Obama’s “war is over” rhetoric doesn’t match his surveillance push, says …
posted at 11:35 am on June 7, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
The news that the National Security Agency is collecting phone records on millions of Americans — along with new revelations that it is also mining data from Internet firms – exposes a basic, glaring contradiction at the heart of Obama’s prosecution of the war on terror. …
The administration is defending the NSA data-mining program by arguing that it does not entail any listening in on calls, even as the government is barred from indiscriminate sifting through the metadata, and sifting is only allowed when there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the “basis for the query is associated with a terrorist organization.” But that doesn’t explain the need for the program — and its legal rationale — to remain shrouded in secrecy. Key questions remain about the extraordinary scope and reach of it, and the degree to which it violates the basic privacy rights of American citizens. Administration officials — and members of Congress — have defended all of this as necessary to continue to defend the nation from terrorism. Whether or not that’s true, the very act of resorting to this defense confirms that the administration is not ready to end this “war” in practice. …
But ultimately, the basic question here is whether Obama actually wants to resolve the contradiction he himself has articulated as a pressing national challenge. He has sought to deal with this contradiction by arguing that we must have a “debate” about the proper security-civil liberties balance. But this effectively casts this as a process that will be resolved at some unforeseen point in the future. What’s more, by reserving the right to continue with an array of aggressive tactics, Obama is also confirming that he sees his own role as “commander in chief” as one that requires him to err on the side of national security over civil liberties when he deems fit, even as he continues to ask us, in effect, to trust him to work towards getting that balance right. That position has become harder to sustain in the wake of the new revelations. And it will be on Obama to prove that he is seriously interested in restoring the proper balance that he himself seems to hold up as the ideal goal.
I think the “trust us” argument is a dead letter now, especially with the new revelations exposing previous denials to Congress as false.
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