The debate over our government collecting the data on nearly every portion of your life – your phone calls, emails, video chats – has been interesting to follow. It's also an extremely important conversation to be having. We shouldn't be so quick to give up our civil liberties, picking and choosing which parts of the Constitution we want to enforce and which parts are negotiable. Like many conservatives, I struggle with finding that balance between fighting terrorism and our privacy. But there are two issues that plague me about the recent revelations. The first is the fact that this administration has taken things to the next level; the sheer volume and scope of the data that is now being collected is astounding and not what many believe to be within the purview of the Patriot Act or our Constitution. The other issue is the blatant hypocrisy on the part of Barack Obama. We can go back as far as 2005 with instances of Obama railing against this very issue. Just like we've come to expect from Obama, he promises and talks out of one side of his mouth and then acts a completely different way. This has become beyond frustrating. How can we trust anything that he says?
It's interesting to note that political opinions on the issue of surveillance have shifted depending on who is in power. Here are the results of a recent Pew survey, as reported by Reason.com:
When the pollsters at Pew asked Democrats in January 2006 how they felt about the NSA's surveillance programs, 37 percent labeled the programs "acceptable," while 61 percent said they were unacceptable. Today, those numbers are exactly the opposite: 64 percent of Democrats now think the NSA's surveillance programs are acceptable, while only 34 percent say they're not.
So whoever's party is in power is not to be trusted by those on the other side of the political spectrum. Representative Charlie Rangel basically said the same thing to MSNBC: “You have to have some confidence in this president. Quite frankly, if it was a different president, I might take a different look at the legislation.” Then you have some like Democrat Rep. James Clyburn saying that this NSA leak is nothing more than part of an effort to embarrass Barack Obama. To think of it in those terms is small-minded, in my opinion. This isn't really about Obama; It is about our Constitution.
Just like the IRS scandal, perhaps we should look at this issue not as Democrats or Republicans but as Americans. To their credit, some liberals were outraged by the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS because they understood that if a different party was in power, the shoe could be on the foot. The problem is not with the parties, the problem is with big government. That is exactly the case when it comes to this NSA surveillance. It doesn't matter whether Obama is in the White House, or Bush, or Hillary Clinton or Rand Paul … the fact is that any government with this scope of power is scary and potentially ripe for abuse. If you'll notice, its the established Washington elite who primarily seem to be defending this NSA program and likely to call Edward Snowden a traitor (John Boehner) or say he's committed an act of treason (Dianne Feinstein).
By the way, if you are a member of the Air Force, you best not be trying to read up on the NSA surveillance program and the Verizon phone records scandal. An email sent from the Air Force's 624th Operations Center reads in part: “Classified documents regarding Verizon phone record collection and court order have been identified as being hosted on publicly accessible Internet Web Sites, most notably "The Guardian" news site. Viewing and/or downloading these documents on Air Force NIPRNET computers could constitute a Classified Message Incident. Therefore, users are not to access these file (sic) for any reason (i.e. viewing, downloading, forwarding, etc.)”
As Tom Blumer as Newsbusters points out, “The Air Force memo effectively keeps service members from accessing Drudge, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and virtually every other national and international news site's home page for the next several days -- if not weeks and months, at the rate things are going.” Have soldiers been essentially dictated not to read about past scandals involving our government? I didn't think so.
By the way, more information from Edward Snowden is said to be forthcoming. At the present moment, his whereabouts are unknown but apparently Russia has offered to consider his request for asylum.