Obama Reversed Bush Administration Ban on NSA Domestic Spying Powers

Yes We Scan

Up is down and down is up if you’re watching closely enough to what has been happening at the NSA and with the Obama administration the last few years. The President that was supposed to make things more transparent, less paranoid, and better for the common American has been caught repeatedly doing things that would normally have been expected from his predecessor.

The most recent example is a big one. In 2008, the Bush administration imposed a ban on the NSA’s ability to intercept phone calls and emails from US citizens. In 2011, the Obama administration had the ban lifted.

According to the Washington Post:

What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.

This gave the NSA the loophole they needed to be able to read and store emails of US citizens without a warrant and technically without probable cause. Considering that over 250 million internet communications are intercepted yearly by the NSA under Section 702, it’s safe to assume that a good chunk come from law abiding citizens.

All of this was a secret, of course, and only recently came to light after material was declassified. The deliberate search of Americans’ communications and storage of these communications in databases should be concerning across the board.

It stays true to the administration’s unspoken perspective that national security at all costs trumps any concerns of privacy.

The worst part of all this is the way that it came into being. There was no public debate. There was no authorization given by Congress, no oversight other than by the NSA itself watching over its own doings through the lens of a self-watchdog.

“The government says, ‘We’re not targeting U.S. persons,’ ” said Gregory T. Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “But then they never say, ‘We turn around and deliberately search for Americans’ records in what we took from the wire.’ That, to me, is not so different from targeting Americans at the outset.”

Speed is important when terrorist plots are unfolding. Nobody would question the need to maintain a heightened level of security in today’s world. However, there are ways that the government can expedite investigative practices without blanket permission given to an organization that has demonstrated a willingness to overstep their bounds.

This administration is not the transparency administration. The ban imposed by the Bush administration is by no means a sign that they did anything beneficial for the privacy of its citizens. Still, it’s a stark contrast between what we expected and what we actually received when we put Obama into office. He’s not just a continuation of the Bush administration. He’s much worse in many ways.

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About Sal McCloskey

+Sal McCloskey is a tech blogger in Los Angeles who (sadly) falls into the stereotype associated with nerds. Yes, he's a Star Trek fan and writes about it on Uberly. His glasses are thick and his allergies are thicker. Despite all that, he's (somehow) married to a beautiful woman and has 4 kids. Find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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