If you’ve lost the New York Times editorial board, you’ve lost … a group that’s as far left as The Nation’s masthead, if we’re being honest. Not a huge deal. And he really hasn’t lost them. In nearly all other policy disputes, he’ll represent the liberal side of the argument. They’ll rally eventually.
But if you dislike what the NSA is doing, you’ll welcome this as a rare bit of bad press from a source the White House cares about that might make them think twice about the breadth of their data-mining:
Within hours of the disclosure that the federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.
Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability. The administration has now lost all credibility. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the 9/11 attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers…
Mr. Obama clearly had no intention of revealing this eavesdropping, just as he would not have acknowledged the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, had it not been reported in the press. Even then, it took him more than a year and a half to acknowledge the killing, and he is still keeping secret the protocol by which he makes such decisions.
We are not questioning the legality under the Patriot Act of the court order disclosed by The Guardian. But we strongly object to using that power in this manner. It is the very sort of thing against which Mr. Obama once railed, when he said in 2007 that the Bush administration’s surveillance policy “puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide.”
After an editorial this blistering from a paper this prominent, I think O no longer has any choice about the future of the policy. He’ll simply have to give a speech defending it while pretending to be broken up about the whole thing. It’s the only way to bring peace to anguished, betrayed liberal intellectuals like the Times’s board and Jane Mayer. Maybe he’ll even toss in a Reinhold Niebuhr quote or two. For old times’ sake.
Just to grind a little salt in the wound, via the Examiner, here’s Lindsey Graham telling Eric Holder this morning to keep up the good work. Exit question via John Ekdahl: Doesn’t the “F” in “FISA” stand for … “Foreign”? If that’s so, why does O’s phone-records dragnet include many millions of purely domestic calls?