Obama administration forgives Bush-era crimes but will punish whistle-blower Snowden
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Obama administration forgives Bush-era crimes but will punish whistle-blower Snowden

Washington : DC : USA | Jul 24, 2013 at 8:11 AM PDT
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Bush era crimes

After he became president, many urged Barack Obama to prosecute those associated with such crimes as rendition and torture during George W. Bush's term in office. However, Obama said that he wanted to look forward to the future not the past.

Perhaps Obama should adopt the same attitude towards the case of Edward Snowden instead of aggressively trying to have him apprehended and extradited back to the US to face trial. Perhaps it is well to recall what happened to attempts to prosecute people associated with crimes during the Bush era.

Obama repeatedly vowed that even though he opposed partisan witch hunts, he said no one was above the law and that he would have the US attorney general immediately review evidence of criminality in the torture programs during the Bush term of office. Yet after Obama was elected in 2008, he made it abundantly clear he opposed such investigations and said he had "a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” Obama uses the phrase in the appended video.

On April 16, 2009, Obama took a giant step forward towards granting total immunity for anyone involved in criminal activity as long as it was in line with permission slips granted by Bush US Department of Justice lawyers which authorized a number of techniques that others have regarded as torture. In announcing this step, Obama said: "This is a time for reflection, not retribution. [N]othing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past…we must resist the forces that divide us, and instead come together on behalf of our common future."

However, US Attorney General Eric Holder found more than 100 cases in which actions had been taken that were outside the permission slips. Yet after two years studying these, he decided to press charges in only two cases. In the case of Gul Rahman, he froze to death in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan called the "Salt Pit.” He froze to death after he was beaten, stripped and then shackled to a cement wall in freezing temperatures in 2002. The second case was of Manadel al-Jamadi at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. He also was beaten, stripped and had cold water poured on him before he died. His ice-packed body was later photographed with a smiling US Army Sgt Charles Granier standing over it giving the thumbs-up sign. A US military autopsy actually declared his death a homicide caused by "blunt force trauma to the torso complicated by compromised respiration". Yet the Department of Justice closed those cases also without any charges of any kind being brought.

In the case of Snowden, he has not been guilty of any wrongdoings of the magnitude of these Bush era activities. Richard Falk points out that Snowden's offence is a political crime and as such does not even qualify for extradition. He also points out that Snowden's actions have had a number of positive consequences including "opening an overdue national debate in the United States as to the proper balance between surveillance and security; –creating a global awareness of the extent to which the American surveillance regime has a global reach that threatens confidentiality of foreign governmental activity and the privacy of ordinary persons everywhere; –encouraging relevant congressional committees to consider placing limitations on invasions of privacy. Obama has shown himself as being free of any inclination for revenge against those who earlier he had strongly criticized and condemned."

Even if Snowden has shown that the secret NSA surveillance program is more extensive than the public thought and possibly even against the US Constitution, surely he can be forgiven. Obama should look toward the future not the past. Through seeking retribution Obama has already alienated most Latin American countries. He has also embarrassed his allies — Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Austria. He could start immediately to mend his ways and look forward to the future by phoning Putin and saying that he thinks it would be a grand gesture for him to grant temporary asylum to Snowden. After all, as a condition Putin set for granting asylum Snowden will be required not to release any more documents revealing truths that might embarrass the US if he accepts such asylum.

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northsunm32 is based in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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