Right, Left agree: Obama had no intention of having an NSA debate before Snowden

posted at 9:21 am on August 12, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Did Barack Obama really think that anyone would buy his claim last Friday that he wanted a debate on NSA surveillance programs all along, and that Edward Snowden’s leaks only complicated his ability to conduct it?  David Gregory asked Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), chair of the Homeland Security Committee, who called Obama’s suggestions for reform “window dressing“:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that the program, which has come under fire from privacy advocates, was not against the law.

“I think when the story initial broke, the president went undercover,” McCain [sic] said. “He just finally came out last Friday with ways to try to salvage the program by window dressing.

“The problem, fundamentally, is he has failed to explain these programs, which are lawful, which have saved lives, which have stopped terrorist plots,” McCaul continued. “He has not adequately explained them, and now he’s in a bit of a mess because after the IRS scandal, where people don’t trust this government with their tax records, they sure don’t trust them with their phone records.”

McCaul said he saw “no evidence” that Obama was planning to discuss the surveillance program before its existence was leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

“I think Snowden came out, leaked this information, and the White House has been backtracking ever since.”

Of course, that’s what one might expect to hear a Republican say — even one defending the NSA program such as McCaul. What about Democrats? A former aide to NSA critic Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) blasted Obama for claiming that he wanted a debate on the NSA, when the White House did almost everything in its power to keep Wyden from having one.  Jennifer Hoelzer points out that the time to have these debates would have been the several times Congress voted to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act and FISA laws during Obama’s term, and yet the President never said a word (via the Washington Examiner):

Really, Mr. President? Do you really expect me to believe that you give a damn about open debate and the democratic process? Because it seems to me if your Administration was really committed those things, your Administration wouldn’t have blocked every effort to have an open debate on these issues each time the laws that your Administration claims authorizes these programs came up for reauthorization, which — correct me if I am wrong — is when the democratic process recommends as the ideal time for these debates.

For example, in June 2009, six months before Congress would have to vote to reauthorize Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the Obama Administration claims gives the NSA the authority to collect records on basically every American citizen — whether they have ever or will ever come in contact with a terrorist — Senators Wyden, Feingold and Durbin sent Attorney General Eric Holder a classified letter “requesting the declassification of information which [they] argued was critical for a productive debate on reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act.”

In November 2009, they sent an unclassified letter reiterating the request, stating:

“The PATRIOT Act was passed in a rush after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Sunsets were attached to the Act’s most controversial provisions, to permit better-informed, more deliberative consideration of them at a later time. Now is the time for that deliberative consideration, but informed discussion is not possible when most members of Congress – and nearly all of the American public – lack important information about the issue.”Did President Obama jump at the opportunity to embrace the democratic process and have an open debate then? No. Congress voted the following month to reauthorize the Patriot Act without debate.

Read it all, as Hoelzer details all of the opportunities Obama had to make the NSA surveillance an issue and chose instead to shepherd its power.  Normally an administration would send out a flunky like Jay Carney to make this kind of baldly false claim. Having Obama do it is either desperate or amateurish, neither of which instills much confidence in the competency of this administration.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

In my best Hillary voice:

What’s it all matter anyway?You haven’t lost any freedoms.
/

CW on August 12, 2013 at 9:23 AM

your Administration wouldn’t have blocked every effort to have an open debate on these issues

Secretive yet open? Ha. This President is such a joke.

CW on August 12, 2013 at 9:24 AM

Obama still hasn’t figured out the President thing yet…

albill on August 12, 2013 at 9:28 AM

“He has not adequately explained them, and now he’s in a bit of a mess because after the IRS scandal, where people don’t trust this government with their tax records, they sure don’t trust them with their phone records.”

Hey, you know what would be a good idea? Giving the IRS our medical records!

Not.

rbj on August 12, 2013 at 9:29 AM

The president lies so effortlessly, I guess it takes people a while to figure out that he’s doing it.

scalleywag on August 12, 2013 at 9:32 AM

Competency?

MT on August 12, 2013 at 9:32 AM

I’m surprised he even spoke at all about this “phony” scandal. It’s beneath him to try and explain his policies to the lowly citizens, much less say that there will be a debate about them. Nothing will ever change as a result anyway, so why does he bother? He doesn’t care anything about the constitution.

scalleywag on August 12, 2013 at 9:35 AM

You know what else is legal and saves lives? Sealing the borders.

Cindy Munford on August 12, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that the program…McCain [sic] said…McCaul continued…McCaul said he saw.

McCain doesn’t belong here.

meci on August 12, 2013 at 9:45 AM

And who’s surprised that he’s lying about this?

rplat on August 12, 2013 at 9:45 AM

Having Obama do it is either desperate or amateurish, neither of which instills much confidence in the competency of this administration.

.
This one cuts right through party identification and THAT makes the SCOAMF administration desperate.

The NSA revelations have created a much greater sense of unease than the IRS abuses because liberals are happy to see the IRS exclusively targeting conservative groups but get scared as hell when computers start making two and three degrees of separation connections based on acquaintances.

So many of the liberals have that “edgy friend” from college or a party they attended who was REALLY radical and that seemed really cool until the NSA programs were revealed to be looking through those sorts “connections”.

Silly liberals, do you think the SCOAMF cares about you?

Hint: He is only proposing window dressing NOT doing away with the NSA’s “Friends of friends” program.

PolAgnostic on August 12, 2013 at 9:48 AM

McCain doesn’t belong here.

meci on August 12, 2013 at 9:45 AM

He doesn’t really belong anywhere. That’s just one of many annoying traits he has.

Flange on August 12, 2013 at 9:50 AM

OT:

‘Baby: Nailed it!’ Mary Katharine Ham has baby girl; Announces it Hammer-style [pic]
http://twitchy.com/2013/08/12/baby-nailed-it-mary-katharine-ham-has-baby-girl-announces-it-hammer-style-pic/

Galt2009 on August 12, 2013 at 9:59 AM

To be fair, Congress had no intention of having an NSA debate before Snowden either. It is unclear how much Congress actually knew but they don’t seem to be particularly upset with the scope of the snooping on Americans, the fact that the FISA court exceeded its authority under the Patriot Act, or the fact that we have yet to know just where and for what purposes that information is being harvested.

At this point who believes that OFA’s super-awesome database was really created by partisan activists providing street by street information for grass roots engagement.

Angry lesbians tattling on neighbors or NSA downloading stuff to the Obama campaign? Which is more likely?

Happy Nomad on August 12, 2013 at 10:11 AM

I know this is going to sound trifling, but I would love to ask Mr. Hoelzer, if other than this, Obama is a swell guy and a great president.

Cindy Munford on August 12, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Well, it is a damn good thing we have a professional free, independent and energetic press…

And a remarkably wonderful thing that any sort of dictatorship could never ever ever be established in these United States…

And it is comforting to know that government today is without fail, ever, solely dedicated to making sure that all citizens are to be vigorously and unfailingly safe from any sort of infringement of their Constitutional Rights and guarantees…

Yep…living in America…the most free nation on earth…

After the past five years, sounds like a bunch of hooey, doesn’t it?

Freedom?

Used top have that…once…

Anyway…God save the King…and protect the NSA…and the IRS…and the FBI…and goodness knows we gots to have more Obamacare…cuz Obama is our Saviour.

coldwarrior on August 12, 2013 at 10:29 AM

Lawful…. Yes. Constitutional…. No way. You simply cannot gather information on every American.

supersport667 on August 12, 2013 at 10:39 AM

It is the absolute right of the state to supervise the formation of public opinion.

-Joseph Paul Goebbels

roflmmfao

donabernathy on August 12, 2013 at 10:53 AM

Lawful…. Yes. Constitutional…. No way. You simply cannot gather information on every American.

supersport667 on August 12, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Mary Katharine’s new daughter reminds me that yes they can and do gather information on every American. They are called Birth Certificates.

meci on August 12, 2013 at 11:08 AM

meci on August 12, 2013 at 11:08 AM

And they give you the paperwork for the child’s life long assigned number in the hospital now.

Cindy Munford on August 12, 2013 at 11:33 AM

Don’t miss this: Mad Magazine on the Obama Presidency

slickwillie2001 on August 12, 2013 at 11:45 AM

“The problem, fundamentally, is he has failed to explain these programs, which are lawful, which have saved lives, which have stopped terrorist plots,” McCaul continued.

They are NOT lawful, have NOT saved lives and they have NOT stopped terrorist plots.

Wow this guy is a monumental liar, just like zero.

The NSA is protecting the aristocrats not us. The Boston massacre and the Fort Hood Massacre put the lie to all their claims.

dogsoldier on August 12, 2013 at 1:27 PM

“competency” + “this administration” is an oxymoron.

platapapin on August 13, 2013 at 2:23 AM

“The problem, fundamentally, is he has failed to explain these programs, which are lawful, which have saved lives, which have stopped terrorist plots,” McCaul continued.

Can you prove any of these three assertions?

We must have a different definition of “lawful” for one… is violating the 4th Amendment flagrantly a “lawful” act?

What lives were saved by collecting ALL domestic metadata from multiple phone carriers? What plots were prevented from violating citizens’ 4th Amendment rights on completely domestic phone data?

I’m going to need some evidence before I accept those claims; they don’t seem accurate to me.

gekkobear on August 13, 2013 at 2:14 PM