by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Bullied into action by Edward Snowden—no hero or traitor, he—President Obama might finally get one thing right about the Surveillance State. To borrow a favorite phrase, he might be on the right side of history.
The New York Times reported today that the White House will ask Congress to end the National Security Agency’s open-ended collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. Under the proposal, the bulk records would stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. The NSA could seize specific records only with a judge’s permission.
It’s an important step, but Obama still must show he can be transparent, trusted, and effective. Will he be better about revealing and explaining the administration’s national security methods?
Will his administration stop parsing, deceiving, and lying unnecessarily about intelligence programs? Will the worst offenders (read: James Clapper) be held accountable?
Will his bill become law? It could track the Obama-era pattern: a public-relations salve followed by legislative failure.
Let’s hope Obama succeeds. The national security community must be both well armed and fully supported by the American public to counter existential threats in a post-9/11 world. For instance, the ability to trace and analyze the phone records of suspected terrorists and their associates could save lives—and in certain circumstances, with proper checks and balances, the process might include the records of Americans. …
… Obama’s bill will compete with others on Capitol Hill that would authorize the current program with only minor changes. Minor fixes aren’t enough. To protect the Constitution and his legacy, Obama must do more than propose a full overhaul. He must win it.