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Worst since Watergate? President Obama has used the Espionage Act six times to criminalise reporting, more than any predecessor

When the two leaders of the world's superpowers met in the Californian desert for the much-heralded Sino-American summit in June, one of them was being credibly accused by the internal opposition of serious civil liberties violations, the secret seizure of journalists' phone and email records, the illegal use of the state tax authorities to harass citizens, a full-scale government cover-up over the circumstances of four murders and the "systematic targeting" of news organisations. The other leader was Xi Jinpeng.

All administrations — indeed almost all Western governments — have their high-profile scandals. Ronald Reagan had Iran-Contra, Margaret Thatcher had Westland, Bill Clinton had Whitewater and Lewinsky, George W. Bush had Scooter Libby, Tony Blair the sexed-up Iraq dossier. Silvio Berlusconi's "bunga bunga" is still dragging through the courts: in Italy, as in France or Spain, a scandal is almost a prerequisite of office. 

Yet this summer Barack Obama has no fewer than four separate scandals pending, which are collectively referred to as "Obamagate". Astonishingly, less than a year after his re-election, we may be witnessing the unravelling of the Obama presidency.  

Three well-placed whistleblowers have come forward to contradict the administration's version of the events that led to the death by asphyxiation of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi on the night of September 11, 2012, and the murder of another State Department official Sean Smith and two former Navy Seals working as CIA contractors, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

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