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NSA's Verizon surveillance: how the White House tramples our constitution

June 7, 2013 in Politics & Elections

In December 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama joined then-Senator Chris Dodd in threatening to filibuster the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa). Senator Obama opposed provisions granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that shared private client information with the government. His office released a statement:

‘Granting such immunity undermines the constitutional protections Americans trust the Congress to protect. Senator Obama supports a filibuster of this bill …’

Senator Obama was right. Had I been in the Senate, I would’ve voted with him. I’ve even filibustered myself over civil liberties issues I believe are important.
Later, supporting an amendment that he believed repealed retroactive immunity from Fisa, Senator Obama said in February 2008:

‘We can give our intelligence and law enforcement community the powers they need to track down and take out terrorists without undermining our commitment to the rule of law, or our basic rights and liberties.’

Senator Obama in 2007 was rightly concerned that telecommunications companies might get away with sharing clients’ private information without legal scrutiny. This week, we learned that the president’s National Security Agency compelled Verizon to hand over all of its client data records.
Senator Obama in 2008 wanted to track potential terrorist activity ‘without undermining our commitment to the rule of law, or our basic rights and liberties’. Today, President Obama undermines the rule of law, basic rights and core liberties – all in the name of tracking terrorists.
There is always a balance between security and liberty and the American tradition has long been to err on the side of liberty. America’s founders feared a government powerful enough to commit unreasonable searches and seizures and crafted a constitution designed to protect citizens’ privacy.
Under this administration, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has targeted political dissidents, the Department of Justice has seized reporters’ phone records, and now we’ve learned the NSA seized an unlimited amount of Verizon’s client data. Just when you think it can’t get any worse under this president, it does. This is an all-out assault on the constitution. These actions are unacceptable under any president, Democrat or Republican.
I can remember well a Senator Obama who joined the Democratic chorus against the warrantless wiretapping of the Bush administration. Now, that chorus has gone mute. The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald has noted what he sees …read more


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