Tell President Obama: Justify your indiscriminate spying on Americans
Recent news stories have revealed the breathtaking scope of President Obama’s indiscriminate spying on American citizens who aren't suspected of any wrongdoing.
There is something fundamentally un-American and deeply undemocratic about this kind of government surveillance.
But since 9/11, we have seen first George W. Bush and now Barack Obama engage in shockingly broad executive power grabs that undermine our constitutionally protected civil liberties, all in the name of “national security.”
President Obama is a constitutional scholar who ran on the platform of transparency in government. We don’t believe he has the constitutional right to collect and examine the telephone records of virtually all Americans. But if he thinks that he has the authority to spy on Americans, he should acknowledge these programs and provide his legal rationale for them.
Demand President Obama acknowledge his administration's spying programs and provide a full legal justification for indiscriminately spying on Americans.
First it was revealed that the NSA, an arm of the U.S. military that is chartered to deal with foreign threats, was collecting information about the phone calls made or received by millions of Verizon customers in the U.S. And recent news reports now indicate that the program isn't limited to Verizon.
Next we learned that, according to news reports, the NSA had gained access to massive amounts of personal data, including contents of email inboxes and even some Skype calls, from tech giants like Microsoft, Google and Apple.
If the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure is to mean anything, not to mention our First Amendment right to free speech, we must take action and demand answers in the face of these recent revelations about government spying.
Demand President Obama acknowledge these spying programs and provide a full legal justification for indiscriminately spying on Americans.
For far too long, “national security” has been both a way for the government to override civil liberties objections and a way to squelch debate. We had hoped that the worst abuses of the Patriot Act would be over at the end of the Bush era, but President Obama has continued and perhaps even doubled-down on President Bush’s policies.
We recently saw the debate about the president’s targeted assassination program become much more robust once the president stopped hiding behind the veil of national security, acknowledged the existence of the program and provided his rationale for it.
While we vehemently reject the legality of these extrajudicial assassinations, and struggle to imagine how the indiscriminate surveillance of countless Americans could possibly be legal or constitutional, the fact of the matter is that these issues hit at the heart of what rights we have as American citizens.
We cannot have a real debate about the ostensible merits of these programs and the trade-offs the president’s administration may be making between our civil liberties and the legitimate national security needs -- or, for that matter, hold our elected officials accountable for their complicity in trampling the Constitution -- if all we know about government spying comes from leaked documents and anonymous sources.
If President Obama believes that he has the authority to indiscriminately spy on Americans, he owes it to us to explain his legal justification for doing so.
We don't know what else might be revealed in the coming days. But we do know that the American people deserve an explanation for this massive Obama administration surveillance program to spy on our citizens -- the extent of which we don’t even know yet.
Tell the president we want answers.
1. "Government Is Tracking Verizon Customers' Records" Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2013.
2. "Documents: U.S. mining data from 9 leading Internet firms; companies deny knowledge," Washington Post, June 6, 2013.
3. "NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily," Guardian [UK], June 6, 2013.