(’76 Contributor) President Obama made a revealing statement in a June 7 press conference regarding the National Security Agency’s surveillance of cell phone and Internet records.
“That’s not to suggest that you just say, ‘Trust me, we’re doing the right thing, we know who the bad guys are,’” President Obama said. “The reason that’s not how it works is because we have congressional oversight and judicial oversight. And if people can’t trust not only the executive branch, but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution and due process and the rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.”
Well, it looks like we’re going to have some problems here, then.
A recent Rasmussen Poll reports that just 30 percent of voters nationwide trust the U.S. government to abide by the Constitution in their surveillance endeavors, while 52 percent do not. Given the nature of the synchronous scandals in Washington, is it any surprise that the American people have little faith in their government?
The president cited judicial and congressional oversight in order to justify trust in the executive. But where was the judicial oversight when the Department of Justice confiscated emails and phone records from Fox News reporter James Rosen and then went on to track his movements?
A federal judge signed off on a DOJ warrant that named Rosen as a “co-conspirator” and flight risk in order to gain access to his source—information that the DOJ has since admitted was false, claiming that they never had any intentions to prosecute Rosen.
It’s not that the American people don’t trust the judiciary and Congress to perform their duty to constrain the executive, it’s that the Obama Administration is actively trying to avoid these checks, by tactics such as lying about its true prosecutorial intentions to federal judges.
Obama hasn’t exactly proven his trustworthiness on the NSA scandal, either. As a candidate, he routinely termed the contrast between liberty and security as a “false choice.”
“[The Bush Administration] also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide,” then-candidate Obama said in a 2007 speech during the Democratic Presidential Primary. “I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without underpinning our Constitution and freedom. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens. No more National Security Letters to spy on citizens who aren’t suspected of a crime.”
Aside from the ridiculous notion that there isn’t a choice between freedom and security (the Constitution was ratified in order to try to balance these competing ideals), these comments are almost prophetically hypocritical.
President Obama has also recently made comments suggesting that the War on Terror is nearly, if not completely, over. Such an assessment begs the question: If the president believes that the War on Terror is coming to an end, then why is he doubling down on terrorist surveillance methods?