Democrats' Bewildering Decision to Hand President Trump More Surveillance Powers

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Democrats' Bewildering Decision to Hand President Trump More Surveillance Powers

Even the prospect of being blackmailed by the racist-in-chief can't crack their instinctive love of sweeping powers for secret spies. 

"Of course, Obama's bait-and-switch on telecom immunity was only the first step in his civil liberties record. As the Snowden documents showed, as president he embraced and in some ways expanded the Bush spying machine." (Photo: Getty)

"Of course, Obama's bait-and-switch on telecom immunity was only the first step in his civil liberties record. As the Snowden documents showed, as president he embraced and in some ways expanded the Bush spying machine." (Photo: Getty)

Back in 2005, The New York Times reported that President Bush had been lying through his teeth about a warrantless wiretapping program his administration had set up under the NSA. The baldly illegal program required participation from telecom companies, who were thus exposed to millions of lawsuits from their spied-on customers. Bush urged Congress to pass a bill granting the telecoms retroactive immunity, prompting outrage from Democrats, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, who promised to filibuster any bill with such an immunity provision in October 2007.

But Obama blatantly broke his promise, not only failing to filibuster the bill, but actually voting for it. That act laid the groundwork for an incomprehensible move last week by key Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff, to vote against an amendment requiring the NSA to get a warrant before spying on American citizens. (It is worth emphasizing that at this very moment, Donald J. Trump is the president of the United States.) It's just the latest bitter fruit from Obama's wretched civil liberties legacy.

Of course, Obama's bait-and-switch on telecom immunity was only the first step in his civil liberties record. As the Snowden documents showed, as president he embraced and in some ways expanded the Bush spying machine. His NSA used ridiculously expansive readings of legal language, data-swapping with allied surveillance programs, and straight-up illegal behavior to sweep in huge quantities of data, including that of American citizens.

Obama claimed after the revelations that "there is no spying on Americans. We don't have a domestic spying program." It later turned out that not only did the NSA have a "secret backdoor ... enabling it to search for U.S. citizens' email and phone calls without a warrant," but a previous domestic spying effort was halted by the notoriously NSA-friendly Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2011, which found that it was seriously illegal and that the NSA had deceived the court repeatedly when describing the program.

In other words, Obama lied.

Read the full article at The Week.

 

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at TheWeek.com. His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.

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