By Rick Jensen
The Daily Iowegian
---- — Liberals are slurping at a new yet familiar theme trough: Republicans are hypocrites because they're against NSA surveillance now but were all for it during the Bush administration.
The real truth is more nuanced and reasonable. During the Bush administration, the program was publicly described as tracking foreigners associated in some way with terrorist organizations as well as domestic communications with such foreign threats. We were led to believe there was meaningful oversight of the program.
Now, Americans have learned that Obama's NSA is gathering all phone calls, emails, credit card usage, Skype and online video of every American without such oversight. Conservatives and liberals are outraged, as most of both groups would have been if such an event had occurred during the Bush Administration.
We have learned that the program has expanded exponentially under President Obama, using amazing algorithms that can track every American through social media usage, texting, phone calls and smartphone GPS. With a program called PRISM, some of the estimated 35,000 to 50,000 NSA employees can put together a report of everywhere you've been over the past few years and create a trend that predicts where you will be at certain times in the near future.
All of your associations and contacts, meaningful, casual or incidental, are logged.
President Obama lied when he told you that your phone calls are not being recorded. They are. The Washington Post reported on the secret documents that describe how Skype video sessions and phone calls are, indeed, recorded and while no one may be watching or listening to you right now, they can go back and access the recordings.
Pretty valuable information for well-connected political hit-men like the types who use the Department of Justice to tap phones of reporters and their parents, or the former campaign manager for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who was recently indicted on federal charges of hacking the campaign's email system and obtaining correspondence by the governor, her staff and supporters for political profit.
The fact that a high school dropout named Edward Snowden can track anyone and know everything about their lives proves Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, author of the "Patriot Act," is right when he says the program has become "a violation of the Fourth Amendment" and the Obama government "better clean up their act."
Meanwhile, recent polls shows Democrats approve of government surveillance of everyday innocent Americans as long as it's Obama spying on you, not Bush.
The trust is misplaced.
Considering this administration's multitude of scandals heavily overshadowing the few
scandals of the Bush Administration (Valerie Plame is debatable, Armstrong Williams was a scandal and the U.S. Attorneys complaint went nowhere), what would be the reason for trusting the Obama administration with all of your personal information, electronic and phone conversations and travel history over Bush?
This administration has no credible history of transparent, honest governing.
Personally, I believe we need to amend the Fourth Amendment to protect against any President, Republican or Democrat, Nixon or Obama, from such intrusive violations of the basic American right to privacy.
Sen. Rand Paul introduced a bill that would forbid "any agency of the U.S. Government to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause."
It's a weak start that is too easily circumvented. The language needs to include "all communications, transactions, travels and the recordings thereof."
In May 2006, then Sen. Joe Biden talked with CBS interviewer Harry Smith about warrantless wiretapping and monitoring phone calls between suspected foreign terrorist and Americans. Joe Biden, now vice president, then said, "This idea that no court will review, no Congress will know, and we're gonna trust the President and the Vice-President of the United States that they're doin' the right thing, don't count me in on that."
A prescient utterance.
This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.