Bradley Manning, Barack Obama, and the national surveillance state

From the “Balkinization” blog of Jack Balkin, provided evidence that validated his 2006 prediction that the next president, whether Democratic or Republican, would ratify and continue many of President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism policies.

What he called the National Surveillance State features huge investments in electronic surveillance and various end runs around traditional Bill of Rights protections and expectations about procedure.

These end runs [include] public private cooperation in surveillance and exchange of information, expansion of the state secrets doctrine, expansion of administrative warrants and national security letters, a system of preventive detention, expanded use of military prisons, extraordinary rendition to other countries, and aggressive interrogation techniques outside of those countenanced by the traditional laws of war….

Barack Obama has largely confirmed [the prediction], much to the dismay of many liberals who supported him. After issuing a series of publicly lauded executive orders on assuming office (including a ban on torture), he has more or less systematically adopted policies consistent with the second term of the George W. Bush Administration, employing the new powers granted to the President by Congress in the Authorization of the Use of Military Force of 2001, the Patriot Act of 2001 (as amended), the Protect America Act of 2007, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and the Military Commissions Acts of 2006 and 2009. These statutory authorizations have created a basic framework for the National Surveillance State, and have made Obama the most powerful president in history in these policy areas….

It’s worth noting that if Private [Bradley] Manning were a prisoner of war, his treatment at the hands of the Obama Administration would violate the Geneva Conventions; indeed, if he were an non-uniformed enemy combatant, his treatment would probably violate Common Article III. Apparently, President Obama has gone Attorney General Alberto Gonzales one better. Not only must he believe that the protections of the Geneva Conventions are quaint, he must also think the same of the Bill of Rights, at least as applied to leakers–or at least, leakers whom the President and his associates did not authorize….

Unless there is a public outcry, we have no guarantee that this exceptional incident will prove truly exceptional. After all, if a liberal Democratic President is willing to look the other way in this case, what can we expect of future presidents of either party?