‘US government is not protecting its citizens' civil liberties'
The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed on Wednesday by President Barack Obama, has already been criticized by many within the US for allowing warrantless wiretapping of Americans and indefinite detention for suspicions of terrorism. The NDAA also allows for the notorious Guantanamo Bay military prison to remain open, despite President Obama's campaign pledge to shut down the facility years ago.
Many in the United States know very little about the secretive NDAA, Gosztola told RT.
RT: The White House earlier threatened to veto the [NDAA], but ended up rubber-stamping it anyway – why was that? And what are the implications?
Kevin Gosztola: For the most part, the reason why we are not seeing Obama veto this legislation as he could have is because he just doesn’t want to use all the political power that he might have to get his agenda accomplished. It’s just not something that he wants to take any risk on, because there are a lot of people in the Congress of the United States who do not support his commitment to closing this facility. So, the implication right now is that you have, there are 166 individuals still in the prison. Many of them are there being held indefinitely. Only nine are on trial or have been convicted, and so you’ve got a situation here where many men are possibly going to be languishing in this facility for quite some time.
RT: Obama also claims the provisions of the [NDAA] will never be used on Americans. But can he be expected to keep that promise, after failing to close Guantanamo for instance?
KG: I don’t know if you can say there is a guarantee, and in fact that is why currently in the US courts. there is in fact a case moving, it’s on appeal right now, the government has appealed it. But a judge earlier in 2012 had actually enjoined it, so that its conjunction made it so that this provision for indefinite detention was exactly not something that the government could use. Now the Obama administration is defending that in the courts.
RT: It's been well over a decade since the so-called War on Terror began. Do Americans feel such measures that Obama's now extended are still justified?
KG: I think that a lot of Americans still want to continue fighting this War on Terrorism. On one hand they’ve turned into people who don’t really support the long wars any more, as you are seeing the Afghanistan War winding down and a lot of American support bringing it to an end. On the other hand, there’s wide support for, I believe, for holding people who are suspected of terrorism indefinitely just because that’s how the Obama administration and even the Bush administration have convinced them that they are still people out there that pose quite a bit of a threat. And you are also seeing the use of covert operations and drone strikes, as you are seeing a very different approach to the War on Terror, but I think a lot of Americans support this.
RT: Obama also recently extended an act that allows for the wiretapping of Americans without a warrant – what's the reaction to that?
KG: I don’t think a lot of people in the United States know as much about what just happened given it happened during the holidays here in the US. So, unfortunately, they are not really aware that this law that allows warrantless surveillance has been reauthorized. Only a few senators seem to find this to be problematic. There’s secret law being made by a secret court to give the President the power to give the Executive branch of the United States the power to intercept and eavesdrop on communications from foreign people to US citizens, and there’s also the ability for them to keep communications and do whatever they want. And I think anybody in any country would find this to be something that you should be leery of.
RT: Washington often lectures other countries about civil liberties and democracy – so how credible does the US stance look now, considering all this controversial legislation?
KG: It’s fair to say that the United States should probably not be lecturing other countries about how they protect human rights or how they protect civil liberties, especially when many policies in the United States are not really good policies of their own. They are not protecting the civil liberties of US citizens, and they are not protecting the human rights of US citizens.