Within hours of the disclosure that 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 branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.As disturbing as these latest reports are, this information is only breaking news if you don't rely on alternative sources as I do. NSA and FBI whistle blowers have been reporting that the government has been routinely gathering and archiving all digital communications made by Americans, including e-mails and text messages and any websites visited on the Internet, including social media, in addition to phone calls. The mainstream media has largely ignored the whistle blowers. Mainstream reporters only seemed to take notice of the government's unwarranted and, arguably, unconstitutional spying on American citizens after reports surfaced that the Justice Department had used the Espionage Act as an excuse for reviewing phone and e-mail records of members of the news media in an effort to track down the source of leaks.
What's particularly troubling is how members of Congress of both parties are reacting with indifference to these latest revelations. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a liberal Democrat from California, is asserting that the surveillance of all Americans is a good thing that we should accept as the new normal. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) sees no problems with the surveillance because “to my knowledge we have not had any citizen who has registered a complaint relative to the gathering of this information.” How could they complain about something that hasn't been known to them until now? Sen. Lindsay Graham, who keeps looking for new ways to encourage a primary challenge in his conservative state of South Carolina said, “I’m a Verizon customer. I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States.”
As I see it, any member of Congress who defends this unprecedented, unsupported spying on American citizens violates the oath of office they took to support and defend the U.S. Constitution. Clearly, these members don't include the Bill of Rights as a part of the Constitution they took an oath to support and defend, or they wouldn't make such nonsensical comments in defense of limitless spying on us by our government.
UPDATE: Remember what the candidate said?