In a speech on Friday, President Obama outlined his plans to reform the National Security Agency’s data collection programs, citing particular sections of the PATRIOT Act that garnered renewed scrutiny after Edward Snowden leaked information about the intelligence agency’s activities.
Many voices on the left and right have criticized the speech for its vacuousness, particularly in regards to Obama’s proposed reforms to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which deals with domestic phone calls. It’s hard not to be frustrated with the president when he began his speech with a near insulting rehashing of America’s history of intelligence and spying. As he opened by saying “When Paul Revere…”, I almost walked — no, ran — away from my television set.
As National Review Online writer Charles C.W. Cooke opined on Twitter, many of the pro-privacy left got a dose of the medicine the right has been force fed for years. as Because, per usual with this president, his proposals fly right in the face of what he said as a senator and presidential candidate:
Really, Mr. President? You mean to tell us that President Bush was right in his national security zealousness, despite the fact that you blamed him for everything while on the campaign trail?
Naturally, this is par for the course in Beltway politics. Say one thing to get elected, do another to please your buddies or satisfy your own views. Nothing new.
The president should rethink his decision to leave mostly unaltered the NSA’s data collection programs, if not for privacy’s sake then due to its ineffectiveness. A review panel recently concluded that “the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215 telephony metadata was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional section 215 orders.” This doesn’t even address the belief that the NSA is collecting more than metadata when it comes to phone calls, which would further debunk the claim that these programs are vital to ensuring national security.
On top of this revelation, the UK Guardian has reported that the NSA collects upwards of 200 million text messages per day in an “untargeted” global sweep, which goes above and beyond the assertion that only metadata is stored for querying by the intelligence community.
Yes, those racy texts you sent to that cute girl you met at the bar the other night might be sitting on a server at the Utah Data Center, just waiting to be read.
For a man bound and determined to stop the government from spying on its citizens, President Obama has failed. Be sure to remember this moment when you next find yourself in the voting booth.
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