The intelligence community argues that the current program does not constitute spying on Americans, because actual telephone calls are not monitored. First, do you believe them? Second, in a mega-data world, the bulk collection and analysis of telephone records yield to the government vast amounts of personal information. It’s spying. It needs to be done sparingly and under the type of check-and-balance approach suggested in the new Obama plan.
Obama’s bill will compete with others on Capitol Hill that would authorize the current program with only minor changes. Minor fixes aren’t enough. To protect the Constitution and his legacy, Obama must do more than propose a full overhaul. He must win it.
Privacy advocates and liberals might call Obama’s capitulation a victory for Snowden. I wouldn’t. I’m still where I was nine months ago, when I dismissed the hero-or-traitor debate and said the focus should be on surveillance programs launched by President Bush after 9/11 and expanded under Obama.