President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address triggered my senses to contemplate whether I can continue to believe in what and how American government operates. I discovered a newfound difficulty in putting my trust in his agenda. Even more disturbing was the fact that he sounded like his predecessor. Like me, other civil libertarians must now be fuming over his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. By declaring so, President Obama not just mirrored the unpopular homeland security and defense policies of President George W. Bush, but made me question whether his government actually listens to the public. My expectations for a transparent government fall short not in that he sharply slams his critics for his “humble” policies without considering anyone for constructive criticism. The truth is that the ingenuity of my hope towards Obamaism is now challenged. I am eagerly waiting to see how Obama Administration decides to fix and reform, if they do it at all, the controversial PATRIOT Act at the end of this month.
In February 2010, many of the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act are likely to sunset and they need to be reauthorized. There are legal challenges and many Federal courts have ruled out those provisions as unconstitutional. In Congress a few tried to take the opportunity to revise and set new limits in accordance with the JUSTICE Act. Even though the newly proposed JUSTICE Act indicate substantial changes to several sections of the PATRIOT Act, it is not clear whether the Obama Administration will include some of those proposed reforms put forth by the JUSTICE Act advocates who care very much about civil liberties. If it does, then the government will be required to conduct surveillance but within a framework of accountability and transparency.
The government is also accountable when it unnecessarily dishonors citizen’s privacy rights. It is sad but true that the checks and balances of democracy are fading away slowly and trust is posing itself as a new challenge for the public to dwell on when they still hope for transparent and neutral policy making from their leaders. What the government lacks is a commitment to the greater society. To the surprise of many of today’s government figures that political control trumps trust and the more the public is skeptical about government regulations and policy implementation, the more the modern America will seek governing without government. In reality, democracy should prevail the way the founding fathers hoped for and so progressive politicians must learn to nurture public trust if they try to lead by example. To this end, I demand open decision making and unbiased policy choices when revising the expiring PATRIOT Act provisions. In no way those abusive sunsetting provisions may become permanent. Both the House and the Senate leaders must do justice by initiating amendments required to combat terrorism while protecting rights and liberties of American citizens.
Honestly, I do not want President Obama to fail. I just want him to listen to the public and to listen to what they have to say. This will make the job much easier without leading him into sharp controversy.
Reefa Mahboob, M.P.A.