The idea that Barack Obama had largely been continuing many of the national security policies of his predecessor is not new, and has been a constant theme almost since Obama took office.
But now, with revelations about the NSA acquiring the communications records of millions of Americans, the Bush and Obama administrations are officially joined at the hip — to the detriment of civil liberties, according to National Journal’s Ron Fournier:
If the story is accurate, the action appears to be legal. The order was signed by a judge from a secret court that oversees domestic surveillance. It may also be necessary; U.S. intelligence needs every advantage it can get over the nation’s enemies.
But for several reasons the news is chilling.
Verizon probably isn’t the only company coughing up its documents. Odds are incredibly strong that the government is prying into your telephone records today.
Issued in April, the NSA order “could represent the broadest surveillance order known to have been issued,” according to The Washington Post. “It also would confirm long-standing suspicions of civil liberties advocates about the sweeping nature of U.S. surveillance through commercial carries under laws passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”
This appears to be a “rubber stamp,” order, reissued every few months since 2001. As is the case with all government programs, the systematic snooping into your telephone records is unlikely to ever expire without public outcry.
Congress is full of hypocrites. Liberals who criticized Bush are less incensed with Obama. Republicans who bowed to Bush are now blasting Obama. The next time your congressional representative criticizes Obama for curbing civil liberties, ask if he or she would vote to repeal the Patriot Act, the post-911 law that handed unfettered power to the intelligence and military bureaucracies. Most won’t.
The Bush-Obama White House hates transparency. President George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, were justifiably criticized by Democrats (none more successfully so than Obama himself) for their penchant for secrecy. Obama promised that he would run history’s most transparent administration. By almost any measure, on domestic and well as foreign policies, Obama has broken that promise.
It is the lack of transparency that is most galling about the security versus civil liberties debate under Obama, because it shows his lack of faith in the public. Americans know a high level of secrecy and dirty work is needed to keep them safe. Most trust their president. Many approve of his job performance.
Still, they expect and deserve an open discussion about how to fight terrorism without undermining the Constitution.
Obama started that conversation with a recent address on the drone program, media leaks and the need to move American off a constant war footing. It was a compelling and well-considered argument for the balance he is claiming to strike.
But he made the speech under pressure, and reluctantly.
When a dyed-in-the-wool liberal like Fournier starts talking about the “Bush-Obama White House,” you have to think some invisible line has been crossed by the president that marks a change in how at least some of the Washington press corps will report on him.
Why? Here’s Fornier’s parting shot:
One thing we’ve learned about the Bush-Obama White House is that words don’t matter. Watch what they do.