The New York Times, Huffington Post, and the Atlantic are blasting the Obama administration for multiple NSA-related scandals. It is going to be hard for their readers to miss and not be impressed.
The current Internet environment is now such that those who were only tagging along in support of President Obama due to peer pressure may finally be peeled away. A breaking news story showing the NSA and FBI engaged in massive surveillance through 9 Internet programs should help spread this negativity towards the U.S. government in general like a contagion.
What is the latest scandal, which should toss even more fuel on the fire?
The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time.
The highly classified program, code-named PRISM, has not been disclosed publicly before. Its establishment in 2007 and six years of exponential growth took place beneath the surface of a roiling debate over the boundaries of surveillance and privacy. Even late last year, when critics of the foreign intelligence statute argued for changes, the only members of Congress who know about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues. …
So with no further adieu, here’s the liberal paper-of-record on a sweeping NSA program that implies all American citizens are suspected of terrorist ties:
The Obama administration is secretly carrying out a domestic surveillance program under which it is collecting business communications records involving Americans under a hotly debated section of the Patriot Act, according to a highly classified court order disclosed on Wednesday night.
The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in April, directs a Verizon Communications subsidiary, Verizon Business Network Services, to turn over “on an ongoing daily basis” to the National Security Agency all call logs “between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
The order does not apply to the content of the communications.
The left-wing blogosphere has gone nuts… wait, gone nutsier, after the New York Times reported what Glenn Greenwald of the left-wing Telegraph scooped them on. Huffington Post ran the feature image of this post on its front page, to the chagrin of hordes of lefty drones.
Here is one excerpt from the HuffPo-ran AP article that shows we are not talking about a mere conflation of Obama and Bush:
James Bamford, a journalist and author of several books on the NSA, said it’s very surprising to see that the agency tracks domestic calls, including local calls. In 2006, USA Today reported that the NSA was secretly collecting a database of domestic call information. However, some phone companies denied any involvement in such a program.
Bamford’s assumption was that the uproar over a separate, post-9/11 warrantless wiretapping program and the departure of the Bush administration meant that the NSA had been reined in.
“Here we are, under the Obama administration, doing it sort of like the Bush administration on steroids,” he said in an interview with the Associated Press. “This order here is about as broad as it can possibly get, when it comes to focusing on personal communications. There’s no warrant, there’s no suspicion, there’s no probable cause … it sounds like something from East Germany.”
Assuming that at least some HuffPo readers think East Germany was bad, that’s pretty strong criticism to publish on the big blog’s pages. Another non-righty site Atlantic Wire also had some caustic words for the Obama admin in a piece called “Phone Sex, Banks & Google for Emails: The NSA Spying Is Bigger Than Verizon”:
And the NSA isn’t just collecting the things we say. It’s also tracking what we buy and where we go. In 2008, The Wall Street Journal‘s Siobhan Gorman reported that the NSA’s domestic data collection “have evolved to reach more broadly into data about people’s communications, travel and finances in the U.S. than the domestic surveillance programs brought to light since the 2001 terrorist attacks.” That means emails records, bank transfers, phone records, travel records.
…And the NSA would never abuse its awesome surveillance power, right? Wrong. In 2008, NSA workers told ABC News that they routinely eavesdropped on phone sex between troops serving overseas and their loved ones in America. They listened in on both satellite phone calls and calls from the phone banks in Iraq’s Green Zone where soldiers call home. Former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee Faulk described how a coworker would say, “Hey, check this out… there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out.” Faulk explained they would gossip about the best calls during breaks. “It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, ‘Wow, this was crazy.’”
The coup-de-grace is an opinion piece from the tissified New York Times that has to be seen to be believed. Here’s just a taste of what the editorial board had to say:
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.
John Nolte is quite right about the mainstream media not breaking one of the big scandal stories; but if there is a time for anything, it is for the conservative right to coax the left into unifying with them on civil liberties issues. It is outstanding that the left-wing punditocracy has turned to this extent on not just the President, but also acknowledges some basic principles the American right have been clamoring about for years! There is not a ‘but’ coming… take it and appreciate it for a change.
If right and left can agree on the importance of civil liberties, and see through the transparent abuse of the “war on terror” as a justification to deprive citizens of rights, then not all is lost. Maybe lefties will eventually be much more open to truths that were discovered hundreds of years ago with the founding of this country.
Quite simply, the Founders had it right. Citizens own the government and should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. It is the police’s job to investigate crimes with tools respecting the rights of citizens and to prevent crimes based on publicly acquired knowledge.
Police do not have a mandate to trample the rights of citizens and to treat them as if their lives are open books for ‘authorized’ bureaucrats or officials to read. In a bit of coincidence, Orwell’s 1984 was written 64 years ago. It should be taken as a warning.
When every American citizen is suspected of being a terrorist, there can be no privacy and no respite from the state’s intrusions. Democrats who say they care about civil liberties: Can you hear me now?
This article was adapted and extended from an IJReview article.