By the Way, Obama Just Reauthorized Warrantless Spying (and Apparently It’s Still Bush’s Fault)
Happy 2013, dear readers. It’s a relatively slow news time of the year. It seems like the only stories most folks are paying attention to are the avoidance of the fictitious fiscal cliff, and the possibility of more rubbish gun control – neither or which are particularly meaningful, but give journalists and politicians something to talk about.
While the MSM has been focusing on those unimportant topics, the U.S. Senate and President Barack Obama quietly enacted legislation allowing them to spy on you without a warrant for another five years. Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone told you? Strangely, those who have been trying to tell you still seem to think George W. Bush is president.
The story so far…
As you may be aware, the U.S. government has had the power to intercept your phone calls and emails without a warrant for some time. During the previous presidential administration, these expanded police powers were widely viewed as a serious erosion of civil liberties, essentially rendering the Fourth Amendment meaningless.
Under Obama, they have become nothing-to-see-here by so-called progressives, journalists, and poseurs who only care about civil liberties when a Republican is POTUS. A depressing number of American lefties seem to think that a guy who has no problem assassinating U.S. citizens without due process can be trusted with unrestricted surveillance powers. Unfortunately, it’s an issue with overwhelming bipartisan support:
The FISA Amendments Act, (.pdf) which was expiring Monday at midnight, allows the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a probable-cause warrant so long as one of the parties to the communication is believed outside the United States. The communications may be intercepted “to acquire foreign intelligence information.”
The House approved the measure in September. President Barack Obama, who said the spy powers were a national security priority, is expected to quickly sign the package before the law Congress codified in 2008 expires in the coming days. Over the past two days, the Senate debated and voted down a handful of amendments in what was seen as largely political theater to get Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) to lift a procedural hold on the FISA Amendments Act legislation that barred lawmakers from voting on the package.
In the end, the identical package the House passed 301-118 swept through the Senate on a 73-23 vote.
These are the same jokers that waited until the very last minute to pass a bill on the “fiscal cliff” that only raises taxes on folks making over $400,000, which will have no impact on the deficit or address out of control government spending. But they were able to extend warrantless spying days ahead of deadline.
A few senators tried to get the attention of the MSM and an apathetic public by offering amendments, but to no avail. All they did was put our elected officials on record as opposing reasonable civil liberties protections, which we pretty much already knew:
The details…about how FISA laws are actually being interpreted remain secret. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) offered an amendment to the surveillance bill that would have forced the government to declassify the rulings or at least summaries of them. […]
Merkley’s amendment failed, with 37 in favor and 54 against.
Another amendment from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), designed to shorten the period that the reauthorized version of the surveillance bill is in effect and to strengthen inspector general oversight, went down with only 38 yes votes. A separate amendment offered by Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian Republican from Kentucky, would have added a statement to the bill meant to protect Americans from Fourth Amendment violations caused by third party data collectors. Paul’s amendment went down 79 to 12.
I suppose it was worth a shot. In the end, Obama signed the law a couple of days ago with little fanfare.
The ACLU issued a statement condemning the Senate for passing the FISA Amendments Act. “The Bush administration’s program of warrantless wiretapping, once considered a radical threat to the Fourth Amendment, has become institutionalized for another five years,” said Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel at the ACLU.
Pretty strong words, Michelle. But when you read reports that appear critical of warrantless spying, there’s one word that’s usually missing: Obama. Richardson and the ACLU issued a new statement Wednesday that does mention Obama. The precise wording is:
The Senate voted 72-23 last week to extend the FISA Amendments Act another five years, which President Obama signed Sunday. Unfortunately, the public discussion of George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program may soon fade back into the shadows.
Still Bush’s program, Michelle? Did he force Obama to sign it?
The FISA Amendments Act is consistently referred to in reports as a Bush-era program, or the fact that warrantless wiretapping was a practice started under Bush is always noted in the first paragraph. That’s accurate, of course, but George W. Bush hasn’t been president for bloody ages now. For whatever reason (and I dare not speculate why), the MSM has no interest in holding Obama accountable for warrantless wiretapping. It’s as if Obama is a bystander to these horrible laws that he signs.
In fact, Obama has a long record of supporting warrantless spying. In 2008, when the FISA Act was originally passed, then-candidate Sen. Obama voted for it, and explained his support by saying: “Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I’ve chosen the support the current compromise.”
As president, Obama has not been shy about using these powers. In September, the ACLU released an analysis of U.S. Department of Justice documents that showed warrantless wiretapping by federal agencies quadrupled under Obama. And yet you won’t find the word “Obama” in the ACLU report.
Warrantless spying is something Senator Obama voted for and President Obama has extended for an additional five years. And yet the ACLU still calls it “Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program.” One wonders what Obama would have to do for the ACLU to assign ownership of the program to him. Steal Michelle Richardson’s cell phone out of her hand mid-conversation perhaps?
“Nothing personal, Michelle, I’d just hate for people to think I was soft on national security. (Bush made me do it.)”
As far as I can tell, the only guy in the MSM who has even suggested that Obama bears some responsibility for these policies is Jon Stewart (I think at this point we can count him in the MSM, right?). Obama then proceeded to give a bullshit answer, which I’m sure won’t stop Stewart from going after Republicans harder than he’ll ever go after Obama. But at least Stewart asked the question, and even appeared to think Obama bears some responsibility in the matter of warrantless wiretapping.
You journalists who don’t seem to give a damn about Obama expanding government surveillance powers – you do realize another Republican will be president someday, right? What are you going to do then? Who is supposed to take you seriously when you decide that you suddenly care about civil liberties again? Who do you expect to convince that these policies are actually horrible when you were willing to look the other way for eight years?
When it wasn’t clear that he would be re-elected, Obama rushed to put rules in place for the use of drones. It finally dawned on Obama that Mitt Romney would have the same unfettered power to kill people he had claimed for himself all those years. I guess it wasn’t an appealing prospect.
Maybe Obama wouldn’t have had to worry about a Republican having these powers if his MSM enablers had done more to hold him accountable. When the next Republican president rifles through some journalist’s emails and cell phone records because of “national security”, what are you going to say for yourselves then?