Friday, January 24, 2014

Obama, the privacy board, and the NSA

According to yesterday’s edition of The Guardian, “The US government’s privacy board has sharply rebuked President Barack Obama over the National Security Agency’s mass collection of American phone data, saying the program defended by Obama last week was illegal and ought to be shut down.”

What is interesting about this is that the White House handpicked the members of the privacy board from the Washington establishment. They couldn’t even stack the deck in their favor on this issue. Of course, the administration immediately issued a response saying that it totally disagreed with the report.

As I’ve noted before, Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. Unlike the NSA’s supporters in congress, who all have their own agendas, there is no way he doesn’t understand the illegality of warrantless searches. And he also has to be aware that this type of indiscriminate surveillance has been very ineffective. Can he possibly be intellectually convinced that this mass collection of phone data is legal? I find that hard to believe. However, alternative explanations are unsettling. He knows it’s wrong but he’s being pressured to give it his okay. Or he’s being blackmailed.

Could it be possible that the White House chose the members of privacy board knowing what the outcome would be, in order to send a message not to Obama, but to further undermine the NSA? It’s Washington. Anything is possible.

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