Civil Liberties in the Age of Obama
The NSA has been doing some snooping. By all accounts it was done legally.1 There’s a lot of argument that the snooping has been an effective anti-terror tool. But the scope of the subpoena is staggeringly large. And that may be just the beginning.
A lot of people are angry at the Obama Administration—and I think some outrage is reasonable. I just feel that the claim that “the Obama Administration is trampling your civil liberties” misses the point. Because the NSA really likes data. All our spy agencies like data—and they’re going to get as much of it as they can unless explicitly prohibited by law or direct policy. And no administration would have stopped the NSA from doing this snooping. The Clinton Administration wouldn’t have. Bush I wouldn’t have. Bush II wouldn’t have even gotten a warrant. Hilary Clinton’s administration would have done it. A Romney or McCain Administration would do at least as much snooping with less concern for privacy. The Rand Paul or Rubio Administrations would do the same thing. The Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders administrations might not do this sort of snooping—which is one of the reasons there will never, ever be a Ron Paul or Bernie Sanders administration.
Blaming the Obama Administration for permitting the NSA to request this type of information is like blaming a dog for eating the steak you left on the counter while you were at work. Maybe the perfect dog wouldn’t do that. Maybe. You really should have seen that one coming.
If we have laws on the books that permit this type of overstepping, it is going to happen. The problem isn’t the administration. The problem is the Patriot Act. It’s time to finally make some changes.
Somebody is going to challenge me on the use of the word “legally,” probably by saying that “If it’s unconstitutional, it can’t be legal.” I mean only that it complies with the statute as written and that the statute is not clearly unconstitutional. Yes, the argument can be made that the law as written or interpreted is unconstitutional—but that argument is made about tons of things. ↩