Sunday, July 12, 2009

The role of government in our lives: Secret CIA programs or Government backed Healthcare?

More information is coming to light about the extent of the CIA’s domestic spying and counterintelligence programs, which were engaged much sooner after September 11th than previously knows. According to an Associated Press article released last night, Congress was intentionally kept in the dark about specifics regarding these programs and possibly others upon the orders of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

This latest revelation is a continuation of information being released to the United States Congress and the public by current Central Intelligence Agency Director Leon Panetta. This began back on May 15th when Panetta notified Congress he had ended the waterboarding program that had existed under the two previous CIA Directors, exposing the extent that the waterboarding interrogation technique was used on Gitmo detainees to gain intelligence. This also ignited a back and forth of “he said, she said” between the CIA and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi if the CIA had briefed her and seven other House and Senate leaders on top secret intelligence matters, including the extent of waterboarding.

A couple of questions come to mind regarding this latest development. The first is how much executive power did President Bush abdicate to Vice President Cheney during his tenure in the White House? The second question is, was Vice President Cheney going rogue during this period of time and who else was involved? There is a strong appearance of abuse of power on the part of Vice President Dick Cheney, but I am not a lawyer.

There is a concern that during the Bush Administration, legal interpretations of the Constitution were strained to justify programs to gather intelligence at the domestic level as well as foreign, or laws were broken all in the name of National Security. While the Posse Comitatus Act might not have legally been violated, there are strong indications that the spirit of the law was violated, again in the name of National Security.

The Washington Post is reporting that United States Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. is “leaning toward appointing a criminal prosecutor to investigate whether CIA personnel tortured terrorism suspects after Sept. 11, 2001,” a move that is being described as trouble for the Obama Administration and its desire to move beyond these issues in the Bush Administration.

This brings me to the point of the choice between two evils, one perceived and one very real. Americans for Prosperity and Conservatives for Patients Rights are pushing hard on the whole boggyman message of “Government run healthcare.” Conservatives and supporters of the Private Health Insurance sector are resurrecting the fears of government controlled-rationing of health care that was used during the Healthcare Reform debate back in 1992-93. There has also been a lot of comments to the effect that “most of these uninsured people choose not to have health insurance” or they are uninsurable because “they made bad choices in their lives that have created pre-existing conditions” so that health insurance companies don’t want to insure them.

While these comments might hold true for some people, my experience working on the issue of Healthcare Reform revealed the vast majority of the 47 million Americans that are uninsured either make too much money to qualify for low income health insurance (Medicaid) or can’t afford to purchase private health insurance plans. What is obvious is the status quo is not sustainable.

It might be an unfair question to ask, but if you had to choose between keeping Congress in the dark on secret CIA programs in the name of “National Security” or the Federal Government having a role in making healthcare accessible and affordable to everyone, which would you chose? It appears that Conservatives would support secret CIA programs that jeopardize Constitutional integrity over public health and the common good. What is certain is that the prospect of an investigation into former Vice President Dick Cheney will hijack a large part of President Obama’s agenda and failure to figure out Healthcare Reform will derail it. The convergence of these two issues might be the moment of truth for President Obama, on top of how he continues to handle the economy.

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