Abuse of Power

If I had more energy, I would gather together all of the recent ways in which the Obama administration has abused presidential authority and lied to us. That would make reading this blog worthwhile. I apologize. I just returned from a very enjoyable week with my two children and six of my grand children. The seventh grandchild, Bryce Davidson, left for college the day before I arrived. The week included all four opera’s of Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen. So, as all dialogs seem to begin these days, I will just let loose my diatribe at the latest two disturbing atrocities of Big Brother.

We have enemies who wish us harm. We need the best information possible on their plans to harm us. But the technical ability of our government (of any government) to spy on our enemies and thus potentially on each of us (especially those the administration doesn’t like) is also dangerous. Checks and balances and clear limits are needed on the government’s use of these powers. President Obama increasingly demonstrates a lack of interest in limiting his actions to the law. For one of many examples, read my blog on his refusal to call the military coup in Egypt by its obvious real name because he doesn’t like the legal consequences of doing so: https://wcoats.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/the-egyptian-coup/

When Edward Snowden first leaked a number of NSA documents reveling that the National Security Agency (NSA) was illegally collecting massive amounts of data on American citizens, the government fought back by claiming that 50 some odd potential attacks on America had been prevented by such information, thus justifying “stretching” the law. Deeper scrutiny revealed that at most one instance of such data might have materially helped (along with other information) prevent such an attack. Many would say that one instance is enough to justify any risk of government abuse of its access to private information on Americans. But many of us are not comfortable with Big Brothers potential use of such powers.

For starters it is difficult to know the truth of the potential benefits and risks of NSA and other government agencies’ spying activities. The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, later admitted that he had lied to Congress when he testified that the NSA doesn’t collect data on “millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”

When asked what it would take for Congress to hold James Clapper accountable for lying to Congress, Congressman Dennis Kucinich told Cullen Hoback, the director of the documentary on data privacy “Terms and Conditions May Apply:”

Well, you know it’s illegal to lie to Congress, but everyone lies to Congress. As soon as they raise their right hand, watch out! Clapper should be held responsible, but he won’t be, because that’s the condition we’re in right now. In a just world, Snowden, we’d be having ticker tape parades for him. But that’s not what’s going to happen.

President Obama and security officials then attempted to reassure us that they only overstepped the limits of the law a few times. Then last week Snowden released another round of damning documents. As reported in The Washington Post an NSA internal audit and other secret documents provided by Snowden showed the agency “has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008.”

A few true believers in Leviathan have suggested that no one—no innocent person—has been harmed or abused by these NSA violations of the law. Step forward David Maranda, the Brazilian partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist through whom Snowden has been providing leaked documents to the British news paper, The Guardian. Changing planes in London’s Heathrow airport on his way from Berlin (on assignment for The Guardian with regard to Edward Snowden) to his home in Rio de Janeiro, Mr. Maranda was detained for nine hours of interrogation under the British Terrorism Act of 2000. According to Neil Wallis, former executive editor, News of the World: “This is an appalling, blatant breach of press freedom.” U.S. officials acknowledged that they were aware of Mr. Maranda’s detention but claimed that they had not requested it. Right! We believe every thing our government tells us. Right?

How far do the abuses of power by the Obama administration have to go before we become concerned enough to put a stop to them?

About wcoats

I specialize in advising central banks on monetary policy and the development of the capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy.  I joined the International Monetary Fund in 1975 from which I retired in 2003 as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department. While at the IMF I led or participated in missions to the central banks of over twenty countries (including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Zimbabwe) and was seconded as a visiting economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1979-80), and to the World Bank's World Development Report team in 1989.  After retirement from the IMF I was a member of the Board of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority from 2003-10 and of the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review from 2010-2017.  Prior to joining the IMF I was Assistant Prof of Economics at UVa from 1970-75.  I am currently a fellow of Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise.  In March 2019 Central Banking Journal awarded me for my “Outstanding Contribution for Capacity Building.”  My most recent book is One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have a BA in Economics from the UC Berkeley and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. My dissertation committee was chaired by Milton Friedman and included Robert J. Gordon.
This entry was posted in News and politics and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Abuse of Power

  1. Marko Skreb says:

    Dear Warren,
    I congratulate you on this post.
    Marko (from Croatia).

  2. S. P. says:

    You go Warren! This is a good blog.

  3. Bob says:

    Will Snowden be entitled to a ticker tape parade in Russia once he has whistleblown government invasion of privacy there?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s