Friday, June 07, 2013

Anything you can do, I can do better.

It's pretty obvious that whatever story reported on the goings-on in our government, people are going to view it through their own political prism (no pun intended). When it was revealed during President George W. Bush's administration that the National Security Agency was collecting phone records in an effort to extract information regarding possible terrorist activities, many on the left suddenly became constitutional purists and demanded yet again that Bush be impeached. On the flip side, many on the right lauded the program, insisting that it had assisted in thwarting potential terror attacks. Apparently we were just supposed to take the Bush administration's word for it because the methodology of how the attacks were stopped was top secret stuff, dontcha know.

While I am not necessarily defending Bush's program, the fact of the matter is the data extracted in that particular NSA program dealt only with calls originating overseas into the United States and vice versa. We were also told that the government only made additional inquiries into said calls only when reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing existed. Again, because of it being top secret stuff, "shut up" they explained.

When on the campaign trail in 2008, then presidential candidate Barack Obama chided President Bush for adding $5 trillion to the national debt in an eight-year span. I believe the term Obama used back in the summer of '08 was "unpatriotic." Obama then proceed to add $6 trillion of debt in a mere four years. I bring that up because back in October 2005, then Senator Obama made a speech regarding the Patriot Act, essentially calling out the Bush Administration.

“…And if someone wants to know why their own government has decided to go on a fishing expedition through every personal record or private document – through library books they’ve read and phone calls they’ve made – this legislation gives people no rights to appeal the need for such a search in a court of law. No judge will hear their plea, no jury will hear their case. This is just plain wrong.Giving law enforcement the tools they need to investigate suspicious activity is one thing – and it’s the right thing – but doing it without any real oversight seriously jeopardizes the rights of all Americans and the ideals America stands for.”

Now that Obama is President, apparently he's "evolved" on the issue of "fishing expeditions."

President Obama on Friday defended the government’s collection of data on the phone records of millions of Americans, saying that it was a modest encroachment on privacy and one he thinks is both lawful and justified in order to identify terrorists plotting to attack the United States.

Obama emphasized that the government does not collect information on individual callers or eavesdrop on Americans’ conversations without a warrant. He said he would welcome a debate on the classified surveillance effort as well as the previously secret workings of a second program that gathers the e-mails and other digital content of targeted foreigners outside the United States from major American Internet companies.

The programs “make a difference in our capacity to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity,” Obama said.

Since Obama was able to top Bush in the national debt contest, why not also best him in the area personal record collection?

The bottom line is some U.S. citizens may acquiesce to these "modest encroachments" if indeed there were some comfort level that actual terrorist threats were impeded. Unfortunately, given how multiple warning signs regarding the Boston Marathon bombers were either bungled or ignored, you'll have to forgive the American people if they're cynical about their personal information not being compromised.


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