NSA, Verizon: President Obama’s Dragnet – NYTimes.com
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 on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it…
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.”
Two Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, have raised warnings about the government’s overbroad interpretation of its surveillance powers. “We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” they wrote last year in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. “As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.”
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