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The Surveillance Reforms Obama Supported Before He Was President

The White House has opposed efforts to rein in NSA snooping, but only five years ago, Sen. Obama supported substantial reforms.

Sen. Barack Obama in 2005. The White House has opposed efforts to rein in NSA snooping, but as a senator, Obama supported substantial reforms. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

When the House of Representatives recently considered an amendment that would have dismantled the NSA’s bulk phone records collection program, the White House swiftly condemned the measure. But only five years ago, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. was part of a group of legislators that supported substantial changes to NSA surveillance programs. Here are some of the proposals the president co-sponsored as a senator.

As a senator, Obama wanted to limit bulk records collection.

Obama co-sponsored a 2007 bill, introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., that would have required the government to demonstrate, with “specific and articulable facts,” that it wanted records related to “a suspected agent of a foreign power” or the records of people with one degree of separation from a suspect. The bill died in committee. Following pressure from the Bush administration, lawmakers had abandoned a similar 2005 measure, which Obama also supported.

We now know the Obama administration has sought, and obtained, the phone records belonging to all Verizon Business Network Services subscribers (and reportedly, Sprint and AT&T subscribers, as well). Once the NSA has the database, analysts search through the phone records and look at people with two or three degrees of separation from suspected terrorists.

The measure Obama supported in 2007 is actually similar to the House amendment that the White House condemned earlier this month. That measure, introduced by Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and John Conyers, D-Mich., would have ended bulk phone records collection but still allowed the NSA to collect records related to individual suspects without a warrant based on probable cause.

The 2007 measure is also similar to current proposals introduced by Conyers and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

As a senator, Obama wanted to require government analysts to get court approval before accessing incidentally collected American data.

In Feb. 2008, Obama co-sponsored an amendment, also introduced by Feingold, which would have further limited the ability of the government to collect any communications to or from people residing in the U.S.  

The measure would have also required government analysts to segregate all incidentally collected American communications. If analysts wanted to access those communications, they would have needed to apply for individualized surveillance court approval.

The amendment failed 35-63. Obama later reversed his position and supported what became the law now known to authorize the PRISM program. That legislation — the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 — also granted immunity to telecoms that had cooperated with the government on surveillance.

The law ensured the government would not need a court order to collect data from foreigners residing outside the United States. According to the Washington Post, analysts are told that they can compel companies to turn over communications if they are 51 percent certain the data belongs to foreigners.

Powerpoint presentation slides published by the Guardian indicate that when analysts use XKeyscore — the software the NSA uses to sift through huge amounts of raw internet data — they must first justify why they have reason to believe communications are foreign. Analysts can select from rationales available in dropdown menus and then read the communications without court or supervisor approval.

Finally, analysts do not need court approval to look at previously-collected bulk metadata either, even domestic metadata. Instead, the NSA limits access to incidentally collected American data according to its own “minimization” procedures. A leaked 2009 document said that analysts only needed permission from their “shift coordinators” to access previously-collected phone records. Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., has introduced a bill that would require analysts to get special court approval to search through telephone metadata.

As a senator, Obama wanted the executive branch to report to Congress how many American communications had been swept up during surveillance.

Feingold’s 2008 amendment, which Obama supported, would have also required the Defense Department and Justice Department to complete a joint audit of all incidentally collected American communications and provide the report to congressional intelligence committees. The amendment failed 35-63.

The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community told Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Co. last year that it would be unfeasible to estimate how many American communications have been incidentally collected, and doing so would violate Americans’ privacy rights.

As a senator, Obama wanted to restrict the use of gag orders related to surveillance court orders.

Obama co-sponsored at least two measures that would have made it harder for the government to issue nondisclosure orders to businesses when compelling them to turn over customer data.

One 2007 bill would have required the government to demonstrate that disclosure could cause one of six specific harms: by either endangering someone, causing someone to avoid prosecution, encouraging the destruction of evidence, intimidating potential witnesses, interfering with diplomatic relations, or threatening national security. It would have also required the government to show that the gag order was “narrowly tailored” to address those specific dangers. Obama also supported a similar measure in 2005. Neither measure made it out of committee.

The Obama administration has thus far prevented companies from disclosing information about surveillance requests. Verizon’s surveillance court order included a gag order.

Meanwhile, Microsoft and Google have filed motions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking permission to release aggregate data about directives they’ve received. Microsoft has said the Justice Department and the FBI had previously denied its requests to release more information. The Justice Department has asked for more time to consider lifting the gag orders.

As a senator, Obama wanted to give the accused a chance to challenge government surveillance.

Obama co-sponsored a 2007 measure that would have required the government to tell defendants before it used any evidence collected under the controversial section of the Patriot Act. (That section, known as 215, has served as the basis for the bulk phone records collection program.) Obama also supported an identical measure in 2005.

Both bills would have ensured that defendants had a chance to challenge the legalityof Patriot Act surveillance. The Supreme Court has since held that plaintiffs who cannot prove they have been monitored cannot challenge NSA surveillance programs.

Those particular bills did not make it out of committee. But another section of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires that the government tell defendants before it uses evidence collected under that law.

Until recently, federal prosecutors would not tell defendants what kind of surveillance had been used.

The New York Times reported that in two separate bomb plot prosecutions, the government resisted efforts to reveal whether its surveillance relied on a traditional FISA order, or the 2008 law now known to authorize PRISM. As a result, defense attorneys had been unable to contest the legality of the surveillance. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., later said that in both cases, the government had relied on the 2008 law, though prosecutors now dispute that account.

On July 30, the Justice Department reversed its position in one bomb plot prosecution. The government disclosed that it had not gathered any evidence under the 2008 law now known to authorize sweeping surveillance.

  

But that’s not the only case in which the government has refused to detail its surveillance. When San Diego cab driver BasaalySaeedMoalin was charged with providing material support to terrorists based on surveillance evidence in Dec. 2010, his attorney, Joshua Dratel, tried to get the government’s wiretap application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The government refused, citing national security.

Dratel only learned that the government had used Moalin’s phone records as the basis for its wiretap application — collected under Section 215 of the Patriot Act — when FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce cited the Moalin case as a success story for the bulk phone records collection program.

Reuters has also reported that a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit uses evidence from surveillance to investigate Americans for drug-related crimes, and then directs DEA agents to “recreate” the investigations to cover up the original tip, so defendants won’t know they’ve been monitored.

As a senator, Obama wanted the attorney general to submit a public report giving aggregate data about how many people had been targeted for searches.

Under current law, the attorney general gives congressional intelligence committees a semiannual report with aggregate data on how many people have been targeted for surveillance. Obama co-sponsored a 2005 bill that would have made that report public. The bill didn’t make it out of committee.

Despite requests from Microsoft and Google, the Justice Department has not yet given companies approval to disclose aggregate data about surveillance directives.

As a senator, Obama wanted the government to declassify significant surveillance court opinions.

Currently, the attorney general also gives congressional intelligence committees “significant” surveillance court opinions, decisions and orders and summaries of any significant legal interpretations. The 2005 bill that Obama co-sponsored would have released those opinions to the public, allowing redactions for sensitive national security information.

Before Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the Obama Justice Department had fought Freedom of Information Act lawsuits seeking surveillance court opinions. On July 31, the Director of National Intelligence released a heavily redacted version of the FISA court’s “primary order” compelling telecoms to turn over metadata.

In response to a request from Yahoo, the government also says it is going to declassify court documents showing how Yahoo challenged a government directive to turn over user data. The Director of National Intelligence is still reviewing if there are other surveillance court opinions and other significant documents that may be released. Meanwhile, there are severalbills in Congress that would compel the government to release secret surveillance court opinions.

youare kidding

Aug. 7, 2013, 11:23 a.m.

Gee ... you have no comments yet ?

Beautifully done piece.

Bruce J Fernandes

Aug. 7, 2013, 12:18 p.m.

Thank you ProPublica for exposing at least one of so many of Obama’s hypocrisies since he entered office.  We cannot count on a media that is his pet lapdog to provide any truths to the American people.

I say again no republican has shown anything that deserves consideration for the presidency.  However, if you want a media that will expose the truth again then you have no choice but to elect a republican president.

I am not kidding but reality is Hillary Clinton will be the candidate with the most extensive resume and as a conservative independent I can say she will be a big breath of fresh air because her policies will not be as extreme as Obama’s.

The difference between a senator and a president is that a senator has no individual responsibility or accountability, when it comes to national security. That’s why senators talk so much and make such random, even looney statements. They don’t have to actually make decisions other than, sometimes, take votes. And those votes are buried in a pile of 99 or so other votes.

The raison d’detre of the nation-state—why it came into being—is to protect citizens from external threats. (Think of it as raison d’etat.) Given his/her authority in national security matters and concomitant responsibility, and given the information she/he is privy to, and given the necessity of working with a vast national-security bureaucracy that existed before he/she arrived and will exist long after she/he leaves office . . .

. . . given all this, a president/commander-in-chief is almost certainly going to err on the side of caution when it comes to the irreconcilable conflicts between national security and personable privacy and between national security and press freedom. A president’s responsibility for national security is weighty, far, far weightier than any senator’s, or, for that matter, any general’s or intelligence chief’s.

These issues presumably look a lot different from the Oval Office than they do from the Senate’s well. Or from a newsroom. Only presidents have had the Oval Office view.

This is not to argue that Obama is correct in his presidential view. In fact, the concept of correctness in this context is nonsense. It is not as if it were written somewhere in the cosmos. No, this is only to point out that being a senator and being a president are two entirely different realities.

To put it in terms ProPublica might understand: being a reporter and being an editor are two different realities, with the latter carrying far greater responsibility and accountability. (I’ve been both.)

Charlie Williams

Aug. 7, 2013, 1:15 p.m.

That only reminds me on one quote by Bill Maher some 4 years ago: “The Democrats Have Moved To The Right and The Right Has Moved To The Mental Hospital”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWuCqtJR6vU

I voted for Senator Obama. We could sure use him now. Too bad he morphed into President Obama. All that power went to his head and now he won’t give it up. I wonder what he’d say if he ran into Senator Obama today.
All this tells me the government isn’t going to stop indiscriminate spying. Our only hope is to take matters into our own hands. Short of revolution, we need to wake up and start using the tech tools at hand to protect as much of our privacy as we can.
I’m talking about things like Textcrypt for messaging and Cloudlocker, the private cloud that keeps all your files safe in your house. And I’m hoping for a new wave of entrepreneurship from the techie crowd. Let the hackers unite and start making products that keep us safe from the people supposedly keeping us safe.

James M. Fitzsimmons

Aug. 7, 2013, 2:33 p.m.

Five years ago, President Obama was a gifted speaker, author of two autobiographies and a superb politician. What he stood for was based upon his “progressive” ideology, personal ambition and the practice of politics. Now, he is confronted with real world consequences for his decisions, actions and non-actions. I hope his appearance on Jay Leno last night in the midst of a threat against us was a tactical move to taunt Al Qaeda and not an indication of a lack of seriousness.

I have no problem with a senators opinions “morphing” into his presidential position as the reality of security threats and the value of the information obtained is laid bare.  As has been mentioned, time, experience, responsibility and the changing reality will, or should change anyone’s position.  The question is, to what extent should surveillance of the American public be carried to.
I see no “hypocrisy” involved.

Ernestine Leach

Aug. 7, 2013, 4:26 p.m.

I too have changed my mind about some things over the last 5 years based on new information I received.

Bruce J Fernandes

Aug. 7, 2013, 4:26 p.m.

Zane,

The hypocrisy is that a sitting US Senator was ripping into a sitting President’s policies and trying to paint George Bush and Dick Cheney as a couple of extremist lunatics.  We all saw how Bush and Cheney were labeled in the most horrible ways up to and including being war criminals. 

There may have been a lot of disagreements but it was Obama’s context and labeling of the administration then as paranoid and crazy that has now been more or less affirmed by Bush’s successor that requires his successor to correct the record.  He owes it to his predassessor who he chose to label in this manner the due for being on the right track IF Obama chose to continue AND expand on the prior administration’s initiatives in this regard.

basically; business as usual

Hypocrisy and partisan politics are sometimes bedfellows.  The Patriot Act was viewed as a license for a police state by many, and it has grown to what we have confronting us now.  Some Congressmen have claimed that they were not aware of the extent of the NSA’s activities.  Anyone paying attention, these last ten or so years, would not have been surprised.  I am concerned about homegrown terrorists but how extensive the monitoring should be needs airing out in public.

Zane

Obama and his handlers are masters at politics. That is the extend of Obama’s accomplishments.

Mr. Shahislam

Aug. 8, 2013, 3:53 a.m.

None speaks about simple facts of truth because of either conditioned un-smartness or scared to get the hidden facts together.
The reason this aviation industry involves Hi-tech and the factories thereof (sky-watch machines) belong to SWT {super wealthy thugs (in disguise)}.
The old trend of powerless heads of good Western governments vs. thuggish natively powerful heads such as Iran, Russia, Israel, Britain

None speaks about simple facts of truth because of being either conditioned by un-smartness or scared of SWT to get the hidden facts together.
The reason this aviation industry involves Hi-tech and the factories thereof (sky-watch machines) belong to SWT {First 100 of 2000 super wealthy thugs (in disguise else where from the West to Deserts)}.
The old trend of powerless acting of heads of good Western governments vs. thuggish natively powerful heads (invisible actual heads: IAH) such as Iran, Russia, Israel, Britain, France etc..

Unfortunately, Obama’s approach reflects an annoying number of people in this country:  When you have an abusable power, it’s a bad thing that must be stopped.  When I have an abusable power, it’s abused for the highest purposes.

Look at the Republican voters who supported surveillance and war under Bush who suddenly abhor it under Obama.  Look at the Democratic voters who hated surveillance and war under Bush who suddenly believe it’s our duty under Obama.  Why would Obama be so much different?  I mean, let’s be honest that nobody goes into politics with the goal of having less power, just like nobody in the corporate world ever demands a salary cut.

The problem is that we allow expedience to get in the way of principle and we allow what amounts to partisanism to get in the way of right.  Worse, we allow politicians to call whistle-blowers, protetstors, and generally anybody who disagrees with the current establishment “traitorous.”  When those things pass without loud comment, it sends the message that the population is perfectly happy with authoritarianism.

(And look how we’ve come full-circle, with Obama now trying to use Snowden to invoke the return of the Cold War.  The War on Terror is no longer in fashion, so maybe the Reds can be under every bed and behind every lamp post waiting to murder Americans, again…)

Bruce J Fernandes

Aug. 8, 2013, 11:52 a.m.

Unfortunately, Obama’s mo these days is to avoid the broader issues relating to the economy.  One in three millennial generation children are living with their parents or a family member.  The long term economic ramifications of this singular event are enormous.  Future income for this group will be materially less over the course of their lifetimes which for government translates into a lot less tax revenue.

At the other end you have millions of Americans into forced early retirement or disability meaning a lot less future social security benefits available to them.

My point is that Snowden, NSA, all of this is just a smokescreen to continue to ignore an economy that is not all that healthy for the vast majority of Americans…. I should say 80% of Americans inasmuch as the top 20% seem to be doing quite well.

My intention is not to go straight political but to point out all this stuff with Snowden in the context of what he has done does not merit the amount of news and other coverage being afforded to it.  Snowden did very little but to expose what the government has been doing… I don’t believe he has given the keys to the kingdom away.

To my way of thinking Snowden is to be admired to the extent that the American people deserve to know what their government is doing and I guess I put Snowden in with the Pentagon Papers where the American people learned its government was capable of deception in order to maintain a war that most inner circle people knew we were going to lose from the moment we entered that war.

I conclude from this summary that like most of the rest of the security-defense complex the president is unsure about how much the world and the nature of privacy has changed since 9-11. There are a significant number of people in the world who wish to kill me because I am a citizen of this country. I want someone to protect me. I also want my civil liberties and I am radical on First Amendment protections. It will take us a long time to figure this one out.

If someone like Obama who is philosophically opposed to surveillance believes that it is justified then he should be taken at his word that it is necessary.  This is not hypocrisy or conspiracy.  This is dealing with the realities of the situation free from ideology.  This is exactly what we want from a real leader.

Bruce J Fernandes

Aug. 8, 2013, 8:52 p.m.

Dave, the problem is Obama and his media cohorts made Bush and Cheney look like a couple of crazies when this program was implemented.  I will remind everyone that Bush’s version called for surveillance in situations where Americans called foreigners and vice versa.  Now if everyone thought that was so bad as to call Bush and Cheney extremists why is it different now and not only that there seems to be a succumbing to the idea that every American’s communication is subject to some level of surveillance?

I accepted the notion that if I called a foreign nation or vice versa that my communications could be subject to surveillance.  I do not accept that Americans talking to one another should be subject to any surveillance and if there is a perceived threat that our constitution requires law enforcement to get a subpoena to begin surveillance on its own citizens.

From my perspective the Obama administration is playing very fast and very loose and the same liberal media that ripped Bush and Cheney for what in retrospect was a very light surveillance program is giving Obama a free pass on a much more heavy-handed surveillance program.

I say again that if we allow this to go on then by the time everyone’s sensibilities are offended by a heavy-handed government it will be too late to turn back.  That is why we must fight the good fight for our basic freedoms.  We let this stand and we may as well give up the 4th amendment and assume everyone is guilty and subject to surveillance without oversight by that co-equal branch of government that is supposed to protect us from overreaching by the executive or the legislative.

Even Abe Lincoln had to be slapped down by a supreme court that said he had no unilateral right to suspend habeas corpus.  Unless you think Obama should have the power to take anyone off any street in America for any reason at all.

Jerry Lobdill

Aug. 8, 2013, 10:29 p.m.

Let’s get real.

When was the last time a President kept his campaign promises? I don’t remember one, and I’m 75.

They are all liars. And what should we expect. We’ve been letting them get away with it without exception.

I suggest that those who want to know what the Patriot Act contains and the changes made since 2001, read the Wikipedia article below.  Since Congress drew up the original and the changes since, Obama has only extended the last version in 2011.  The original and later versions does include surveillance of American citizens in many ways.  The monitoring technology development and increased usage of electronic and wireless media, by Americans, during the last twelve years, has made “data mining” more pervasive and closer to home.  The provisions that I really don’t like are where they can search your house or office and seize anything they want,  whether you are there or not.  I think only the people who wrote the bills know what’s in there.  Most of our Congressmen have not read it, even though they passed it.  For once, the ACLU is on our side.  They have a few extreme cases in court, like an innocent man spent time in jail and that sort of thing.  Snowden broke the law and should answer for it but this is our best opportunity to press Congress to review the Patriot Act and get some changes made.   

.wikipedia.org/wiki/USA_PATRIOT_Act

Is the mainstream media turning on the magic mulatto, Pharaoh Hussein?
No, by no means, this is just another fake-out.
The red diaper doper left-wing looney journo schmournos will never relinquish their love for this turxd.

Bruce J Fernandes

Aug. 9, 2013, 8:23 a.m.

Zane,

I would suggest to you that the portion of your comment that you really don’t like they can search your home or office.  We cannot stand for any of this nonsense on the part of government period!!!!

Our individual sense of what we don’t like as individuals is exactly why government is getting away with these gross intrusions into our lives.  You don’t like that and I don’t like this and she doesn’t think some other aspect of Patriot is good and so on.

We have to stand up against all of this; stand up for our freedom and let the government get on with profiling rather than casting a net over the entire population in the name of political correctness or fundamental fairness (FF).  This is a war on terrorism and its time to be damned with PC of FF.

Everyone seems to be ignoring how law enforcement has changed since 9/11.  In cities all over we see abuse by the police of its citizens at an alarming rate.  Here in Vegas we had a situation where police (SWAT) wanted access to a neighbor’s yard in order to enter an adjacent house.  They enter the yard without permission, encounter the family dog who is going aggressive, and SWAT kills the dog.  The neighbor whose yard SWAT decided they needed access to had no right to enter that yard, no permission, killed their dog… AND NO APOLOGIES.

We have all seen instances where citizens may be using their mobile phone to film a police action.  They are on their own property and I know of three instances where police confiscated a camera, arrested a citizen on their own property, and destroyed what was filmed on the camera by the citizen.

This is outrageous.  We didn’t fight a revolution to rid ourselves of a king and his armies so that America would become an armed camp under the control of local police at their whim.

I would submit to you there is an arrogance in law enforcement now.. a sense of self righteousness that is not good for the public at large.  I believe this is exactly what happens when law enforcement is given too wide a latitude and 9/11 initially created such an atmosphere but that part of the war on terror should not include harassment of your citizenry in the name of carrying on that war.

I had a personal experience many years before 9/11 that has shaped my opinion.  I was called as a juror to Federal District Court in San Francisco.  Wearing a three-piece suit with my juror badge on I couldn’t find my way into the plaza because there was a very noisy and testy protest going on in the plaza.  I walked around to a point where I thought I could enter the plaza; no rope and I could see my way to the doors.  All of the sudden a police officer took hold of me and aggressively slammed me into a wall.  I quickly explained that I am juror and have a badge on.  He wouldn’t let up.  His supervisor came over and got the officer to ease off.  No apology from the officer.  We cannot function in a world where the police can behave in any righteous manner without recognizing when they are wrong they have to put forth that apology to the ordinary citizen that has been wronged.

To this day whenever I get called for jury duty and asked the question about whether I trust the police I answer no now because I don’t trust the police to do the right thing anymore.

Dave, I have to disagree.  This isn’t about practicality versus philosophy, it’s about terrorism.

The media let Bush and Cheney confuse them as to what terrorism is, confusing it with violence.  But terrorism is a set of actions intended to make a population fearful in order to produce some political change in the target.

Are there rag-tag troglodytes plotting this sort of thing?  Yeah, but they’re a tiny minority, and many of them are so pissed at us because we keep dropping bombs on their homes and killing their families without trials and things like that.

The group that’s doing the most work to keep us fearful is seated in Washington.  We should fear not only outside attackers, they say, but even people inside who are offended at government policies.  Political dissidents are terrorists in the making, and we should fear anybody who speaks out against the government…especially if they have proof!  It’s now “espionage” to speak to the press about abuses of power.

And the only possible solution to these problems is, of course, to give the government more authority over our lives.  We must change society so that it’s everything we claim is bad about the various Emirates.  We need the tactics of the KGB and the Stasi.

George W. Bush said “they hate us for our freedoms.”  If someone is jealous of your shoes, though, you don’t go barefoot to placate them.  It doesn’t solve the problem.

Remember that this country has a history of doing this.  The first Red Scare (in the 1920s) almost tore the country apart.  The Palmer Raids had people arrested for advocating things like “don’t discriminate against black people.”

When Stalin became “Uncle Joe,” we turned our attention to imprisoning Japanese-Americans for (basically) looking too much like an enemy.

With Hitler and Tojo down, we had a nuclear holocaust looming over our heads that required keeping nefarious Leftists from making movies or reporting the news.

With Glasnost and Perestroika, we started sending SWAT teams to suburban drug busts.  And protests.  And religious communities, if they seemed shady.

When Americans became skeptical about the War on Drugs, we had the fortune of some bozos using commercial jets as battering rams.  They were Saudi Arabia and their orders came from Pakistan, so we obviously invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, which are…pretty much close enough.  Oh, and we need to record everybody’s thoughts, in case we need to incriminate them later.

Oh, and now that Americans are becoming skeptical about the War on Terror, Obama is suggesting that the numbers have tapered off and maybe we can return to normal.  But, wait!  What’s this?  Whistle-blowers!  They’re stealing our secrets and the Russians refuse to violate asylum laws to let us persecu—I mean “prosecute” the kid.  They are clearly looking to bring back the Cold War, so we’ll undoubtedly need to give the government even more authority.

My point, here, is that we live in a country where we “never let a good crisis go to waste.”  I assume every country works like this, but our history seems the most open about it.  The group in charge always needs more power to secure…well, itself.

If they really need special powers, they should make the case before the American people of what can’t be done in the legal regime.  Instead, they tell us about that time they captured the underwear bomber (who they didn’t catch until after his underpants crapped out, pardon the pun) while ignoring the Boston Marathon bombing that checks fits every criteria of something they claim to track.

And don’t think of it in terms of your personal freedom.  I’m an “I have nothing to hide” kind of guy.  However, I also realize that my freedom isn’t very important.  There are vulnerable people who do have legitimate things to hide without breaking any law, such as reporters, victims of abuse trying to escape, and potentially people who believe that the government is overstepping its boundaries.

The statement below is what the author, Kara Brandeisky, referenced and determined that the White House “rushed” to condemn.  This and “flip-flopped”, “hypocrisy” show the extent that Obama critics will go to politicize any subject.  It seems to me to be a reasonable approach to working out a surveillance program that we can all live with.  Scrapping the NSA is not in the best interest of U.S. security.  . 

Statement by the Press Secretary on the Amash Amendment
In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens.  The Administration has taken various proactive steps to advance this debate including the President’s meeting with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, his public statements on the disclosed programs, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s release of its own public statements, ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt’s speech at Brookings, and ODNI’s decision to declassify and disclose publicly that the Administration filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  We look forward to continuing to discuss these critical issues with the American people and the Congress.

However, we oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools.  This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.  We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.

This discussion, with the exception of a couple posts by semi-literate nut cases, has been interesting and a pleasure to read.

However, I don’t agree that Bush W. and Cheney were “painted” as dangerous…Cheney in particular is a dangerous man, as vile as Kissinger in his disregard for democratic values and basic human morality…and the Bush administration seeded as much of government as possible with people who really don’t believe in government having any functions other than promoting and protecting American corporatism in the world.

I am also deeply disappointed and angered by Obama’s switcheroos regarding surveillance, and his abysmal record in regard to drones, whistleblowers and leakers (other than his leakers).
However, given the present leadership of the GOP and the almost total lack of any moderates in their Congressional ranks, I find the idea of a Republican POTUS even more frightening, in almost all aspects, than another Democrat.

Obama proves that you can not trust what a politician says when trying to get elected.  He has been a dissappointment.  But he has also proven that we need to do more to get 3rd party candidates on the ballot.  Given only the choice between the Republicans and the Democrats, there was little choice…it was smart to go for Obama.  But there were others on the ballot in many states that did not have the deep pockets of the two major parties, and who many feel would have done a much better job.  We do have a choice, but we seem to confine that choice to the two major parties.  Voting is not a game, it is not about backing a winner or loser with your vote.  Voting is about picking the candidate who you feel would best lead this country, and the best candidate in the last election was not running on either of the two party tickets.  Over the last 30 years the Democrats have moved to the right and the Republicans have moved into the mental institution.  This country suffers from lack of leadership, out of control campaigns, and partisan politics.  Our dysfunctional Congress is a mere reflection of our fractured identity.

Regarding alternates to the GOP and Dems…voting for another party for POTUS is futile.
Any political party needs to have a substantial foundation in governing bodies across the nation in order to have any effect at all in DC.
Were some of the alternative candidates in 2012 better on some or even most issues than Obama/Biden or Romney/Ryan? Definitely…but did they have coat tails?...Congressional Reps and Senators of their party? No.
If elected, they would have been mere figureheads, ignored by federal and state legislators, except for the few, if any, of their party who were in office somewhere.
If you want alternatives, then you must work at getting your candidates elected at all levels of government…local, county, state…build an infrastructure before trying to reach the moon.

The “Yes we can” President became the “No I won’t” President. And now we have a “No we won’t Republican House” so we essentially have a government that does not function. I am not quite sure what form of government we have at the moment but it certainly is not a democracy.

Plutocracy or corporatocracy or fascism. Take your pick, Steve.

Obama is dirty.  NSA has it all.  They own him.

The cynical nature of every individual in this discussion disgusts me. There is no excuse for any of our last three presidents, but in this regard, Bambi stands in a class by himself. He has taken every temporary War Powers Act type legislation, and tried to make it permanent law. And even when temporary, these powers do not resemble anything American in any way.

Does everybody realize how many Executive Directives he issues on a weekly basis? Better yet, do you realize that he does an end run on congress every time he does so? It all breaks down to this:Being born in Hawaii, then immediately moving to Indonesia where the formative years are spent, then moving on to Kenya before returning to Hawaii as a teenager does not make a person an American. American is not a nationality of location, but a nationality of a state of mind. If you have never learned this, then you are not an American.

To everybody who labeled any political party as anything, you can stuff it, because you are uninformed. The day the Democrats move to the right is the day we all faint, and the Republicans have not moved to a mental ward. Nothing has changed, because most politicians live in a mental ward. And who was it that said Hillary is a strong, conservative candidate? Please visit your local psychiatrist.

The problem is that our current crop of politicians are either clueless or gutless. The only way to resolve this is by voting every single incumbent out of office for the next two elections, and the White House must change hands. This will hurt a lot, but our grandchildren will thank those of us still around. So do you have the courage to get started? Or are you still worried about being safe and secure? If so, may I remind you about what I said about a state of mind?