Government a chance to request the exclusion of certain evidence if revealing it could be harmful to national security. The Bush legal team introduced a radical reinterpretation of this evidentiary rule, making it serve to bar any legal action against the Government, throwing out entire cases involving torture, arbitrary detentions, and warrantless spying on Americans. [233]

“Plan to Change Washington. The Problem. — Secrecy Dominates Government Actions: The Bush administration has ignored public disclosure rules and has invoked a legal tool known as the “state secrets” privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court.” [233b] (Campaign statement, still online at Obama’s website)

“Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well-grounded in the Constitution. Let me say it as simply as I can: transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.” [234] (The White House, January 21, 2009)

“As Sunshine Week begins, I want to applaud everyone who has worked to increase transparency in government and recommit my administration to be the most open and transparent ever, an effort that will strengthen our democracy and ensure the public’s trust in their government. We came to Washington to change the way business was done, and part of that was making ourselves accountable to the American people by opening up our government.” [235] (Statement from the President on ‘Sunshine Week,’ March 16, 2010)

Immediately after Obama took office, his administration and the DOJ under Eric Holder adopted exactly the same legal arguments that the Bush administration had made, and have used them to discard unwanted cases against the Government. Obama has successfully continued to use the state secrets privilege to block any scrutiny of torture, arbitrary detentions, warrantless spying on Americans, extraordinary renditions, or of his assassination program (see section 1). “This is not change,” the ACLU stated early on, “This is definitely more of the same.” The most absurd application of the state secrets privilege has been in regards to the massive drone assassination campaign: While the administration publicly discusses this widely documented and commonly known program, and reveals politically beneficial details about strikes through anonymous leaks to the press, it has been able to shield it from any transparency or legal oversight by claiming that the programs very “existence or nonexistence” is a state secret (see points 2.4 and 1.6). Like Bush, Obama has successfully fought even against legislation that would expand congressional oversight of the president’s covert counterterrorism operations.


4.2 Whistleblowers and journalists


Some of the most important revelations concerning law-breaking and abuses during Bush’s presidency were made by whistleblowers within the Government. These included Thomas A. Drake, who revealed fraud and waste amounting to billions of dollars at the NSA; Thomas M. Tamm, a source behind The New York Times’ reporting on NSA’s illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens; Russell Tice, who revealed that the the NSA under Bush had spied on journalists and news organizations; and Jesselyn Radack, who disclosed that the FBI had committed ethics violations in its interrogation of John Walker Lindh. The DOJ under Bush went aggressively after leakers, issuing subpoenas to reporters demanding to know their sources, threatening them with lawsuits, and subjecting them to harassment by the FBI. No whistleblowers, however, were prosecuted. [243][244][245][246]

“Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in Government is an existing Government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government.” [247] (Statement still on-line at Obama’s website)

“We will launch a sweeping effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government… I firmly believe what Justice Louis Brandeis once said, that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I know that restoring transparency is not only the surest way to achieve results, but also to earn back the trust in government without which we cannot deliver the changes the American people sent us here to make.” [248] (White House, January 28, 2009)

Obama is pursuing the most aggressive crackdown on whistleblowers in U.S. history. Before now, government officials have rarely been indicted for disclosing information that is in the public interest. The Obama / Holder DOJ has, however, taken the strategy of not merely threatening whistleblowers with legal action as Bush did, but following through and prosecuting them. Obama has now indicted as many whistleblowers as all previous presidents combined. [249][250][251]

In April 2010, the DOJ obtained an indictment against Thomas Drake. “The whole point of the prosecution is to have a chilling effect on reporters and sources, and it will,” said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, according to The New York Times. [252] FBI linguist Shamai Leibowitz was sentenced to 20 months in prison for leaking documents about a CIA program – the longest sentence served by a government employee for leaking. [253] The DOJ issued a subpoena to Jim Risen of The New York Times, ordering him to disclose his source for a story on an embarrassing and harmful CIA operation in Iran, during which the CIA accidentally gave Iranians valuable information on how to build a nuclear weapon. [254]

This persecution of journalists and leakers began even before the whistleblower site WikiLeaks received world-wide attention for publishing secret U.S. documents and video footage from the Iraq war. The White House, along with most of the U.S. Government, is at war with the organization, whose disclosures have brought to light failures, abuses, and government disinformation about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, lies used to cover up the secret war in Yemen, and State Department espionage at the U.N, among countless other revelations. [255][256][257] Without having been convicted of any crime, the alleged leaker, Bradley Manning, was imprisoned for 17 months before his trial even began, out of which he spent 10 months in solitary confinement and under conditions that prompted condemnation from human rights organizations, the UN, and in the editorials of major newspapers in the U.S. (see point 1.5). Obama has personally defended the pre-trial treatment of Manning, who could be sentenced to up to 52 years in prison or to death. [258][259][259b][59b] People affiliated with WikiLeaks or supportive Manning have been subjected to harassment and intimidation by federal agents, while private companies have been coerced by the Government to cut their ties to the organization. As the blogger and civil rights litigator Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, the president’s “Look Forward, Not Backward” doctrine gives immunity only to officials who committed crimes such as torture, illegal domestic spying, fraud, or destruction of evidence – but those who tried to bring abuses to light are prosecuted and sent to jail. [249][251][260]

Obama also enacted rules to keep photographers and reporters from covering the 2010 BP oil spill, and blocked government scientists from disclosing their worst-case-scenario predictions for the disaster (see point 5.2).





5.1 Global warming


Dismissing the overwhelming scientific consensus on the threat of climate change and the human causes behind it, Bush refused to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol. Though criticized by environmental activists and scientists as too weak, the Kyoto Protocol represents the only available framework for legally binding cuts in carbon emissions worldwide. The isolationism of the U.S., the worlds biggest polluter, severely undermined the prospect of any legally binding international treaty for mitigating global warming. [261]

“We cannot afford more of the same timid politics when the future of our planet is at stake. Global warming is not a someday problem, it is now. We are already breaking records with the intensity of our storms, the number of forest fires, the periods of drought. By 2050 famine could force more than 250 million from their homes … The polar ice caps are now melting faster than science had ever predicted. … This is not the future I want for my daughters. It’s not the future any of us want for our children. And if we act now and we act boldly, it doesn’t have to be.” [262] (Portsmouth, NH, October 8, 2007)

“My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership in climate change. … You can be sure that the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations, and help the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.” [263] (Global Climate Summit, November 5, 2009)

“Barack Obama and Joe Biden support implementation of a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. They will start reducing emissions immediately in his administration by establishing strong annual reduction targets, and they will also implement a mandate of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.” [264] (Campaign policy statement)

Obama did bring the U.S. back into international climate negotiations, but with the agenda of terminating the Kyoto Protocol and preventing any future legally binding treaties. This was first communicated by U.S. climate negotiators to their European counterparts – as reported by The Guardian newspaper – after which Obama traveled to the December 2009 Copenhagen summit to personally reject any binding limits, and to push for the expiration of Kyoto in 2012. [265][266] The final accord, brokered by Obama, has no legal force on the signatories. When Bolivia and Ecuador, two countries that are particularly vulnerable to climate change, protested the de facto non-existent goals of the treaty, the Obama administration punished them for not signing on: the White House cancelled the climate aid promised to the countries ($3 million and $2.5 million, respectively). [267]

As Kate Horner, policy analyst at Friends of the Earth, stated on Democracy Now: “The biggest problem with the U.S. right now in the international negotiations is not just that the U.S. fails to be ambitious … but even more egregiously, instead of being honest about where the U.S. is right now, they’re actively trying to dismantle the international negotiations. … No one, I think, really foresaw the extent to which the U.S. Government would actually play such an obstructionist role. Todd Stern, the special envoy for climate change appointed by President Obama, under the auspices of what he calls a ‘new climate diplomacy,’ is taking this stance whereby they actively try to undermine all of the relevant, important provisions in the international architecture, and that’s the most damaging role.” [268]

In July 2010, the Democrats announced that they had given up on domestic climate legislation, and dropped any mention of “cap and trade” in environmental legislation proposals. The party didn’t find the political will to pass climate change legislation even when they had a supermajority in the Senate; while Obama has kept up the rhetoric on passing a comprehensive climate bill, there is virtually no chance of that happening after the 2010 midterm elections saw Democrats lose their majority in the House of Representatives. [269]

As the U.S. has dropped all plans to reduce its own emissions while actively rejecting the possibility of any binding international treaty, the results of the 2010 climate negotiations in Cancún, Mexico were predictable: no concrete action was taken to curb global warming. [270]

Obama has also endorsed the expansion of so-called “clean coal” technology. Coal is responsible for 81 percent of carbon dioxide and nearly all sulfur dioxide emissions in the country, but provides only 45 percent of all electricity. [270b] According to both the EPA and the industry, the term “clean coal” refers to any coal technology introduced since the passage of emissions regulations in the 1990s; this could refer to any existing coal plant. The term is also misleadingly used to describe possible future technologies that do not exist, and whose viability even many supporters doubt. [270c][270d][270e][282]

The administration invested $1 billion of federal stimulus money into a new coal project, in a deal with a consortium of around 20 coal industry corporations. [270f] In an interview with ABC news, the environmental lawyer Rober F. Kennedy, Jr. called Obama and other politicians favoring clean coal technology “indentured servants” of the industry. “Clean coal is a dirty lie,” he said. Obama received $242,000 in campaign contributions from the coal industry. [270g]


5.2 Offshore drilling


Among many other policies aimed at pleasing oil companies, the Bush administration pushed Congress to lift a ban on offshore drilling in most parts of the U.S. These attempts were defeated by Senate Democrats. Bush also eased safety regulations on oil drilling. The Minerals Management Service (MMS), the supposed watchdog agency within the Government, was controlled by oil companies and rife with ethics violations. [271][272]

“[Barack Obama] supports maintaining current moratoriums on new offshore oil and natural gas drilling.” [264] (Campaign policy statement)

“[Offshore drilling] would have long-term consequences to our coastlines but no short term benefits since it would take at least 10 years to get any oil… It will take a generation to reach full production and even then the effect on gas prices will be minimal at best.” [273] (Jacksonville, FL, June 20, 2008)

“[McCain’s] decision to completely change his position and tell a group of Houston oil executives exactly what they wanted to hear today was the same Washington politics that has prevented us from achieving energy independence for decades … Opening our coastlines to offshore drilling would take at least a decade to produce any oil at all, and the effect on gasoline prices would be negligible at best … It’s another example of short-term political posturing from Washington, not the long-term leadership we need to solve our dependence on oil.” [274] (Campaign statement, June 17, 2008)

In March 2010, President Obama announced plans to open vast areas of coastal waters in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas drilling, most of it for the first time. His plan expands drilling beyond what Bush had tried to achieve. Obama’s stated rationale was exactly the one he had, as a candidate, rejected as demonstrably false: namely, energy independence and economic growth. [274][275]

Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, described the decision as “all too typical of what we have seen so far from president Obama – promises of change, a year of ‘deliberation,’ and ultimately, adoption of flawed and outdated Bush policies as his own. Rather than bring about the change we need, this plan will further our national addiction to oil and contribute to global warming, while at the same time directly despoiling the habitat of polar bears, endangered whales, and other imperiled wildlife.” [276]

The MMS, under Obama-appointee and “great friend” Ken Salazar, continued in its role as a rubber stamp for oil companies. Salazar had played a key role as a senator in the passage of a law that opened 8 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil extraction. Offshore drilling under Obama was soon boosted to record levels, while all warning signs of potential safety hazards were ignored. [272] Some two weeks before the catastrophic BP oil rig explosion, Obama stated: “The oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills. They are technologically very advanced.” [277] In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the White House kept up the policy of exempting new drilling projects from environmental review. [278]

A report released by the national commission investigating the oil spill documents how the Obama White House blocked scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from revealing their worst-case-scenario models, while giving false or misleading numbers to the public. [279][280] The White House insisted for a long time on an estimate that was 12 times lower than the actual spill, while Carol Browner, the White House energy adviser, declared that “the vast majority of the oil is gone.” [281]


5.3 Nuclear power


Amid promises of a “nuclear renaissance,” and backed by Republican lawmakers who had long been champions of the nuclear power industry (and recipients of its sizable campaign contributions), the Bush administration granted nuclear utility companies $13 billion in subsidies as well as $18 billion in taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for the construction of new plants. [311][312] Bush’s presidency came to an end before his administration gave any actual loans to utility companies, and no new plant construction took place under his watch. [313]

“I start out with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal, so I am not a nuclear energy proponent… My general view is that, until we can make certain that nuclear power plants are safe, that they have solved the storage problem, and until [the] nuclear industry can show that they can create clean, safe energy, without enormous subsidies from the U.S. Government, I don’t think that’s the best option. I am much more interested in solar, and wind, and biodiesel, and strategies that not only will create clean energy, but will also create jobs in rural communities and areas that have been hard hit [by the recession].” [314] (Town hall meeting in Newton, IA, December 30, 2007)

By the time Obama made the above statement, he had already demonstrated his coziness with the nuclear industry. In 2006, when Illinois residents protested upon learning that Exelon Corp. had kept radioactive leaks at one of its nuclear plants secret, Senator Obama introduced a bill to require all plant owners to immediately notify state and local authorities of any leaks. But under pressure from Exelon and Senate Republicans, Obama changed the language of the bill so that it no longer legally mandated leak reporting, and instead offered only non-binding guidance to regulators. Even this watered-down version of the bill didn’t pass, but while campaigning for the 2008 presidential election, Obama continued to tout it as a success and as a demonstration of his commitment to nuclear safety. [315] Exelon is the country’s largest nuclear plant operator, and was one of the four largest sources of campaign money for Obama from 2003 to 2006. [316] Two of its employees, executive vice president Frank M. Clark and director John W. Rogers, Jr., were prominent fundraisers for Obama’s 2008 campaign, and David Axelrod, Obama’s chief campaign strategist and eventual Senior Advisor, had worked for the company as a consultant. [315]

With both his 2010 and 2011 Budget Plans, President Obama followed through with his campaign promise to terminate the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository program. But in the 2011 plan, Obama announced his intentions to triple the amount of loan guarantees for construction of new nuclear power plants to $55 billion, from the $18 billion already approved under the Bush administration. [317][311] On February 16, 2010, Obama announced the first actual grants of these taxpayer-backed and taxpayer-subsidized loans: $8.33 billion for the construction of two new reactors — which would be the first to be built in the U.S. in over 30 years should the project be realized — at a plant in Augusta, Georgia, owned by the Southern Co. utility. [318] In 2009, Southern Co. spent over $13 million on lobbying, the most of any utility company, out of an industry-wide total lobbying expenditure of $146 million. [319] Nine months later ABC News revealed that at least half of the $6 billion in loan guarantees that Obama had previously set aside for development of clean, renewable energy had been “quietly drained” for funding other programs. [320]

Prior to the passing of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 under Bush, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the risk of default on loans for new nuclear plant construction to be greater than 50%. [321][322] This implies that taxpayer-funded bailouts of huge power companies are, in fact, a likely result of granting such loans. [322a] Many analysts speculated that Obama’s February 2010 endorsement of the nuclear renaissance was a concession to Republican lawmakers in order to win their support for forthcoming climate legislation. [318] But Obama restated his commitment to nuclear energy a year later, some eight months after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had already declared the climate legislation dead — and in the immediate wake of the nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Daichi plant in Japan. [323][324] The Fukushima disaster was the worst of its kind since Chernobyl. [325]

Mitigating climate change will require replacement of fossil fuel-based energy infrastructure with alternative energy sources. The optimal role of nuclear energy in such a conversion is a matter of debate, even among scientists and environmentalists. [326] Independent analysts and nuclear utility executives alike nevertheless agree on one thing: new nuclear power is extremely expensive, and expansion of nuclear infrastructure is financially unfeasible without extensive subsidies from the federal government. [327][328][329] An important part of nuclear subsidization comes in the form of an insurance policy that was written into law at the dawn of the age of nuclear power: The 1957 Price-Anderson Act stipulates that nuclear plant operators will be held financially accountable for accidents only up to $12 billion (in 2011 dollars), after which the taxpayer will foot the bill. [330] As points of comparison, the eventual price tag for Fukushima cleanup has been estimated at between $70 and $250 billion, while Chernobyl cost around $235 billion. [331][332] In practice the financial risk in operating a nuclear plant is borne primarily by the taxpayer, while the profits go to the plant owners.

Any money invested in nuclear energy is money that could have been invested in research and development of green energy sources that don’t pose the same formidable hazards to human health and the environment. Some studies indicate that all global energy needs could be provided by existing alternative energy technology in just a few decades, were the political will to be mustered. [333][334]


5.4 Ground-level ozone limits


In 2008, after EPA scientists recommended stricter limits for ground-level ozone levels to better protect public health, Bush personally intervened after hearing complaints from electric utilities and other affected industries. His EPA set a standard of 75 parts per billion, stricter than the one adopted in 1997, but not as strong as federal scientists said was needed to protect public health. [306]

“As president, Barack Obama will restore the force of the Clean Air Act. He and Joe Biden will fight for continued reductions in smog and soot, and continue his leadership in combating toxins that contribute to air pollution. Unlike President Bush, they will listen to his scientific advisers on air quality standards.” (2008 Campaign policy statement)[307]

In 2011 the EPA was once again slated to lower ground-level ozone limits, from 75 to 60-70 parts per billion, following the recommendations of the agency’s scientists and health experts. In response to lobbying by affected industries, Obama announced on September 2, 2011 that he was rejecting the EPA proposal, and that polluters would continue to be held only to the more lenient standards set by Bush. [306][308]

According to a study by the American Lung Association, tougher ground-level ozone standards could prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks, other acute respiratory symptoms, and premature deaths. [309] A poll by the American Lung Association also revealed that 75% of American voters would approve of the tighter limits proposed by the EPA. [310]


[1] The New York Times, 09/28/2006: “Senate Passes Detainee Bill Sought by Bush,” by Kate Zernike

[2] Floor Statement of Senator Barack Obama on the Habeas Corpus Amendment

[3] The New York Times, 04/10/09: “Obama to Appeal Detainee Ruling”

[4] The Raw Story, 10/25/2010: “Federal court allows US to keep info on Bagram prisoners a secret,” by Stephen C. Webster

[5] The Washington Post, 04/11/2009: “Obama Follows Bush Policy on Detainee Access to Courts,” by Jeffrey Smith

[6] Amnesty International USA: “President Obama and Congress: Respect Human Rights and Counter Terror with Justice”

[6a] The New York Times, 12/14/2011: “Obama Drops Veto Threat Over Military Authorization Bill After Revisions,” by Charlie Savage

[6b] The New York Times, 12/31/2011: “After Struggle on Detainees, Obama Signs Defense Bill,” by Mark Landler

[6c] National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2012

[6d] Salon, 12/16/2011: “Three myths about the detention bill,” by Glenn Greenwald

[6da] The Washington Post, 01/12/2012: “10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free,” by Jonathan Turley

[6e] The White House, 11/17/2011: Statement Of Administration Policy — S. 1867 – National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012

[6f] The White House, 12/31/2011: Statement by the President on H.R. 1540

[6g] Gateway Pundit, 01/02/2012: “Obama Expresses Objections to Indefinite Detention of US Citizens While Signing Defense Bill …(But It Was His Administration That Insisted the Language Was Included in Bill),” by Jim Hoft

[6h] Senator Carl Levin’s website, 11/18/2011: Senate Floor Speech on the Detainee Provision in the Defense Authorization Bill — Remarks as prepared for delivery

[6i] Human Rights Watch, 12/14/2011: “US: Refusal to Veto Detainee Bill A Historic Tragedy for Rights”

[7] Times Online, 06/12/2006: “Bush: ‘I’d like to close Guantanamo Bay’ ”

[8] American Civil Liberties Union, 09/24/2009: “The Torture Report”

[9] Harper’s Magazine, 01/18/2010: “The Guantánamo ‘Suicides’: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle,” by Scott Horton

[10] Organizing for America | Where Barack Stands: “Close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center”

[11] Executive Order 13492 of January 22, 2009: Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained At the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities

[11b] The New York Times, 05/20/2009: “Funds to Close Guantánamo Denied,” by David M. Herszenhorn

[11c] The American Civil Liberties Union, 12/15/2009: “Creating a ‘Gitmo North’ an Alarming Step, Says ACLU”

[12] BBC, 15/04/2010: “Afghans ‘abused at secret prison’ at Bagram airbase”

[13] Salon, 05/21/2010: “Obama wins the right to detain people with no habeas review,” by Glenn Greenwald

[14] The Huffington Post, 12/07/2010: “Obama’s Bagram Detainees Decision ‘Eerily Familiar’,” by Jason Linkins

[15] The Washington Independent, 04/08/10: “Civil Liberties Groups Oppose Obama’s Plan to Close Gitmo, Absent Serious Changes,” by Spencer Ackerman

[16] American Civil Liberties Union, 10/28/2009: “President Obama Signs Military Commissions Changes Into Law: Fatally Flawed System Is
Beyond Repair, Says ACLU”

[16b] Executive Order of March 7, 2011: Periodic Review of Individuals Detained at Guantánamo Bay Naval Station Pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force

[16c] The Washington Post, 03/08/2011: “Obama creates indefinite detention system for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay,” by Peter Finn and Anne E. Kornblut

[16d] The Washington Post, 05/02/2013: “Guantanamo hunger strike renews debates over indefinite detention,” by Peter Finn and Julie Tate

[16e] The New England Journal of Medicine, 07/11/2013: “Guantanamo Bay: A Medical Ethics–free Zone?” by George J. Annas, J.D., M.P.H., Sondra S. Crosby, M.D., and Leonard H. Glantz, J.D.

[16f] The Washington Post, 07/11/2013: “Kafka at Gitmo: Why 86 prisoners are cleared for release but might never get it,” by Max Fisher

[17] Wikipedia: “Military Commissions Act of 2006”

[18] The New York Times, 03/08/2010: “Experts Urge Keeping Two Options for Terror Trials,” by Charlie Savage and Scott Shane

[19], 06/18/2008: Obama Remarks on Detainees and Afghanistan

[20] The Washington Post, 05/16/09: “Obama to Revamp Military Tribunals,” by Michael D. Shear and Peter Finn

[21] Amnesty International USA, 05/15/09: “Obama Breaks Major Campaign Promise as Military Commissions Resume”

[22] The Wall Street Journal: “Obama’s Military Tribunals – Another Friday, another bow to Bush’s antiterror legacy”

[23] The White House, 05/21/2009: Remarks By The President On National Security

[24] The Washington Post, 05/22/2009: “Obama Endorses Indefinite Detention Without Trial for Some,” by Peter Finn

[25] The Rachel Maddow Show, 05/21/2009: Maddow’s comments on Obama’s ‘preventative detention’

[26] The New York Times, 06/22/2009: “Who Are We?” by Bob Herbert

[27] Salon, 07/08/2009: “The Obama justice system,” by Glenn Greenwald

[28] The Globe and Mail, 08/09/2010: “Omar Khadr’s trial has been tainted by coercion”

[29] U.N. News Centre, 08/10/2010: “UN envoy warns of implications of trial of last child soldier held in Guantánamo”

[29b] The Wall Street Journal, 04/05/2011: “U.S. Reverses on 9/11 Trials: Alleged Terror Plotter, Four Others to Face Military Tribunals as Obama Backtracks,” by Evan Perez

[29c] Slate, 04/04/11: “Cowardly, Stupid, and Tragically Wrong: The Obama administration’s appalling decision to give Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a military trial,” by Dahlia Lithwick

[30] Deutsche Welle, 02/20/2009: “EU Denounces Members for Involvement in US Renditions”,,4043006,00.html

[31] OpenDemocracy, 02/09/2006: “The world as a battlefield,” by Paul Rogers

[32] Foreign Affairs, July-August 2007: “Renewing American Leadership,” by Barack Obama

[33] Los Angeles Times, 02/01/2009: “Obama preserves renditions as counter-terrorism tool,” by Greg Miller

[34] Campaign for Liberty, 08/24/2009: “Renditioning Under Obama,” by Anthony Gregory

[35] The New York Times, 08/24/2009: “U.S. Says Rendition to Continue, but With More Oversight,” by David Johnston

[36] The Huffington Post, 08/11/2009: “Target Of Obama-Era Rendition Alleges Torture,” by Scott Horton

[37] The New York Times, 08/03/2010: “Lawyers Seeking Terror Suspect’s Case Sue U.S.,” by Charlie Savage

[38] Physicians for Human Rights, 06/2010: “Experiments in Torture: Evidence of Human Subject Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program”

[39] Associated Press, 11/7/2005: “Bush: ‘We do not torture’ terror suspects”

[40] The New York Times, 10/04/2007: Transcript – Barack Obama on MSNBC

[41] The Washington Post, 01/22/2009: “Obama: U.S. ‘Will Not Torture’ ”

[42] The New York Times, 01/11/2009: “Obama Reluctant to Look Into Bush Programs,” by David Johnston and Charlie Savage

[43] Salon, 06/08/2010: “A growing part of the Obama legacy,” by Glenn Greenwald

[44] American Civil Liberties Union, 02/04/2009: “Obama Endorses Bush Secrecy on Torture and Rendition”

[45] American Civil Liberties Union, 06/12/2009: “Obama Administration Seeks To Keep Torture Victims From Having Day In Court”

[46] Open Society Institute, 10/14/2010: “Confinement Conditions at a U.S. Screening Facility on Bagram Air Base”

[47] Harper’s Magazine, 10/2010: “Inside a Secret DOD Prison in Afghanistan,” by Scott Horton

[48] WikiLeaks, 07/25/2010: “War Diary: Iraq War Logs”
Currently available only through

[49] Yahoo! News / AP, 10/26/2010: “US: Enemies searching WikiLeaks Iraq papers,” by Lara Jakes

[50] BBC, 10/23/2010: “Wikileaks: Iraq war logs ‘reveal truth about conflict’ ”

[51] The Guardian, 10/24/2010: “Iraq war logs: US turned over captives to Iraqi torture squads,” by David Leigh and Maggie O’Kane

[52] The Guardian, 10/23/2010: “Iraq war logs: UN calls on Obama to investigate human rights abuses,” by David Batty and Jamie Doward

[53] The Guardian, 10/24/2010: “WikiLeaks Iraq war logs: Nick Clegg calls for investigation of abuse claims,” by Jonathan Haynes, Mark Townsend, and Paul Harris

[53b] The Washington Post, 10/21/2011: “U.S. had advance warning of abuse at Afghan prisons, officials say,” by Joshua Partlow and Julie Tate

[53b] The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, October 2011 report: “Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees in Afghan Custody”

[54] International Committee of the Red Cross, 14/09/2010: “US detention related to the fight against terrorism – the role of the ICRC”

[55] Reuters, 08/10/2009: “Gitmo still far from Geneva Conventions: lawyer,” by William Maclean

[56] Harper’s Magazine, 07/2009: “We Still Torture,” by Luke Mitchell

[57] / AFP, 03/08/2009: “Guantanamo worse since Obama election: ex-detainee”

[57b] Reuters, 02/25/2009: “Exclusive: Lawyer says Guantanamo abuse worse since Obama,” by Luke Baker

[58] The Atlantic, 05/11/2009: “Stanley McChrystal: A History Of Condoning Torture?” by Andrew Sullivan

[59] MSNBC, 5/13/2009: “In reversal, Obama seeks to block abuse photos: Images reportedly depict the abuse of prisoners by U.S. military in Iraq”

[59b] The New York Times, 03/11/2011: “Obama Defends Detention Conditions for Soldier Accused in WikiLeaks Case,” by Scott Shane

[59c] Firedoglake: FDL Coverage of Bradley Manning’s Detention

[59d] The New York Times, 03/14/2011: “The Abuse of Private Manning”

[59e] Los Angeles Times, 03/14/2011: “Punishing Pfc. Manning”

[59f] The Wall Street Journal, 03/15/2011: “Pfc. Bradley Manning doesn’t deserve humiliating treatment”

[59g] The New York Review of Books, 03/15/2011: “Private Manning’s Humiliation,” by Bruce Ackerman (Yale Law Schoo) and Yochai Benkler (Harvard Law School)

[59h] The New York Times, 12/16/2011: “Private in WikiLeaks Spying Case Goes to Court,” by Scott Shane

[60] The Washington Post, 01/27/2010: “U.S. military teams, intelligence deeply involved in aiding Yemen on strikes,” by Dana Priest

[61] The Boston Globe, 12/2007: Presidential candidate Q&A

[62] The Raw Story, 06/28/2010: ” ‘Dozens’ of US citizens on assassination list, White House adviser hints,” by Muriel Kane

[63] BBC, 06/02/2010: “UN official criticises US over drone attacks”

[64] Salon, 04/07/2010: “Confirmed: Obama authorizes assassination of U.S. citizen,” by Glenn Greenwald

[64b] The New York Times, 09/30/2011: “U.S.-Born Qaeda Leader Killed in Yemen,” by Laura Kasinof, Mark Mazzetti and Alan Cowell

[64c] Emptywheel, 09/30/2011: “Extrajudicial Execution of Samir Khan Arguably More Significant Than Awlaki,” by bmaz

[64d] The Washington Post, 10/17/2011: “Anwar al-Awlaki’s family speaks out against his son’s death in airstrike,” by Peter Finn and Greg Miller

[64e] The New Yorker, blogs, 10/18/2011: “An American Teen-ager in Yemen,” by Amy Davidson

[65] The New York Times, 09/07/2006: “Democrats Attack Bush’s Anti-Terrorism Strategy,” by Christine Hauser and David Stout

[66] The U.S. Justice Department: “The USA PATRIOT Act: Preserving Life and Liberty”

[67] Floor Statement – PATRIOT Act Reauthorization

[68] The New York Times, 10/07/2009: “Patriot Act Excesses”

[69] Electronic Frontier Foundation, 10/08/09: “Obama Sides with Republicans; PATRIOT Act Renewal Bill Passes Senate Judiciary Committee Minus Critical Civil Liberties Reforms”

[70] The New York Times, 07/29/2010: “Breaking a Promise on Surveillance”

[70b] CBS News / AP, 05/26/2011: “Senate moves Patriot Act toward extension”;lst;3

[70c] The New York Times, 05/26/2011: “Senators Say Patriot Act Is Being Misinterpreted,” by Charlie Savage

[71] The Washington Post, 07/29/2010: “White House proposal would ease FBI access to records of Internet activity,” by Ellen Nakashima

[72] The American Prospect, 07/29/2010: “Obama’s Power Grab,” by Julian Sanchez

[73] The New York Times, 12/16/2005: “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau

[74] Chicago Tribune, 05/24/2006: “State secrets privilege slams door on civil suits,” by Andrew Zajac

[75] NPR, 02/12/2008: “Senate Passes FISA Bill with Immunity for Telecoms,” by David Welna

[75b] Policymic, 06/10/2013: “Obama PRISM: Watch Senator Obama School President Obama,” by Dina Pérez

[76] Firedoglake, 01/28/2008: Barack Obama Statement on FISA

[77] Talking Points Memo | Election Central, 10/24/2007: “Obama Camp Says It: He’ll Support Filibuster Of Any Bill Containing Telecom Immunity,” by Greg Sargent

[78] The Huffington Post, 07/03/2008: “My Position on FISA,” by Barack Obama

[79] Wired, 07/09/2008: “Senate Approves Telecom Amnesty, Expands Domestic Spying Powers,” by Ryan Singel

[80] Salon, 04/06/2009: “New and worse secrecy and immunity claims from the Obama DOJ,” by Glenn Greenwald

[81] Department of Justice (Obama / Holder), 06/29/2009: Brief on lawsuits concerning Bush’s surveillance program

[82] The Atlantic, 04/07/2009: “Shut Up: It’s Still a Secret,” by Marc Ambinder

[83] Talking Points Memo, 07/03/2008: “Time-line Of Obama’s Statements On FISA,” by Greg Sargent and Eric Kleefeld

[84] Electronic Frontier Foundation, 04/07/2009: “In Warrantless Wiretapping Case, Obama DOJ’s New Arguments Are Worse Than Bush’s,” by Tim Jones

[85] The New York Times, 04/15/009: “Officials Say U.S. Wiretaps Exceeded Law,” by Eric Lichtblau and James Risen

[86] Reuters, 04/16/2009: “U.S. phone intercepts go beyond legal limits: report”

[86a] The Guardian RSS: The NSA Files

[86b] Forbes, 09/09/2013: “Ten Things We’ve Learned About The NSA From A Summer Of Snowden Leaks,” by Andy Greenberg

[86c] The Washington Post, 07/14/2013: “For NSA chief, terrorist threat drives passion to ‘collect it all,’ observers say,” by Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick

[86d] The Guardian, 06/06/2013: “NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others,” by Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill

[86e] Forbes, 06/06/2013: “U.S. Senators: NSA Cellphone Spying Has Gone On ‘For Years’,” by Parmy Olson

[86f] The Guardian, 09/09/2013: “NSA accused of spying on Brazilian oil company Petrobras,” by Jonathan Watts

[86g] Der Spiegel, 08/26/2013: “Codename ‘Apalachee’: How America Spies on Europe and the UN,” by Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark

[86h] The Guardian, 09/05/2013: “Revealed: how US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security,” by James Ball, Julian Borger and Glenn Greenwald

[86i] The Washington Post, 08/15/2013: “NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds,” by Barton Gellman

[86j] The Guardian, 06/20/2013: “Procedures used by NSA to minimize data collection from US persons: Exhibit B – full document”

[86k] The Guardian / ProPublica, 08/07/2013: “Obama pushed for tighter regulation of NSA surveillance as a senator,” by Kara Brandeisky

[86l] The Guardian, 08/21/2013: “NSA illegally collected thousands of emails before Fisa court halted program,” by Spencer Ackerman

[86m] The Wall Street Journal, 08/20/2013: “New Details Show Broader NSA Surveillance Reach,” by Siobhan Gorman and Jennifer Valentino-DeVries

[86n] MSNBC, 07/02/2013: “Director of National Intelligence apologizes for his ‘clearly erroneous’ NSA testimony,” by Sarah Muller

[86o] The Guardian, 08/04/2013: “Members of Congress denied access to basic information about NSA,” by Glenn Greenwald

[86p] Senator Ron Wyden’s website, 08/16/2013: Wyden, Udall Statement on Reports of Compliance Violations Made Under NSA Collection Programs

[86pa] The Indypendent, 06/16/2013: “As the NSA Follows You, We Follow the Money,” by Emily Masters

[86q] The Wall Street Journal, 06/07/2013: Transcript: Obama’s Remarks on NSA Controversy

[86r] Salon, 09/23/2013: “Obama’s NSA review panel littered with insiders,” by Natasha Lennard

[87] The New York Times, 09/27/2010: “U.S. Tries to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet,” by Charlie Savage

[88] Reuters, 06/29/2007: “Senate kills Bush immigration reform bill,” by Donna Smith

[89] “Barack Obama Campaign Promise No. 525: Introduce a comprehensive immigration bill in the first year”

[90] Organizing for America: Immigration

[91] OnTheIssues, 2008: Barack Obama on Immigration

[92] FDL News Desk, 05/20/2010: “Deportations Under Obama Rise in 2009-2010,” by David Dayen

[93] Mother Jones, 05/27/2010: “Obama’s Immigration Policy: ‘Bush on Steroids’?” by Suzy Khimm

[94] The New York Times, 08/13/2010: “Obama Signs Border Bill to Increase Surveillance,” by Julia Preston

[95] Gallup, 06/07/2010: “Hispanics’ Approval of Obama Drops in 2010,” by Lydia Saad

[96] CBS News, 12/22/2010: “Obama: My ‘Biggest Disappointment’ is Not Passing DREAM Act,” by Stephanie Condon

[97] The Washington Post, 02/06/2007: “Bush’s Defense Budget Biggest Since Reagan Era,” by Ann Scott Tyson

[98] BBC, 01/08/2004: “Iraq WMD threat ‘misrepresented’ ”

[99] The Guardian, 02/02/2004: “Bush yields to pressure for independent WMD inquiry: Weapons inspector’s doubts trigger investigation into intelligence failures,” by David Teather

[100], 08/25/2006: “Bush and Saddam Should Both Stand Trial, Says Nuremberg Prosecutor,” by Aaron Glantz

[101] Wikisource: Barack Obama’s Iraq Speech — Against Going to War with Iraq (2002)’s_Iraq_Speech

[102] “Barack Obama on War & Peace”

[103] Center for American Progress, 02/26/2009: “Obama’s Defense Budget Is on Target,” by Lawrence J. Korb

[104] Newsweek, 01/03/2011: “Man of War,” by Stephen L. Carter

[105] Slate, 02/01/2010: “Too Big To Fail? President Obama has proposed the largest defense budget since World War II,” by Fred Kaplan

[106] Reuters, 02/01/2010: “Obama seeks record $708 billion in 2011 defense budget,” by Andrea Shalal-Esa

[107] Institute for Policy Studies, 02/21/2011: “A Military Budget on the Wrong Side of History,” by Miriam Pemberton

[108] The Washington Post, 06/04/2010: “U.S. ‘secret war’ expands globally as Special Operations forces take larger role,” by Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe

[109] BBC, 12/04/2010: “Wikileaks files reveal secret US-Yemen bomb deal”

[110] Amnesty International, 06/06/2010: “Images of missile and cluster munitions point to US role in fatal attack in Yemen”

[111] The New York Times, 12/27/2009: “U.S. Widens Terror War to Yemen, a Qaeda Bastion,” by Eric Schmitt and Robert F. Worth

[112] AP, 08/06/2009: “Clinton Vows U.S. Support for Somalia”

[113] McClatchy, 07/29/2010: “Obama seeks to expand arms exports by trimming approval process,” by Maggie Bridgeman

[114] The Guardian, 09/13/2010: “Barack Obama to authorise record $60bn Saudi arms sale,” by Ian Black

[114b] CNN Money, 02/24/2011: “America’s hottest export: Weapons,” by Mina Kimes

[114c] The White House, 10/25/2010: Presidential Memorandum–Child Soldiers Prevention Act

[114d] Foreign Policy – The Cable, 10/28/2010: “Child soldiers backlash: White House argues continuing military assistance more important than enforcing law,” by Josh Rogin

[114e] Foreign Policy – The Cable, 10/28/2010: “Human rights groups press Obama on child soldiers decision,” by Josh Rogin

[114f] Human Rights Watch: NGO letter to President Obama regarding Child Soldiers Prevention Act

[114g] The White House, 10/4/2011: Presidential Memorandum — Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008


[114i] Foreign Policy, 10/4/2011: “Obama waives penalties on countries that employ child soldiers – again!” by Josh Rogin

[114j] ABC News, 10/05/2011: “Obama Waives Child Soldier Ban in Yemen and Congo,” by Avni Patel

[114k] Foreign Policy, 10/01/2012: “Obama Waives Sanctions on Countries that use Child Soldiers,” by Josh Rogin

[115] Organizing for America | Obama News & Speeches, 02/12/2008: Remarks of Senator Barack Obama — Potomac Primary Night

[115b] The New York Times, 08/02/2010: “In Speech on Iraq, Obama Reaffirms Drawdown,” by Peter Baker

[116] CNN, 01/08/2010: “Bush holdover Gates agrees to another year with Obama,” by Kristi Keck

[116b] The New York Times, 07/02/2010: “War in Iraq Defies U.S. Timetable for End of Combat,” by Tim Arango

[116c] Democracy Now, 08/20/2010: “Obama Admin Claims End to Combat Operations in Iraq, But Iraqis See Same War Under a Different Name”

[117] The Guardian, 08/04/2010: “The US isn’t leaving Iraq, it’s rebranding the occupation,” by Seumas Milne

[117b] CNN, 08/19/2010: Nir Rosen on the future of Iraq: ‘Nothing has changed today’

[117c] The Nation, 07/22/2010: “Iraq Withdrawal? Obama and Clinton Expanding US Paramilitary Force in Iraq,” by Jeremy Scahill

[117d] Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq On the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq [Status-Of-Forces Agreement], 11/19/2008

[118] The Washington Post, 11/18/2008: “Bush Reversal on Iraq Deadline Gives Obama Breathing Room,” by Michael Abramowitz

[118a] Politico, 08/19/2011: “U.S. forces to stay in Iraq into 2012, says Leon Panetta,” by Reid J. Epstein

[118ab] National Journal, 10/21/2011: “U.S. Troop Withdrawal Motivated by Iraqi Insistence, Not U.S. Choice,” by Yochi J. Dreazen

[118ac] McClatchy, 08/31/2011: “WikiLeaks: Iraqi children in U.S. raid shot in head, U.N. says,” by Matthew Schofield

[118ad] McClatchy, 07/21/2011: “State Dept. planning to field a small army in Iraq,” by Warren P. Strobel

[118b] Yahoo News / AP, 02/16/2011: “Gates: US has ‘interest’ in keeping troops in Iraq,” by Robert Burns

[119] The Telegraph, 08/01/2010: “July deadliest month in Iraq for two years”

[120] The New York Times / AP, 09/21/2013: “Attacks Kill Scores in Iraq as Violence Surges.”

[121] The Washington Post, 06/23/2010: “Lack of electricity and water puts Iraqis on edge during heat of summer,” by Leila Fadel

[122] The New York Times, 11/26/2010: “Iraq’s Troubles Drive Out Refugees Who Came Back,” by John Leland

[123] Iraq Body Count, 12/30/2010 | Iraqi deaths from violence in 2010: Analysis of the year’s civilian death toll from Iraq Body Count

[124] The Huffington Post, 01/03/2011: “Playing God in the Middle East,” by Michael Brenner

[124b] The Washington Post, 02/27/2011: “After Iraq’s Day of Rage, a Crackdown on Intellectuals,” by Stephanie McCrummen

[124c] The White House, 12/01/2009: Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan

[125] The Telegraph, 01/04/2011: “US surge in Afghanistan ‘not working’,” by Ben Farmer

[126] Statistics for Operation Enduring Freedom

[126b] Council on Foreign Relations 07/31/13: UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan — Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

[127] USA Today, 05/13/2010: “Afghan war costs now outpace Iraq’s,” by Richard Wolf

[128] Salon, 04/12/2010: “More cause and effect in the War against Terrorists,” by Glenn Greenwald

[129], 08/20/2010: “More U.S. Troops Killed in Afghanistan Under Obama Than Under Bush: No end in sight,” by Michael Prysner

[129b] The Guardian, 07/19/2010: “White House shifts Afghanistan strategy towards talks with Taliban,” by Ewen MacAskill in Washington and Simon Tisdall

[130] The Huffington Post, 12/04/2009: “For Obama the Road to Reelection Runs Through Kabul – Or So He Thinks,” by Christian Parenti

[130a] Christian Science Monitor, 09/02/2009: “Western envoys: Expect run-off in Afghanistan election,” by Robert Marquand

[130aa] ZNet, 10/14/2004: “Afghan Farce,” by Christian Parenti

[130ab] Time Magazine, 10/19/2009: “How the Afghan election was rigger,” by Peter W. Galbraith,9171,1929210,00.html

[130ac] The New York Times, 10/04/2008: “Reports Link Karzai’s Brother to Afghanistan Heroin Trade,” by James Risen

[130ad] The New York Times, 10/27/2009: “Brother of Afghan Leader Said to Be Paid by C.I.A.,” by Dexter Filkins, Mark Mazzetti and James Risen

[130ae] BBC News, 11/27/2012: “At the mercy of Afghanistan’s warlords,” by Rustam Qobil

[130af] Center for American Progress, 05/11/2010: “Governance in Afghanistan — Looking Ahead to What We Leave Behind,” by Colin Cookman and Caroline Wadhams

[130b] Reuters, 06/22/2011: “Obama moves toward exit from Afghanistan,” by Missy Ryan and Steve Holland

[130c] Time, 01/09/2012: “Afghan Troops Numbers: How Low Can the U.S. Go?” by Mark Thompson

[130c] Foreign Policy, 01/09/2012: “State Department official: Negotiations to extend U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan starting soon,” by Josh Rogin

[131] The New Yorker, 10/26/09: “The Predator Wars,” by Jane Mayer

[131a] The New America Foundation – Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative, retrieved 4/30/2011: “The Year of the Drone”

[131b] The Telegraph, 03/04/2010: “One in three killed by US drones in Pakistan is a civilian, report claims,” by Dean Nelson

[132] AolNews, 05/19/2010: “Pakistani Scholar Disputes US Drone Death Tallies,” by Sharon Weinberger

[132b] The Brookings Institute, 07/14/2009: “Do Targeted Killings Work?” by Daniel L. Byman

[133] The New York Times, 04/06/2009, “More Drone Attacks in Pakistan Planned,” by Eric Schmitt and Christopher Drew

[133a] The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 08/10/2011, “Covert US strikes in Pakistan,Yemen and Somalia – our methodology”

[133ab] The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 08/10/2011: “Drone War Exposed – the complete picture of CIA strikes in Pakistan,” by Chris Woods

[133ac] Business Insider, 06/30/2011: “U.S. Launches Drone Strikes In Sixth Muslim Country,” by Ricky Kreitner

[133ad] The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 02/04/2012: “Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals,” by Chris Woods and Christina Lamb

[133ae] The Washington Post, 04/25/2012: “White House approves broader Yemen drone campaign,” by Greg Miller

[133af] The New York Times, 05/29/2012: “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” by Jo Becker and Scott Shane

[133ag] The Huffington Post, 11/21/2008: “John Brennan, Torture-Tainted CIA Prospect, Alarms Obama Supporters,” by Rachel Weiner

[133ah] Lawfare, 03/16/2012: “Appellant Brief Filed in ACLU v. CIA (Drone Program FOIA Request),” by Raffaela Wakeman

[133ai] Defendant CIA’s Motion for Summary Judgement, in ACLU v. DOJ (on the ACLU website)

[133aj] The Guardian, 06/06/2012: “First the ‘targeted killing’ campaign, then the targeted propaganda campaign: Officially, the CIA insists its drone war is a state secret, yet we’re now seeing a concerted PR effort to sanitise its dubious legality,” by Jameel Jaffer and Nathan Wessler

[133ak] Lawfare, 06/08/2012: “President Obama’s Non-Credible Statement on Leaks,” by Jack Goldsmith

[133al] Los Angeles Times, 02/07/2012: “Regarding U.S. drones: Congress and the courts need to take a harder look at the moral and legal issues around the program”,0,6328376.story

[133am] BBC News, 06/08/2012: “US drone strikes ‘raise questions’ – UN’s Navi Pillay”

[133an] The Washington Post, 05/29/2012: “In Yemen, U.S. airstrikes breed anger, and sympathy for al-Qaeda,” by Sudarsan Raghavan

[133ao] The New York Times, 08/14/2011: “Drones Alone Are Not the Answer,” by Dennis C. Blair

[133ap] Salon, 04/19/2012: “Petraeus and the signature of U.S. terror,” by Jefferson Morley

[133aq] The Nation, 02/14/2012: “Washington’s War in Yemen Backfires,” by Jeremy Scahill

[133ar] Counterfire, 05/13/2012: “Yemen: Anger at expansion of US drone war,” by Noon Arabia

[133as] The New York Times, 06/13/2012: “How Drones Help Al Qaeda,” by Ibrahim Mothana

[133at] FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 (Library of Congress website)

[133au] The Washington Times, 02/07/2012: “Drones over U.S. get OK by Congress,” by Shaun Waterman

[133av] Emptywheel, 01/19/2012: “The OTHER Assault on the Fourth Amendment in the NDAA? Drones at Your Airport?” by Marcy Wheeler

[133aw] ACLU, 06/15/2012: “Ban on Arming Domestic Drones: Let’s Draw a Line in the Sand,” by Chris Calabrese and Jay Stanley

[133b] The Christian Science Monitor, 06/03/2010: “US defends unmanned drone attacks after harsh UN report,” by Jonathan Adams

[134] Los Angeles Times, 06/03/2010: “U.N. report faults prolific use of drone strikes by U.S.,” by David S. Cloud

[134b] The Atlantic Wire, 05/03/2010: “Obama Finds Predator Drones Hilarious,” by Max Fisher

[135] Pew Research Center, 12/18/2008: “Pew Global Attitudes Project: Global Public Opinion in the Bush Years (2001-2008)”

[136] The White House: Remarks by the president on a new beginning — Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt

[137] Pew Research Center, June 17, 2010: “Obama More Popular Abroad than at Home, Global Image of U.S. Continues to Benefit | Muslims Grow Disillusioned with Obama”

[138] The Brookings Institution, 08/05/2010: 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll

[139] McClatchy, 06/03/2010: “Muslim praise for Obama dries up a year after Cairo speech,” by Miret el Naggar and Margaret Talev

[139b] Political Intelligence, 07/13/2011: “Obama, US viewed less favorably in Arab world, poll shows,” by Farah Stockman

[139c] Arab American Institute Foundation, 07/13/2011: “Arab Attitude – 2011”

[139d] Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication

[140] MSNBC, Meet the Press, 08/01/2010: “Mullen: U.S. has Iran strike plan”

[140b] Wikipedia: “The Bush Doctrine”

[141] Asian Tribune, 01/18/2011: “Massive U.S. Military Aid to Tunisia despite human rights abuses,” by Daya Gamage

[142] Foreign Policy in Focus, 01/13/2011: “Pro-Democracy Uprising Fails to Keep Washington From Backing Tunisian Dictatorship,” by Stephen Zunes

[143] U.S. State Department, 01/11/2011: Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Interview with Taher Barake of Al Arabiya

[144], 01/02/2011: “What lay behind Obama’s friendship with Mubarak?” by Akiva Eldar

[145] The New York Times, 02/07/2011: “In Egypt, U.S. Weighs Push for Change With Stability,” by Helene Cooper and David E. Sanger

[146] The Wall Street Journal, 03/05/2011: “U.S. Wavers on ‘Regime Change’,” by Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes

[147] Jonathan Wright, 02/12/2011: “Obama, Suleiman and U.S. decline”

[148] National Post, 03/01/2011: “Arab unrest leaves Obama as helpless as a hostage,” by Christopher Hitchens

[149] CNN, 02/11/2011: “Egypt’s military: Key facts”

[149b] Amnesty International, 12/06/2011: “USA repeatedly shipped arms supplies to Egyptian security forces”

[149c] Jadaliyya, 10/11/2011: “SCAF: A Brief History of Injustice,” by Wael Eskandar

[149d] Salon, 10/18/2011: “Crackdown in Cairo, excuses in Washington,” by Avi Asher-Schapiro

[150] Financial Times, 02/17/2011: “Ties remain strong between US and Bahrain,” by Martin Arnold

[150b] Mother Jones, 02/18/2011: “What’s happening in Bahrain,” by Ashley Bates

[151] The Washington Times / AP, 03/14/2011: “Official: Gulf military force enters Bahrain — Parliamentary bloc asks king to impose martial law,” by Brian Murphy and Reem Khalilfa

[151b] Firedoglake, 03/23/2011: “Bullets vs. doughnuts: Bahrain, Yemen and the US response,” by Rebecca Griffin

[151c] AFP, 06/07/2011: “Obama meets Bahrain crown prince at White House”

[151d] Empire Burlesque, 06/12/2011: “Visible Means of Support: Backing Brutality in Bahrain,” by Chris Floyd

[151e] The Atlantic, 09/21/2011: “Obama’s UN speech and the Bahrain exception,” by Max Fisher

[151f] Defense Security Cooperation Agency: News Release 09/14/2011: On a possible foreign military sale to the Government of Bahrain

[151g] CBS News, 06/23/2009: “Bush: War On Drugs Aids War On Terror”

[151h] CNN, 03/23/2002: “Bush, Toledo vow to fight terror, drug trade”

[151i] RAND Corporation, 1998: “Sealing the Borders — The Effects of Increased Military Participation in Drug Interdiction,” by Peter Reuter, Gordon Crawford, Jonathan Cave

[151j] Count the Costs, Environment briefing: “War of Drugs: Causing Deforestation and Pollution”

[151k] The New York Times, 05/01/2000: “To Colombians, Drug War Is a Toxic Foe,” by Larry Rohter

[151l] LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, June 2011: “Endin the Drug War: a Dream Deferred”

[151la] LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, 06/14/2011: “On 40th Anniversary of ‘War on Drugs,’ Cops Release Report Showing its Failure – Obama’s Drug Czar Says He Ended ‘War on Drugs’ Two Years Ago – Cops Hand-Deliver Report to Drug Czar’s Office While Czar Refuses to Meet”

[151m] MSNBC / Associated Press, 05/13/2010: “U.S. drug war has met none of its goals – After 40 years and $1 trillion, drug use is rampant and violence pervasive,” by Martha Mendoza

[151n] Congressional Research Service, 04/13/2010: “Economic Impacts of Prison Growth,” by Suzanne M. Kirchhoff

[151o] The Huffington Post, 05/22/2008: “Obama Not Completely Silent on the Drug War,” by Kurt Schmoke

[151p] CBS News, 01/27/2011: “Obama: Drugs Should be Treated as a Public Health Problem,” by Stephanie Condon

[151q] Reuters, 08/07/2009: “Obama denies U.S. creating military bases in Colombia”

[151r] The Washington Times, 10/25/2010: “Marshals Service nominee may have a client conflict,” by Jim McElhatton

[151s] Government Security News, 12/27/2011: “GEO Group lands $236 million contract to house 1,800 ICE detainees in South Texas,” by Jacob Goodwin

[151t] ACLU, 11/02/2011: “Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration,” by David Shapiro

[151u] MSNBC, 05/13/2010: “Private prison industry grows despite critics – Some fear for-profit corrections companies fuel growth, ignore safety,” by Scott Cohn

[151v] The Washington Post, 04/09/2011: “Mexican drug cartels targeting and killing children,” by Anne-Marie O’Connor and William Booth

[151w] The New York Times, 06/13/2010: “Coca Production Makes a Comeback in Peru,” by Simon Romero

[151x] The Washington Post, 08/27/2009: “U.S.-Colombia Strategic Accord Prompts Questions at Home, Across Region,” by Juan Forero and Mary Beth Sheridan

[151y] Real Clear Politics, 09/16/2010: “U.S. OKs $30 million in military aid to Colombia,” by Matthew Lee

[151z] CNN, 08/12/2010: “Obama will continue helping Colombia fight drug trafficking”

[151aa] FOR – Fellowship of Reconciliation, 01/27/2011: “Pentagon Building Bases in Central America and Colombia – Despite Constitutional Court Striking Down Base Agreement,” by John Lindsay-Polan

[151ab] The Guardian / Associated Press, 08/18/2010: “Colombian agreement over US military bases ‘unconstitutional’ ”

[151ac] The Wall Street Journal, 05/14/2009: “White House Czar Calls for End to ‘War on Drugs’,” by Gary Fields

[151ad] Los Angeles Times, 10/07/2011: “Feds escalate efforts to close California pot shops,” by John Hoeffel

[151ae] The Raw Story, 05/03/2012: “Pelosi condemns Obama’s continued raids on marijuana dispensaries,” by Stephen C. Webster

[151af] Reason, 09/08/2011: “Drug Czar Says ‘Young People’ Smoke Pot Because They Saw Grandma Do It When She Was Getting Chemotherapy,” by Jacob Sullum

[151ag] MSNBC / Associated Press, 08/03/2010: “Obama signs bill to close gap in cocaine penalties”

[152] USA Today, 07/02/2000: “Oil industry support Bush campaign”

[153] Yurica Report: Bush Administration Contacts with Enron | Prepared for Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Minority Staff, Special Investigations Division, Committee on Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives

[154] Midwest Democracy Network, 10/30/2007: Presidential candidate questionnaire

[155] The New York Times, 06/20/2008: “Obama Forgoes Public Funds in First for Major Candidate”, by Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny

[156] “Says Obama has flip-flopped on public campaign financing”

[157] Los Angeles Times, 04/24/2008: “Obama still gets oil money”, by Dan Morain

[158] The Guardian, 10/23/2008: “Campaign costs dwarf millions raised by Kerry and Bush in 2004”, by Ewen MacAskill

[159] Top Contributors to Barack Obama

[160] McClatchy, 04/21/2010: “Goldman’s White House connections raise eyebrows”, by Greg Gordon

[161] The Washington Examiner, 04/20/2010: “Is Goldman Obama’s Enron? No, it’s worse”, by J.P. Freire

[162] The Centre for Research on Globalisation, 04/06/2009: “Obama’s Wall Street cabinet”, by Tom Eley and Barry Grey

[163] The National Review, 04/21/2010: “Obama and Goldman Sachs”, by Michelle Malkin

[164] PBS, Bill Moyers Journal: US Rep Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson on the banks’ ownership of the government.

[165] AP, 01/21/2011: “Obama goal: ‘Putting the economy into overdrive’ “, by Jim Kuhnhenn

[166] The American Prospect: “Andrea Mitchell Hasn’t Heard About the Financial Crisis”, by Dean Baker

[167], 03/31/2008: “Obama’s Oil Spill”

[168] Politico, 05/05/10: “Obama biggest recipient of BP cash”, by Erika Lovely

[169], 06/20/2008: “Obama’s Lame Claim About McCain’s Money”

[170] Complete Obama Speech Archive: Remarks in Londonderry, NH, October 16, 2008

[171] MSNBC / AP, 10/22/2009: “Obama: Excessive pay ‘does offend our values’ ”

[172] The Wall Street Journal, 01/29/2009: “New Bank Bailout Could Cost $2 Trillion”, by Deborah Solomon, David Enrich and Jon Hilsenrath

[173] Reuters, 07/01/2010: “Goldman says claims against AIG were legitimate”, by Kim Dixon and Steve Eder

[174] Robert Reich’s Blog, 03/18/2009: “In the Wake of AIG: Obama’s First Priority”

[175] The Baseline Scenario, 06/21/2010: “Dead On Arrival: Financial Reform Fails”, by Simon Johnson

[176] The New York Times, 02/28/2010: “Financial Reform Endgame”, by Paul Krugman

[177] The Wall Street Journal, 01/14/2010: “Banks Set for Record Pay”, by Stephen Grocer

[178] Democracy Now: “Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz: Foreclosure Moratorium, Government Stimulus Needed to Revive US Economy”

[179] Forbes, 06/25/2010: “Bank Stocks Rally As Financial Reform Comes Together”, by Carl Gutierrez

[180] Bloomberg News, 12/12/2010: “Wall Street Sees Record Revenue in ’09-10 Recovery From Bailout”, by Michael J. Moore

[181] Time Magazine, 07/14/2009: “Obama’s Stimulus Plan: Failing by Its Own Measure”, by Stephen Gandel,8599,1910208,00.html

[182] CBS News / AP, 04/15/2010: “Foreclosure Rates Jump 35 Percent”

[182b] Bankster, 08/3/2011: “Money Still Owed In Federal Bailout: $1.5 Trillion Still Owed to Treasury, Federal Reserve,” by Mary Bottari

[183] The White House, 06/17/2010: “A Summer of Recovery”, by Ron Sims, Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

[184] The New York Times, 10/30/2010: “How the Banks Put the Economy Underwater”, by Yves Smith

[185] CNBC, 10/11/2010: “Obama Says No To National Foreclosure Freeze”, by John Carney

[186] The Obameter | Negotiate health care reform in public sessions televised on C-SPAN

[187] The White House Blog, 03/19/2010: ” ‘I Still Believe We Can Do What’s Right’ “, by Jesse Lee, White House Online Programs Director

[188] The Center for Public Integrity, 02/24/2010: “Lobbyists Swarm Capitol To Influence Health Reform”, by Joe Eaton and M.B. Pell

[189] CBS News / AP, 03/17/2010: “Will Health Care Bill Lower Premiums?”

[190] Congressional Budget Office: Health Care

[191] The Huffington Post, 08/13/2009: “Internal Memo Confirms Big Giveaways In White House Deal With Big Pharma”, by Ryan Grim

[192] The New York Times, 08/12/2009: “Obama Is Taking an Active Role in Talks on Health Care Plan”, by David R. Kirkpatrick

[193] Salon, 02/23/2010: “The Democratic Party’s deceitful game”, by Glenn Greenwald

[194] Reuters, 12/21/2009: “Healthcare shares rise as reform bill progresses”

[195] The Huffington Post, 03/22/2010: “Health Stocks Rise After Passage Of Health Care Reform Bill”, by Stephen Bernard and Tim Paradis

[196] The New England Journal of Medicine | Health Policy and Reform, 11/18/2009: “Lobbying, Campaign Contributions, and Health Care Reform”

[197] Politico, 01/30/2009: “Health care groups paid Daschle $220K”, by Kenneth P. Vogel

[198] Firedoglake, 03/29/2010: “Baucus Thanks Wellpoint VP Liz Fowler for Writing Health Care Bill”, by Jane Hamsher

[199] Billings Gazette, 07/13/2010: “Baucus staffer who led health reform drafting moving to Obama administration”, by Mike Dennison

[200] Kens5 / AP, 03/22/2010: “VIDEO: House speaker touts health care as ‘a right, not a privilege’ ”–on-health-care-bill-88813172.html

[201] The New York Times 03/21/2010: “Obama Hails Vote on Health Care as Answering ‘the Call of History’ “, by Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn

[202] Slate, 03/31/2005: “Bush’s First Defeat”, by Jacob Weisenberg

[203] The Huffington Post, 11/11/2010: “Cutting Social Security is the New TARP”, by Cenk Uygur

[204] The Huffington Post, 01/18/2011: “Making Social Security More Progressive: The Games They Play in Washington”, by Dean Baker

[205] Economic Policy Institute, 07/17/2009: “Raising cap on social security tax best way to fix shortfall”; testimony of John S. Irons before the Senate Special Committee on Aging

[206] Organizing for America: Seniors | Social Security

[207] The Hill, 08/18/2010: “Obama: Social Security ‘is not in crisis’ “, by Jordan Fabian

[208] Campaign for America’s Future: Barack Obama’s Statements On Social Security

[209] Mother Jones: “Obama Puts Social Security on the Chopping Block”, by James Ridgeway

[210] AlterNet, 03/28/2010: “Obama Packs Debt Commission with Social Security Looters”, by Matthew Skomarovsky

[211] The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform: ” ‘Social Security is not the trouble; it’s just the target’ ”

[212] The Huffington Post, 09/02/2010: “David Cote Is Second Deficit Commission Member To Come Under Fire”, by Ryan Grim

[213] Salon, 09/04/2010: “In defense of Alan Simpson”, by Glenn Greenwald

[214] Fiscal Commission, 11/10/2010: CoChairs’ Proposal

[215] NYT / The Conscience of a Liberal, 11/10/2010: “Unserious People”, by Paul Krugman

[216] Salon, 08/16/2010: “The fear campaign and Social Security”, by Glenn Greenwald

[217] MSNBC – The Ed Show: Cenk Uygur interviews DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen

[217b] The Huffington Post, 02/10/2011: “Obama’s Big Budget Cut Proposals Target The Poor”, by Arthur Delaney

[217c] The New York Times, 07/06/2011: “Obama to Push for Wider Deal With G.O.P. on Deficit Cuts,” by Carl Hulse and Mark Landler

[217d] The Washington Post, 07/06/2011: “In debt talks, Obama offers Social Security cuts”

[217e] The White House, 07/11/2011: President Obama on Tackling our Debt and Deficit

[218] Crooks and Liars, 11/22/2010: “10 Epic Failures of the Bush Tax Cuts”, by Jon Perr

[219] CNBC / Reuters, 12/17/2010: “Bush Tax Cuts: US Congress Passes Obama Tax Deal”

[220] ThinkProgress, 12/10/2010: “Obama: Bush Tax Cuts For The Rich Won’t Create ‘One Single Job’ “, by Alex Seitz-Wald

[221] USA Today, 12/09/2010: “Obama says tax deal will create jobs — but House Dems table it”, by David Jackson

[222] NPR, 12/10/2010: Transcript: Obama On Taxes, Economy And START

[223] MSNBC, 09/15/2010: “Obama: GOP holding middle class tax cuts ‘hostage’ “, by Athena Jones

[224] Real Clear Politics, 02/12/2008: Barack Obama’s Potomac Primary Speech

[225] PBS, 03/03/2008: “Free Trade Agreement is Key Issue for Ohio Voters”, by Annie Schleicher

[226] The New York Times, 02/28/2008: “Despite Nafta Attacks, Clinton and Obama Haven’t Been Free Trade Foes”, by Michael Luo

[227] Slate, 03/04/2008: “Canada’s Obama NAFTA Memo”, by Bonnie Goldstein

[228] CTV News, 02/29/2008: “Obama campaign mum on NAFTA contact with Canada”

[229] Fortune Magazine, 06/18/2008: “Obama: NAFTA not so bad after all”, by Nina Easton

[230] The Wall Street Journal, 02/20/2009: “Obama, in Canada, Warns Against Protectionism”, by Jonathan Weisman

[231] The Washington Post, 03/18/2010: “Mexico not worried about Obama campaign pledge to renegotiate NAFTA”, by Alec MacGillis

[231b] Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, 02/13/2013: Fact Sheet – United States to Negotiate Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union

[231c] Open letter from 60 U.S. and EU consumer rights and labor organizations to President Barack Obama, President José Manuel Barroso, and President Herman Van Rompuy, 07/08/2013

[231d] The Guardian, 07/15/2013: “The US-EU trade deal: don’t buy the hype,” by Dean Baker

[232] AlterNet, 09/11/2012: “What You Need to Know About a Worldwide Corporate Power Grab of Enormous Proportions,” by Laurel Sutherlin

[232b] Citizens Trade Campaign, 09/05/2012: ” ‘Bigger than NAFTA’ Leesburg Trade Summit Attracts Controversy, Protest”

[232c] Knowledge Ecology International, 03/10/2011: “The complete Feb 10, 2011 text of the US proposal for the TPP IPR chapter”

[232d] 3 News, 12/05/2012: “US companies ‘out to get Pharmac’,” by Dylan Moran

[233] The New York Times, 04/18/2008: “Whose Privilege?”

[233b] Organizing for America: | Ethics

[234] The White House, 01/21/2009: Remarks by the president in welcoming senior staff and cabinet secretaries to the White House

[235] The White House, 03/16/2010: Statement from the President on Sunshine Week

[236] The New York Times, 02/9/2009: “Obama Backs Off a Reversal on Secrets”, by John Schwartz

[237] The Washington Post, 03/16/2010: “White House threatens veto on intelligence activities bill”, by Walter Pincus

[238] Salon, 02/10/2009: “The 180-degree reversal of Obama’s State Secrets position”, by Glenn Greenwald

[239] Betanews, 04/07/2009: “New Obama DOJ claims sovereign immunity in wiretap case”, by Scott M. Fulton, III

[240] IPS News Agency, 02/09/2009: ” ‘State Secrets’ Privilege Not Gone with Bush”, by William Fisher

[241] The Guardian, 02/09/2009: “Obama administration maintains Bush’s ‘state secrets’ policy”, by Dan Glaister

[242] ABC News, 02/09/2009: “Obama Stands Behind ‘State Secrets’ Defense”, by Stephen Grey

[243] Daily Kos, 07/14/2010: “Wash. Post Profile: Thomas Drake (An NSA Whistleblower We Would Have Cheered During the Bush Years)”, by Jesselyn Radack

[244] Newsweek, 12/13/2008: “The Fed Who Blew the Whistle”, by Michael Isikoff

[245] Main Justice, 02/22/2010: “Ex-DOJ Whistleblower Calls OPR Report a ‘Whitewash’ “, by Ryan J. Reilly

[246] Salon, 04/16/2010: “What the whistleblower prosecution says about the Obama DOJ”, by Glenn Greenwald

[247] – The Office of the President Elect: Ethics | Protect Whistleblowers

[248] Wikisource: Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant; remarks by Barack Obama on 01/28/2009

[249] Criminal Justice, 11/10/2010: “President Obama: Prosecuting Whistleblowers, Intimidating Their Supporters”, by Charles Davis

[250] The Economist, 07/31/2010: “Eight questions for Daniel Ellsberg”, by R.M.

[251] Salon, 04/15/2010: “What happened to ‘look forward, not backward’?”, by Glenn Greenwald

[252] The New York Times, 04/15/2010: “Former N.S.A. Official Is Charged in Leaks Case”, by Scott Shane

[253] Newser, 05/26/2010: “FBI Linguist Gets 20 Months for Leaking to Blogger: Sentence Underscores Obama’s Hard Line”, by Rob Quinn

[254] The New York Times, 04/28/2010: “U.S. Subpoenas Times Reporter Over Book on C.I.A.”, by Charlie Savage

[255] Newser / AP, 01/08/2011: “WikiLeaks subpoenas show Obama administration’s determination to pursue criminal case”, by Raphael G. Satter and Pete Yost

[256] The Huffington Post, 12/16/2010: “Obama’s War on WikiLeaks — and Us”, by Michael Brenner

[257] The Nation, 11/10/2010: “What We Learned From WikiLeaks”, by Jonathan Schell

[258] Newser, 12/23/2010: “UN Launches Probe Into Bradley Manning ‘Torture’ “, by Mary Papenfuss

[259] The Guardian, 11/30/2010: “WikiLeaks cables: Bradley Manning faces 52 years in jail”, by Robert Booth, Heather Brooke and Steven Morris

[259b] NBC News, 03/03/2011: “Manning faces new charges, possible death penalty”, by Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube

[260] The Guardian, 12/02/2010: “WikiLeaks website pulled by Amazon after US political pressure”, by Ewen MacAskill

[261] The Guardian, 06/08/2005: “Revealed: how oil giant influenced Bush – White House sought advice from Exxon on Kyoto stance”, by John Vidal

[262] Organizing for America: Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Real Leadership for a Clean Energy Future, 10/08/2007

[263] President-elect Barack Obama to deliver taped greeting to Bi-partisan Governors Climate Summit, 11/05/2009

[264] Organizing for America Barack: “Obama and Joe Biden — Promoting a healthy environment”

[265] The Guardian, 09/15/2009: “US planning to weaken Copenhagen climate deal, Europe warns”, by David Adam

[266] The American, 11/05/2009: “The Quiet Death of the Kyoto Protocol”, by Samuel Thernstrom

[267] The Washington Post, 04/09/2010: “Bolivia, Ecuador denied climate funds”, by Juliet Eilperin

[268] Democracy Now, 07/23/2010: “As Senate Dems Give Up on Climate Bill, What Does the Future Hold for US Energy Policy?” – Interview with Kate Horner

[269] The New York Times, 07/22/2010: “Democrats Call Off Climate Bill Effort”, by Carl Hulse and David M. Herszenhorn

[270] Friends of the Earth, 12/11/2010: “Cancun talks: Friends of the Earth analysis”

[270b] AP / Yahoo News, 01/26/2011: “How clean is Obama’s clean energy standard?”, by Jonathan Fahey

[270c] Environmental Protection Agency | Clean Airt Act Amendments of 1990: Glossary of terms

[270d] American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity | America’s Power: What is clean coal technology?

[270e] Slate, 10/07/2008: “What the Heck Is ‘Clean Coal’?”, by Jacob Leibenluft

[270f] US News, 06/12/2009: “Obama Administration Pouring $1 Billion Into Clean Coal Project”, by Kent Garber

[270g] ABC News, 04/21/2009: “RFK Jr. Blasts Obama as ‘Indentured Servant’ to Coal Industry”, by Brian Ross and Joseph Rhee

[271] MSNBC, 07/14/2008: “Bush calls on Congress to lift oil drilling ban”

[272] Rolling Stone, 06/24/2010: “The Spill, The Scandal and the President”, by Tim Dickinson

[273] Firedoglake, 04/01/2010: “VIDEO: Obama on Offshore Drilling in 2008: ‘Gimmick…that would only worsen our addiction to oil’ “, by Michael Whitney

[274] CNS News, 03/31/2010: “Presidential Candidate Obama Slammed Opponent McCain’s Offshore Drilling Plan as ‘Political Posturing from Washington’ “, by Penny Starr

[275] Los Angeles Times, 03/31/2010: “Obama to unveil offshore drilling plans for oil, natural gas”, by Jim Tankersley

[276] Environmental News Network, 04/01/2010: “Obama Offshore Oil Plan a Disaster for Wildlife and Climate”

[277] The White House, 04/02/2010: Remarks by the President in a Discussion on Jobs and the Economy in Charlotte, North Carolina

[278] Center for Biological Diversity, press release, 05/07/2010

[279] National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling: Final Report

[280] The Guardian, 10/07/2010: “Gulf oil spill: White House blocked and put spin on scientists’ warnings”, by Suzanne Goldenberg

[281] CBS News, 08/04/2010: “U.S. Says 75% of Oil Gone, but Skeptics Remain”

[282] The New York Times, 02/17/2010: “Environmental Advocates Are Cooling on Obama”, by John M. Broder

[283] World Press Review: “The United Nations, International Law, and the War in Iraq: a special report”

[283b] Lawfare, 3/17/2011: “Democrat Views of Unilateral Presidential War Power During Bush Years”
by Jack Goldsmith

[284] The White House, 03/28/2011: Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Libya

[284b] The Boston Globe, 12/20/2007: “Barack Obama’s Q&A” by Charlie Savage

[284c] Reuters, 01/21/2009: “Gaddafi says looking at oil firm nationalization,” by Sue Pleming


[285b] The New York Times, 04/14/2011: “Libya’s Pathway to Peace,” by Barack Obama, David Cameron, and Nicolas Sarkozy

[285c] Reuters, 02/22/2011: “Gaddafi says will cleanse Libya if protesters continue”

[285d] The Boston Globe, 04/14/2011: “False pretense for war in Libya?” by Alan J. Kuperman

[285e] The Atlantic Wire, 03/22/2011: “The Debate Over Civilian Casualties in Libya,” by Uri Friedman

[285f] Al Jazeera English: Coloner Gadaffi addresses the nation – available in five parts on YouTube
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:
Part 5:

[286] The Nation, 3/23/2011: “Ten Calls From Congress for a Debate About War,” by John Nichols

[287] The New York Times, 3/2/2011: “Gates Warns of Risks of a No-Flight Zone,” by David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker

[288] Salon, 3/18/2011: “Obama on presidential war-making powers,” by Glenn Greenwald

[288b] PolitiFact, 3/23/2011: “Is Barack Obama’s Libya intervention a flip-flop from what he said in 2007?”

[288c] CNN, 05/20/2011: “Is Obama about to breakt the law?” by Jamie Crawford

[288ca] Cornell University Law School / Legal Information Institute: The War Powers Act—-000-.html

[288cb] Foreign Policy, 05/24/2011: “Obama’s Unconstitutional War,” by Bruce Ackerman

[288d] Democracy Now, 04/01/2011: “Rep. Kucinich: Lack of Congressional Approval Could Make Obama’s Libya Attack ‘Impeachable Offense’ ”

[288e] Yahoo News / AP, 03/24/2011: “US likely to keep combat role after Libya shift,” by Robert Burns and Erica Werner

[288f] Newser, 03/31/2011: “US says no American ‘boots’ on ground in Libya, but it’s fancy footwork: The CIA is there,” by Darlene Superville, Anne Gearan and Adam Goldman

[289] Al Jazeera, 03/18/2011: “One family against Gaddafi,” by Evan Hill

[289a] Voice of America, 08/22/2011: “Who Are the Libyan Rebels?”

[289ab] Wikipedia: “National Transitional Council”

[289b] NPR, 04/27/2011: “Libya: NATO Strike Kills 12 Rebels; U.S. Says Death Toll Could Reach 30,000,” by Eyder Peralta

[290] The Telegraph, 04/01/2011: “Libya: civil war breaks out as Gaddafi mounts rearguard fight,” by Richard Spencer

[290a] The Telegraph, 04/01/2011: “Libya: ‘civil war not over,’ ” by Richard Spencer

[290ab] National Post, 09/13/2011: “Gaddafi, rebel forces both guilty of war crimes: Amnesty,” by Robert Hiltz

[290ac] UPI, 09/13/2011: “Libyan rebels accused of war crimes”

[290ad] BBC News, 09/08/2011: “Black migrants speak of mistreatment by Libyan rebels”

[290ae] BBC News, 09/18/2011: “Libya conflict: Black African migrants caught in backlash”

[290af] The Guardian, 08/30/2011: “Libya’s spectacular revolution has been disgraced by racism,” by Richard Seymour

[290ag] Amnesty International, 10/13/2011: “New Libya ’Stained’ by Detainee Abuse”’stained’-detainee-abuse-2011-10-13

[290ah] BBC News, 10/13/2011: “Amnesty urges Libya to tackle ‘stain’ of detainee abuse”

[290aha] CNN, 01/26/2012: “Libyan detainees died after torture, human rights group says”

[290ai] The New York Times, 09/22/2011: “U.S. Reopens Its Embassy in Libya,” by David D. Kirkpatrick

[290b] Al Jazeera, Libya Live Blog 04/02/2011

[291] Dennis Kucinich’s website, 03/31/2011: Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s Address to Congress on the War in Libya

[292] CNN, 03/20/2011: “Coalition targets Gadhafi compound”

[293] Associated Press, 10/22/2004: “Bush quietly signs corporate tax-cut bill”

[294], 5/4/2009: “President Obama Announces Tax-Policy Reform”

[295] Office of Management and Budget: Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012, chapter 3, “PUTTING THE NATION ON A SUSTAINABLE FISCAL PATH” p.37 – Reform our Tax Code to Foster Innovation and Competitiveness.

[296] The New York Times, 03/24/2011: “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether”, by David Kocieniewski

[296b] The Nation, 12/09/2010: “WikiLeaking covert wars,” by Jeremy Scahill

[297] The Guardian, 12/03/2010: “WikiLeaks cables: Yemen offered US ‘open door’ to attack al-Qaida on its soil,” by Robert Booth and Ian Black

[298] Examiner, 04/02/2011: “Obama snubs Yemen protesters,” by Jane Novak

[299] Univision / AFP, 22/03/2011: “US worries Yemen unrest could help Al-Qaeda”

[300] The New York Times, 04/03/2011: “U.S. Shifts to Seek Removal of Yemen’s Leader, an Ally,” by Laura Kasinof and David E. Sanger

[301] Market Watch / PR Newswire, 03/24/2011: “Sec. Clinton Calls Morocco ‘Well-Positioned to Lead’ on Democratic Reforms”

[302] Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, 04/26/2011: “UN Chief Concerned Over Syria Violence; U.S. Sees Iran Link”

[303] The Raw Story / Reuters, 04/08/2011: “Obama condemns “abhorrent violence” of Syrian government”

[304] Daily Mail, 02/13/2011: “Now revolution takes hold in Algeria: Hundreds arrested as ‘30,000’ riot police try to quell democracy march inspired by downfall of Hosni Mubarak”

[305] Hürriyed Daily News / Agence France-Presse, 02/25/2011: “Obama praises Algeria for lifting state of emergency”

[306] The Huffington Post, 09/02/2011: “Obama Halts EPA Regulation On Smog Standards”

[307] Barack Obama 2008 Campaign Policy Statement: “Barack Obama and Joe Biden: Promoting a Healthy Environment”

[308] The New York Times, 09/02/2011: “Obama Administration Abandons Stricter Air-Quality Rules,” by John M. Broder

[309] The USA Today, 05/17/2011: “Study: Reduced car smog will cut deaths, asthma,” by Chris Woodyard

[310] American Lung Association website, 06/20/2011: “Poll: Voters Support EPA and Stronger Smog Limits”

[311], 02/09/2010: “Loan guarantees recharge nuclear debate,” by Mike Stuckey

[312] U.S. Department of the Interior, 08/08/2005: “Energy Policy Act of 2005,” 109th U.S. Congress

[313] Investigative Reporting Workshop, 01/24/2011: “Nuclear renaissance began with Bush”, by Judy Pasternak

[314] Town hall meeting in Newton, IA, 12/30/2007: Obama’s answer to a question regarding his nuclear policy

[315] The New York Times, 02/03/2008: “Nuclear Leaks and Response Tested Obama in Senate”, by Mike McIntire

[316] Top 20 Contributors, Senator Barack Obama 2001 – 2006

[317] The Las Vegas Sun, 03/04/2010: “Yucca Mountain foes hail historic step to kill nuclear waste depository”, by Lisa Mascaro

[318] The Washington Post, 02/17/2010: “Obama offers loan to help fund two nuclear reactors”, by Michael D. Shear and Steven Mufson

[319] Electric Utilities Industry Profile, 2009

[320] ABC News, 11/03/2010: “Obama Talks Big About Clean Energy While Cash Stripped From Key Program”, by Matthew Mosk and Tim Fleming

[321] Mother Jones, 03/08/2010: “Obama’s Nuclear Blind Spot”, by Kate Sheppard

[322] Congressional Budget Office, 05/07/2003: “Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate: S. 14
Energy Policy Act of 2003”

[322a] The Union of Concerned Scientists, 03/04/2009: “Massive Federal Loan Guarantees for New Nuclear Power Plants Would Put Taxpayers, Ratepayers at Risk”

[323] The New York Times, 07/23/2010: “Sen. Reid’s Decision on Climate Bill Leaves D.C. Scrambling to Pick Up the Pieces”, by Robin Bravender and Josh Voorhees

[324] The Nation, 03/24/2011: “Obama Loves Nukes”, by Mark Hertsgaard

[325] The New York Times, 10/14/2011: “Citizens’ Testing Finds 20 Hot Spots Around Tokyo”, by Hiroko Tabuchi

[326] The Washington Post, 06/03/2007: “Mixed Greens: How the New Nuclear Splits Environmentalists”, by Marc Fisher

[327] “Without loan guarantees we will not build nuclear power plants.” – Michael J. Wallace, the co-chief executive of UniStar Nuclear, and executive vice president of Constellation Energy. The New York Times, 07/31/2007: “Energy Bill Aids Expansion of Atomic Power”, by Edmund L. Andrews and Matthew L. Wald

[328] The Nuclear Information Resource Service, 01/2009: “Business Risks and Costs of New Nuclear Power”, by Craig A. Severance

[329] The Union of Concerned Scientists, 02/23/2011: “After 50 Years, Nuclear Power is Still Not Viable without Subsidies, New Report Finds”

[330] Wikipedia: “Price–Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act”

[331], 03/17/2011: “Fukushima Vs. Three Mile Island Vs. Chernobyl,” by Mikka Pineda

[332] News on Japan, 06/01/2011: “Fukushima cleanup could cost up to $250 billion”

[333] Stanford University News, 01/26/2011 “The world can be powered by alternative energy, using today’s technology, in 20-40 years, says Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson”, by By Louis Bergeron

[334] Mark Z. Jacobson, Mark A. Delucchi: “Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part I:
Technologies, energy resources, quantities and areas of infrastructure,
and materials.” Energy Policy 39, 2011

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