Obama in 2007: No More Spying on Citizens Not Suspected of a Crime

In August 2007 Senator Obama gave a foreign policy speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center in which he mapped out a five point plan for a new approach to foreign policy. Part of that approach was a promise to reign in government surveillance of “citizens who are not suspected of a

This Administration also puts forward a false choice between the
liberties we cherish and the security we demand. I will provide our
intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to
track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution
and our freedom.

That means no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens. No more
national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a
crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a
misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is
not who we are. And it is not what is necessary to defeat the
terrorists. The FISA court works. The separation of powers works. Our
Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the
law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is
not arbitrary.

This Administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not.

Obama promised there would be “No more
national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a
crime.” He went on to say “The FISA court works.”

Yesterday, the Guardian revealed a FISA court order mandating that Verizon hand over data on all phone calls inside the United States to the NSA. On one hand Obama seems to have been true to his word. Rather than using national security letters his FBI went through the FISA court.

But so what? What is the difference if, ultimately, the government is still collecting reams of data “on citizens who are not suspected of a crime.” Not just citizens plural but, apparently, every individual within America’s borders who has a phone (the surveillance is not limited to Verizon).

Does the FISA court order include calls made by members of Congress and the Supreme Court? Attorney General Holder refused to say in open testimony today.

Candidate Obama berated his predecessor not just over the process by which the information was obtained but over the government’s willingness to transgress the “civil liberties” of citizens in general. It was perhaps the one area in which candidate Obama seemed cognizant of the inherent dangers of big government run amok. The President should share with the American people what caused his obvious change of heart. One way or another it would be enlightening.


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