Obama backing down from NSA surveillance programs?

Could President Barack Obama scale back the expansive surveillance being conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA)? While he has defended the controversial program, claiming that collection innocent Americans’ phone records was necessary to combat the threat of terrorism, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) told The New York Times that that President Obama may be re-thinking the NSA’s surveillance program due to privacy concerns:

Signs of a popular backlash against the security agency’s large-scale collection of the personal data of Americans have convinced a leading privacy advocate in Congress that the Obama administration may soon begin to back away from the most aggressive components of the agency’s domestic surveillance programs.
[…]
“I have a feeling that the administration is getting concerned about the bulk phone records collection, and that they are thinking about whether to move administratively to stop it,” he said. He added he believed that the continuing controversy prompted by [NSA leaker Edward] Snowden had changed the political calculus in Congress over the balance between security and civil liberties, which has been heavily weighted toward security since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I think we are making a comeback,” Mr. Wyden said, referring to privacy and civil liberties advocates.

But that’s probably wishful thinking. NSA Director Keith Alexander seems determined to defend the program, according to the Washington Post. In a recent speech, the paper notes, Alexander said that his agency’s snooping program was curbed that “people will die.” Sure, he pays lip service to privacy, but he is intent on undermining the civil liberties on which this country was founded.

This sort of data collection, as Randy Barnett recently explained, is in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. If the NSA would merely abide by the law, only obtaining data for actual investigations into terrorist activity rather than targeting virtually every American, that would be a victory for civil libertarians; though greater privacy protections need to be put in place to ensure that a surveillance program of this magnitude can never happen again.


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