Dear Commons Community,
First we had Benghazi, then the F.B.I. investigation of journalist James Rosen for security leaks, then the IRS scandal, and now the collection of telephone and email records of millions of Americans with the cooperation of Verizon, Microsoft, Google, and other major technology companies. Many Americans dismissed the first three as minor to modest issues sensationalized by the right-wing press and especially Fox News, but this latest revelation of massive data collection has tipped the balance and has us wondering whether President Barack Obama is morphing into George W. Bush. Here is an example from The Huffington Post:
“Five years into his presidency, Barack Obama presides over a national security apparatus that in many ways still resembles the one left behind by President George W. Bush. Drones are killing terrorism suspects, the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, holds “enemy combatants” and the government secretly collects telephone records of millions of Americans.
This from a president who in 2008 ran as the anti-Bush candidate who would get the U.S. out of Iraq, put an end to torture and redefine U.S. policies abroad.
But even as he has ended the war in Iraq, changed interrogation standards and sought to build foreign alliances, the former constitutional law professor also has disappointed some allies by embracing, and in some cases expanding, the counterterrorism policies that caused Bush to run afoul of civil libertarians.
Over the past two days, news accounts have revealed that the government has collected millions of Americans’ phone records in the name of national security and has also conducted an Internet surveillance program that tracks people’s movements and contacts that the Obama administration says is aimed exclusively at non-citizens outside the U.S. Both programs rely on the Bush-era Patriot Act, which Congress has since twice reauthorized with Obama’s support.
The disclosures come two weeks after Obama declared in a major speech that when it comes to the nation’s security “America is at a crossroads” and proposed a more targeted counterterrorism strategy. But even while calling for a national debate over the appropriate balance between security and freedom, that speech, and the reports of phone and Internet surveillance by the National Security Agency, underscored that Obama, like Bush before him, has an overriding preoccupation about a terror attack on U.S. soil.
In the United Kingdom, the Brits sing out “God Save the Queen”. Here in America we will be singing “God save us from our government”!