America's Most Anti-Democratic Institution: How the Imperial Presidency Threatens U.S. National Security
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Editor's Note: This is the first article of a four-part series by Fred Branfman on the U.S. Executive Branch's military, police and intelligence agencies which have aggregated far more power, committed far more evil by destroying the lives of countless innocents, and operated far more illegally, than any other governing institution in the world today.
The Executive Branch is also America's most undemocratic and thus unamerican institution. The U.S. Executive justifies its mass murder, incarceration of the innocent, authoritarianism, secrecy, deceit, lawlessness, spying, and prosecution of whistleblowers, the press and activists on the claim that it is protecting U.S. "National Security." As this article and chart below it entitled "Experts Say U.S. Secret War Is Not Working" demonstrate, however, the Executive's present campaign in the Muslim World is only the greatest of its many strategic failures to protect U.S. national security. It is in fact today endangering American lives and democracy as never before. A U.S. Executive Branch which constantly deceives its own people, robbing them of the "informed consent" required by the Constitution, cannot legitimately claim to rule in their names. And its citizens are under no moral obligation to obey or support it with their tax dollars, sons or daughters until such time as public and Congressional action have made it subject to truly democratic rule.
If you aren't familiar with Branfman's work, here's some background from his long-time colleague and collaborator, Noam Chomsky: Branfman “worked for years, with enormous courage and effort, to try to expose what were called the ‘secret wars’ [against Laos and Cambodia during the Vietnam War]. The secret wars were perfectly public wars which the media were keeping secret, government. And Fred … finally did succeed in breaking through, and [helped prompt] a tremendous exposure of huge wars that were going on.”
Many have expressed surprise that under President Obama - a former Constitutional Law Senior Lecturer who promised transparency, protection for whisteblowers and respect for international law when running for office - U.S. Executive Branch agencies have:
- Built up a fleet of 7,000 drones, operating from a growing number of secret bases around the world, as they train more drone than conventional pilots; waged automated war in an ever-expanding number of nations, lawlessly murdering thousands of human beings without even knowing their names, while greatly strengthening America's foes (see chart below), destabilizing allied governments and, in the case of Pakistan, greatly increasing the risk of nuclear materials falling into anti-American hands;
- Created the top-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) consisting of 60,000 persons operating in 75 nations, the first unit of American assassins in U.S. history, who have illegally murdered many thousands more people and conducted night raids recalling World War II Gestapo movies which, according to Afghan President Karzai, have helped strengthen the Taliban and destabilize his government;
- Prosecuted more whistleblowers and journalists than even Messrs. Cheney and Bush;
- Collected records of millions of phone calls of Americans citizens from Verizon, Sprint, ATT and other phone carriers, and spied on millions more Americans' search histories, email content, file transfers and live chats while on the Internet;
- Authorized the use of drones in the United States, which the Federal Aviation Administration estimates could lead to 30,000 drones in U.S. skies by 2020, leading privacy advocates to fear their massive use by police departments to spy on Americans;
- Claimed the President’s right to kill or imprison without trial any American citizen;
- Increased paramilitary training and equipment, and created secret police spying operations in thousands of states and cities around the nation (see chapter 7, “Report Suspicious Activity”, Top Secret America, by Dana Priest and William Arkin);
- Created “huge biometric databases – with fingerprints and iris scans – of nearly 100 million people” ( Top Secret America , p. 53);
- As Priest and Arkin have also revealed, the Executive Branch has created “a jaw-dropping 1,074 federal government organizations, and nearly two thousand private companies involved with programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence in at least 17,000 locations across the United States – all top secret. The biggest growth had come within the many agencies and large corporations that had existed before the attacks and had since inflated to historic proportions.” This has amounted to "a parallel top secret government whose parts had mushroomed in less than a decade into a gigantic, sprawling universe of its own, visible only to a carefully vetted cadre, and its entirety, as Pentagon intelligence chief James Clapper admitted, visible only to God." (pp. 52, 86).
Under Mr. Obama, America is still far from being a classic police-state of course. But no President has done more to create the infrastructure for a possible future police-state. This infrastructure will clearly pose a serious danger to democratic ideals should there be more 9/11s, and/or increased domestic unrest due to economic decline and growing inequality, and/or massive global disruption due to climate change, and/or a President with even less scruples than Mr. Obama.