Domestic Spygate: We Hear You, You Don't Hear U.S.

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Columnist says President Obama's defending indefensible

[View From Washington]

As Benjamin Franklin put it: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Last week the U.K.'s The Guardian newspaper confirmed what many Americans have suspected for a very long time. The American government is spying on its own citizens. Based from a leak from Edward Snowden, a contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency, The Guardian published a copy of a top secret court order requiring domestic telecom companies to provide the NSA with "communication records of millions of US citizens" that were "collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.”

According to The Guardian: “The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court (FISA) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19."

It is also reported that internet giants such as Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, have also provided the NSA access to confidential user data.

President Obama, who as a Senator campaigned against such practices as they were being carried out by the Bush administration, is now defending them. When asked in 2007 if the president has Constitutional authority to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, then Senator and Constitutional Scholar Obama stated: “The Supreme Court has never held that the president has such powers.” Now, in a 180 degree turn, the President recently defended his administration’s actions by stating his  assessment and his team's assessment "was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks, and the modest encroachments on privacy that are involved…that on net was worth us doing."

He went on to say, "When it comes to telephone calls, nobody is listening to your calls. That's not what this program is about" and added "What the intelligence community is doing is looking at phone numbers and durations of calls -- they're not looking at people's names and they're not looking at content."

I understand that the FISA court granted the order to the FBI, but the larger issue is that the NSA and FBI are engaged in the surveillance of American citizens who have not engaged in any wrongdoing.  One has to question the standards that the FISA court is using to grant its orders as well as whether or not there are truly checks and balances as required by the constitution.

As a Constitutional scholar President Obama should know that his position on this issue fails the “laugh test” on a number of levels. He considers the NSA collecting telephone records, which include the numbers of both parties on a call, location data, call duration, unique identifiers and the time and duration of millions of US telecom customers to be “modest encroachments”?  What ever happened to the fundamental legal premise of presumption of innocence?

President Obama and members of his “team” must have heard of the 4th Amendment?:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Where is the basis of “probable cause” to proactively search the records of millions of Americans who have never engaged in any illegal activity, let alone activity of a “terrorist” nature?

It is disingenuous for President Obama to attempt to downplay this program to alleviate the fears and concerns of Americans about this incredibly invasive and excessive expansion of government power by saying, “nobody is listening to your calls…” That’s not the point; telephone numbers, like social security numbers are assigned to individuals.  If you have the number you have the name. It’s the collection, analysis, and storage of call data of innocent citizens that matters.

I believe that more Americans would be outraged if this were a physical invasion of their privacy as opposed to a technological invasion.  If the police were entering the homes of millions of Americans and taking photographs of their contents and video of their activities more people would be outraged.  Remember the outrage when shortly after 9/11 then Attorney General John Ashcroft proposed using members of the US Postal Service to spy on American citizens?  These actions are a clear violation of the intent of, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.."

This is clearly an attempt by the so-called “liberal” Obama administration to further the development of a National Security State (NSS) by leveraging the pretext of the Bush era marketing strategy of the “War on Terror.” Some will consider my use of the term NSS as an exaggeration or over-the-top.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy, elements of the NSS include the military exerting important influence over political, economic and military affairs -- recall Eisenhower’s famous “military industrial complex”. National Security States often maintain the appearance of democracy. However, ultimate power rests with the military or within a broader National Security Establishment. The military and related sectors wield substantial political and economic power. They do so in the context of an ideology which stresses that "freedom" and "development" are possible only when capital is concentrated in the hands of elites; the rise of the One-Percent. Finally, defending against external and/or internal enemies becomes a leading preoccupation of the state, a distorting factor in the economy and a major source of national identity and purpose.

According to the President's assessment the programs "help us prevent terrorist attacks.”  Mr. President, by my assessment the best way to prevent terrorist attacks is to stop engaging in practices that contribute to the promotion and recruitment of “terrorists” and validate the perception and reality of America as an imperialist interloper.

Remember, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom-fighter.”  The U.S. must stop invading and/or supporting the invasion of sovereign countries. The U.S. must stop killing innocent civilians, otherwise known as “collateral damage” with drone strikes. These programs and policies destabilize regions and contribute to the influx of weapons that support this destabilization.

President Obama’s National Security State is making Americans insecure.

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates." Benjamin Franklin - 17 November 1737.


Dr. Wilmer Leon is the Producer/ Host of the Sirisu/XM Satellite radio channel 110  call-in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Leon”

Go to or email: and Dr. Leon’s Prescription at

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