Thursday, June 6, 2013

Obama must address Verizon spying immediately

Al Gore may not have invented the Internet, but he's right on the money on the Obama administration's latest abuse of technology.

The National Security Agency is indiscriminately collecting the private phone records of millions of Americans every day, the Guardian newspaper reports. Gore, the former vice president, called that "obscenely outrageous." It absolutely is, and President Obama needs to speak to it immediately.

The Guardian published a court order revealing that the NSA has been collecting millions of records from Verizon on a daily basis since April. The records show the phone numbers of both the person making and the person receiving the call; how long the call lasted; when it was made; location data and other unique identifiers.

The White House has offered no on-the-record explanation of this massive overreach. Obama should address the American people today, explaining how it could be acceptable to conduct such an overly broad sweep of Americans' private information, and why people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing should be part of the sweep.

He might also explain how the effort jibes with something Obama, then a U.S. senator, said in 2006 when criticizing the Bush administration (which Slate reminds us about this morning): "Americans fought a revolution in part over the right to be free from unreasonable searches - to ensure that our government couldn't come knocking in the middle of the night for no reason. We need to find a way forward to make sure that we can stop terrorists while protecting the privacy, and liberty, of innocent Americans."


The action might be legal under the Patriot Act. But the act is intended to allow the obtaining of records of specific terror suspects. This court order is far broader, including local calls between American citizens.

The administration will argue, no doubt, that the effort is required to gather intelligence on possible terrorist plots. While that's obviously vital, it does not make any and all spying by the U.S. government on its own citizens appropriate. Coming on top of the administration's secret seizure of phone records of scores of Associated Press journalists and combing through the personal emails of a Fox News reporter, this initiative reveals that unaccountable government agencies some time ago crossed the line in violating the privacy of everyday Americans.

-- Taylor Batten


John said...

This administration is making Richard Nixon look like a choir boy! For those too young to have lived through it personally, look up Watergate and read about it... don't just rely on the Hollywood movie, get the facts. From the wiretaps to the enemies list, Obama is following the whole sorry playbook!

Ghoul said...

Everyone knows this is wrong. Everyone knows using the IRS to target your enemies is wrong. Everyone knows that lying to the public about Benghazi is wrong. Everyone knows that calling a reporter doing his job a co-conspirator in espionage is wrong.

Yet absolutely nothing is being done about it. No one has been fired, no one is in jail. Obama has gotten away with everything because the media has his back.

EuroCat said...

Taylor, your righteous indignation is cute, but let's lay out the facts, shall we?

You say that this outrageous intrusion "might" be legal under the PATRIOT Act (no "might" about it, it is legal). It is also specifically authorized under FISA. Both Acts are as broad as the NSA wants them to be.

Those of us on the left were outraged by the breadth of these Acts as proposed by Bush and voted in by his Republican congress. Most of us who care were also outraged by Senator Obama's later vote to extend FISA; it was one of the things about him that made me most reluctant to vote for him for president.

However, the Acts are in place. Congress - and only congress - has the power to eliminate this broad authority. Instead of doing so, the Republican-dominated House is playing "Kindergarten Cop", wasting time on Benghazi"gate", IRS"gate", AP"gate". Why aren't they introducing legislation to end FISA and to end the PATRIOT Act? Hmmmm? Could it be that the Republican majority likes these Acts? Hmmmmm? It seemed A-OK with the Republicans when the Bush NSA and the Bush FBI were violating our privacy.

Now, I hated it then and I hate it now. And I also would like President Obama to stop the agencies from doing it. But the only way to guarantee that this sort of thing stops is for congress to act.

The typical American citizen is woefully uninformed about such matters, and when Fox News tells people that "Obama did it", those uninformed people believe it. You, Taylor, are as bad as Fox News: you are playing right into the hands of the fools on the right by failing to emphasize the culpability of congress on this.

It's time for our news media to call out congress for its serial failure to govern.

Anonymous said...

Eurocat: Totally astute comment and right on target.

You only miss one point - being "factual" isn't the reason this opinion piece appears this afternoon - not even close. Generating page views, however slanted the journalism, especially since the C.O. has effectively killed off its online readership since yesterday; that's the reason this is here.

Skippy said...

"However, the Acts are in place. Congress - and only congress"

You are 100% correct and you don't even know it, Obama and his band of sycophants controlled both chambers for the 1st two years. He could have done anything he wanted and guess what he didn't do? Not that hard to figure out.

If you think leaving Ambassadors and Navy Seals to die based upon a stand down order is funny, then you are quite pathetic.

Obama ran against wireless surveillance in fact he ran against every single Bush policy. And you sit here and play the Fox News card when in fact you are the one that seems woefully ignorant.

But don't worry, Rachel Maddow is on pretty soon.

Ed McDonald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zon said...

Patriot Act. It can always be repealed.

Anonymous192 said...

This is and has gone on at the federal level under both Republicans and Democrats, and we have seen such abuses as was perpetrated by the Justice Department (federal prosecutors) under Bush and the IRS under Obama. Yet the Observer expects local taxpayers to call out local officials for suspected wrongdoings using their own names. Without fear of retribution, even considering what Harry Jones did when the BofA employee crticized him in an email with very limited distribution. REALLY?
And don't say we can provide you with tips confidentially. The bar for this newspaper to expose the goings on of public officials is much higher (although it is self imposed.) We heard about the city trying to use the airport to help fund the streetcar and the move to replace Jerry Orr in the comments section months before the CO reported it. Ditto the reval mess.

BiBr said...

Where to start. This just adds to Obama's trifecta imperfecta. If Bush had done any or all of these things you would have hung him out to dry. But, alas, one's godhead cannot be criticized too sharply least you lose faith in yourself too.

Anonymous192 said...

To Zon:
It can and should be repealed. But it won't be, because both parties want to preserve whatever tools they have to ensure their reelection. Politics in this country, this county, this city have reached a sad state. But, throughout the ages, it has forever been thus.

Robert Allman said...

If you wish to know the true problem-simply read EuroCat's comment. Here you have someone proudly standing for the left, in other words, proudly standing for a big government; thinking that they can vote to give them all the power possible to to take care of everyone and ignorantly thinking that power will not be avused for the first time in the history of man. If Eurocat would stop watching MSNBC long enough; he would figure out the 145 Democrats and 211 Republicans voted for the Patriot act. He may figure out that 98 of 100 Senators voted for it. He may find out that in 2006, the Democratic ran Senate could have killed the Patriot Act and yet 89 Senators voted for re-authorization, he may even find out these Tea-Party type Republicans that he abhors are the most vociferous opponents of these acts, but instead he chooses to let his preferred network do the thinking for him; and runs to the ballot box to vote for a Government big enough to give him everything he wants; without realizing by doing so, he gives them the power to take everything he has! He fails to understand that the Republicans of today are no more than right-leaning Democrats. The Republicans of yesterday; those that fought against acts like this, those that fought against nation building type wars that we are constantly entrenched in, those that fought for the scary road of liberty were pushed to compromise and bend to his precious left leaning ways by none other than people like himself. Eurocat, your righteous indignation is ignorant and these are the facts. Hitler was not a Dictator, he was a great orator and spokesman (sound familiar) that used the wants of the many and the powers he garnered through the gifts of those powers given to enslave a nation. Wake up Eurocat, you can't have it both ways. And while I am much more Libertarian than Republican (I detest McCain, Graham and others); this party that you so proudly support has run rampant over our freedoms; which would be hard for you know watching MSNBC non-stop (and No..I don't watch FOX either...I read history, I research stories, I dig for facts and question everything). It is those like you that so blindly follow a party with some unattainable utopian mindset that has led to this..When you and other Americans wake up and realize it is not about Left vs. Right and will always be; as our Founders knew; Us vs. Them; only then will this nation once again know Freedom..but feel free to continue to blame everything on Bush and the Right, as if the Left never existed until 2008. Amusing that while you love Socialism so much you tag yourself Euro; you fail to realize this is common there...I would more expect you to be celebrating those things hat you wish or and oh so proudly support.

Garth Vader said...

@ EuroCat,

NSA serves at the pleasure of the president. All it would take is for Obama to say NO.

But he didn't to NSA. He didn't to IRS. He didn't to Holder re: AP wiretaps.

Good grief, the guy signed the PATRIOT extension by ROBOPEN. He could have VETOED it.

He didn't.

Your Lord God And Savior Barack Jesus Obama owns ALL of this.

PS: I've voted against every Bush that's ever been on my ballot so here's my pre-emptive STFU about "Bush this Bush that".


Try them both. Convict them both. Hang them both.

EuroCat said...

Well, Robert Altman and Darth Vader, you've both done a pretty good job of demonstrating your ignorance and your lack of reading comprehension.

First, I do not and have never watched MSNBC. I may be the only Mecklenburg County resident who does not waste his money on cable, but it is a fact: I don't. I have a proudly cable-free household.

Now, on to both of your failures.

I said that I was "on the left", not that I was a Democrat. You are either too ignorant or read too poorly to understand the difference.

But if you insist on making it about party, I am well aware of how many Democrats and Republicans voted for the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001. I am also aware that, in the House, only 3 Republicans voted "No", while 62 Democrats voted "No".

So try to claim it wasn't a Republican bill? Keep trying! You'll keep failing.

Oh, so you want to talk about that reauthorization, do you? OK. It passed in the House 251-174. 207 Republicans voted "Aye" and only 18 Republicans voted "No". 155 Democrats voted "No". Again, this was a Republican extension. Unlike you, the numbers just don't lie.

Now let's talk about the FISA amendments of 2008, shall we? You know, domestic spying?

Well, in the House, one Republican voted against it. One. 188 Republicans voted "Aye". Democrats, on the other hand, voted against it, with 105 voting "Aye" and 128 voting "Nay".

Yep! FISA was yet another Republican act!

Now, do I need to remind you of what I said about the Senate FISA vote in 2008? About how "those of us who care were also enraged by Senator Obama's later vote to extend FISA"? It passed 69-28, with every voting Republican - 46 of them - voting "Aye" (there were zero Republican "Nays") and the Democrats voting against it 22 - 27. Ha! Another Republican bill! Starting to see a pattern here? But wait: Senator Obama voted against his party and voted with the Republicans! You should have seen the vitriol that was directed against Senator Obama for that vote in "librul" places like Daily Kos. I guarantee you that President Obama lost many, liberal votes over that. You see, "those of us who care", unlike you, don't worship a party above all else. For people like you, the god-like Republicans can do no wrong. We enlightened folks will call out Democrats when they are idiotic.

So your assumption that I "blindly follow a party" is just that: an ASSumption. A wrong ASSumption.

And Garth? You believe that President Obama could have vetoed the PATRIOT and FISA Act extensions in 2011 and 2012? Maybe, but doubtful. There were 279 "Ayes" for the first FISA Act extension (211 of them Republicans - hey, another Republican bill), 250 "Ayes" for the PATRIOT Act extension (196 of them Republicans), and 301 "Ayes" for the FISA Reauthorization in 2012. Since 290 votes are required to override a veto, there is no way an Obama veto would have survived in 2012, and it is likely that proponents would have rounded up enough extra votes to override in 2011.

So, Garth, maybe you also need to take off your partisan blinders and start calling out the Republicans for consistently supporting this sort of domestic spying.

Oh, and since the laws are in place but "all it would take is for Obama to say NO"? Well, do me a favor then: stop using "the law" to justify the tax evasion practices of, say, Mitt Romney or Apple. Just because the law says they can use certain ways to skip out on their taxes doesn't mean they have to do so, right?

Right now, it is clear that Republicans like the president continuing to have this authority - the authority they ignorantly (and unpatriotically) gave him way back in 2001.

Charles said...

From The New York Times editorial board:

"The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue.

The Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.

Those reassurances have never been persuasive."

Tandemfusion said...

The renewal of the Patriot Act was signed into law by the current President. The original act can be blamed on Bush. The current version cannot.

EuroCat said...


"Signed into law" means nothing. Congress passed it by a veto-proof margin.

Stop deflecting blame away from your favorite political party. There's plenty of blame to go around. If your friends the Republicans want these laws to go away, they should repeal them.

It is unlikely the Democrats in the Senate would filibuster a repeal; historically, almost 100% of the Republicans have voted to extend and enhance these laws, while less than 50% of Democrats have done so. So if Republicans decide to pivot 180 degrees and repeal these laws - like the good, "freedom-loving" Americans they claim they are (OMG, what liars) - then a repeal would pass the senate by at least 72-28. And, of course, the good, "freedom-loving" Republican House majority that is squealing like a bunch of stuck pigs right now should have no problem unanimously repealing the laws, right? I mean, they're not hypocritical liars or anything, are they?

You people really need to stop running interference for your hypocritical Republican buddies. I've long since stopped running interference for President Obama on this - like back in 2008 when I first called him out as a Senator.

EuroCat said...

Seriously. Let's make this simple.

For years, President Obama has been standing up and giving speeches in which he says that Obamacare is important and good for the American people. I happen to agree with him.

Republicans in the House have voted 37 times to "repeal "Obamacare", knowing that it is nothing more than a time-wasting, tax-dollar-wasting stunt.

OK. Yesterday President Obama stood up and made a speech in which he said that spying on Americans and wiretapping Americans and reading Americans' email were important and good for the American people. I happen to disagree with him on that.

Question for all you Republican sympathizers out there: how many times has the Republican House voted to repeal the USA PATRIOT Act and FISA? Anybody? Anybody?

I think the number of times is between zero and zero.

Time to put up or shut up, Republicans.

Tandemfusion said...

While you effort at blaming this on anyone but those you support is amusing, in addition to blaming Bush for the acts of others, you also seem to forget that the NSA is an executive agency. How and to what degree they use authorities in the law rest squarely on the head the the man who is President at the time of that exercise.

Rationalize all you like, but that inconvenient fact will not go away.

EuroCat said...

While your excuses for those in power whom you support are amusing, you seem to forget that the NSA can only operate within the laws enacted by congress. And when it came to these intrusive, borderline-unconstitutional domestic spying laws, Republicans were almost universally more than 90% in favor of them, while Democrats were generally less than 50% in favor of them.

If Congress repealed these laws, we wouldn't have to worry about how the executive branch utilized them.

Rationalize all you like, but that inconvenient fact will not go away.

Mark said...

The thing is Obama and his cronies are abusing the patriot act legal or not. Do you want this kind of thing ?
Do you really want a corrupt IRS controlling your healthcare ?

No. Obama put these things in place after the patriot act and is abusing and using the system.

Wake up and smell the roses.

Ghoul said...


It is against the law for an administration to use the IRS to target its political enemies, but that did not stop Obama from doing that. I we repealed the Patriot Act tomorrow, that would not stop Obama from doing what he has already done. He has proven again and again that he is above the law and the Constitution means nothing to him.

All hail the king.

cooldela1966 said...

If you agree with Obama you have nothing to fear. It is the dissidents the government wants to track down. Just say nice things about Obama and his regime and you will be happy according to your needs. Simple solution.

Tandemfusion said...

Eurocat, you appear incredibly obtuse here. Blind partisan zeal does that.

In that zeal you apparently need the Democrats to be blameless and the Republicans the only problem. You appear to have missed the fact that the Republicans and Democrats in Congress passed the reauthorization bill. It would not now be law if it had not been passed by a Democrat controlled Senate. While the minority party can prevent a bill moving, it can't force one to be passed. That the legal capability via the FISA courts exists today is not the fault of George Bush at all, since it was signed into law by Obama, and not the exclusive fault of the Republicans.

If there is a problem in collecting too much data, it certainly could be avoided by not enacting a law permitting it. But it can also be avoided by simply not doing it. You assertion amounts to the claim that once the law is passed, the President can't help himself from using it to gather far reaching and perhaps inappropriate data.

You may as well assert that the state assembly is responsible for speeding because the law allows people to drive and to purchase cars capable of exceeding the speed limit. How the President uses the discretion available to him is rather plainly his own responsibility.
Like it or not, this data collection by the NSA is the responsibility of the NSA. and like it or not, the NSA serves the President.

(And btw, merely because the law created FISA does not mean their every action is legal. There is at least one case in which a court has found the the government exceeded its Constitutional authority while acting under FISA. The justice department is working mightily to keep that court ruling secret. And if you value liberty and have not completely surrendered you ability to think for yourself to the party line, that should cause you to begin to understand that merely because the Obama administration does something does nt place it above reproach.

jay1937 said...

I really must make a short comment: The headline about 'Obama should address Verizon' is comical. Obama does nothing but address via speeches that, most likely, were written by others. He loves the cameras, the attention of his sheep like followers and the ability to continue appointing people from the original cast of subverts, just appointed Samantha Powers, wife of Cass Sunstein, a person that believes the First Amendment should be rewritten or revised. Yes Obama should address something meaning he should do something more than travel around the country soaking up praise from his sheep like followers. And again, he loves the cameras, the attention and the power. I would also suggest he wants another term and will do just about anything to get one, even an executive order to override Congress or create a national problem in order to instate Martial Law and continue his position of the Boss of the Land.

Charles said...

The only parties are AUTHORITARIAN and NON-AUTHORITARIAN. Obama, Bush and EuroCat belong to the former. I belong to the latter.