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This Liberal Says Obama Must Resign Over Telephone Spying Abuses

A couple of weeks ago, in reaction to the revelation of Barack Obama’s seizure of telephone records by Barack Obama’s seizure of journalists’ telephone records, I suggested that, if journalists had been so intent on defending other Americans’ constitutional protections from excessive search under the FISA Amendments Act, journalists might not have to worry about government spying on their own private communications today. I wrote, “The FISA Amendments Act has been used for years by both Bush and Obama to unconstitutionally grab Americans’ private telephone and Internet communications without notification and without search warrant… Reporters, if you’re angry about Barack Obama’s continuation of George W. Bush’s seizure of unconstitutional powers of search and seizure, you should take that outrage, and use it to defend the Fourth Amendment rights of ALL Americans, rather than only complaining about the violation of your own constitutional rights.”

verizon scandalStarting today, American journalists have the opportunity to correct for their self-centered focus on the government’s spying against journalists, and focus on Barack Obama’s larger surveillance network. The Guardian, a British newspaper, has obtained records that prove that assertions by Barack Obama that he is not using the FISA Amendments Act to indiscriminately search through Americans’ private communications have been lies.

The evidence: Records from Verizon show that the Obama Administration has used the powers of the FISA Amendments Act to obtain private phone data from Verizon. The records obtained from Verizon shows the details of millions of Americans’ private phone calls – who they talked to on the phone, when they talked, and for how long. The Obama Administration order directs Verizon to provide the information to the National Security Administration on a “daily, ongoing” basis.

We have all, it seems, been subjected to the kind of unreasonable search and seizure that reporters from the Associated Press have complained about.

Only, in this case, the surveillance doesn’t have even a wisp of justification. Barack Obama cannot plausibly claim that he believes that millions of Americans have been involved in leaks of top secret information from the White House. Under the FISA Amendments Act, President Barack Obama ordered the search and seizure of what are in effect the private papers of millions of Americans without providing any evidence that those Americans were involved in any crime.

We have been warning about this for years: The FISA Amendments Act has been used to create a massive electronic dragnet that indiscriminately spies on the private communications of massive numbers of Americans. Democratic and Republican defenders of the FISA Amendments Act dismissed concerns about the extreme surveillance powers created by the law. They said it would only be used against terrorists, and that ordinary Americans had nothing to fear.

Now, we have undeniable proof that the critics of the FISA Amendments Act were right, and the defenders of the draconian law were wrong. The FISA Amendments Act has created a regime of unreasonable search and seizure – and that’s unconstitutional. The Fourth Amendments of the Constitution requires the government to obtain a search warrant against specific people and specific places, backed up by evidence that specific criminal activity is related to the search. Barack Obama’s search and seizure of massive amounts of data from Verizon does not meet these requirements.

Once upon a time, back during his one term as a U.S. Senator, Barack Obama said he was so concerned about the FISA Amendments Act that he would filibuster the law to prevent it from being passed. Obama broke that promise. Instead of filibustering the FISA Amendments Act, Obama voted in favor of it.

Obama then promised to reform the law if he was made President. Instead, last year, Obama signed an extension of the FISA Amendments Act into law without even trying to reform it.

Now, the cat is out of the bag, and there is good reason to believe that there are other cats in that bag. The Guardian happened to obtain proof of one specific order by President Obama to conduct FISA Amendments Act spying against millions of Verizon customers. The spying problem is likely much bigger than what this one document describes, however. It’s fair to assume that Barack Obama has seized similar amounts of private data from other telecommunications companies, and that he hasn’t restricted his FISA Amendments Act spying just to telephone records. Email, texting, web browsing, and other forms of electronic communication are open for massive surveillance under the law as well.

The FISA Amendments Act has allowed Barack Obama to transform the United States of America into the United States of Surveillance.

Of course, it isn’t just Barack Obama who has engaged in such outrageous electronic spying against the American people. The reason the FISA Amendments Act was passed in the first place was that George W. Bush was caught seizing the private communications records of millions of Americans, and nobody in Congress had the courage to impeach him for the crime. The FISA Amendments Act gave George W. Bush, and the complicit telecommunications corporations, retroactive immunity.

It’s time for that immunity to end.

Barack Obama must resign, and Congress must repeal the FISA Amendments Act. Then, a special independent commission must be given the power to investigate and reveal the full extent of abusive government search and seizure under the FISA Amendments Act and Patriot Act, under both Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

Only the most extreme reassertion of the protections of the Fourth Amendment can give Americans reason to believe that their nation is ruled by a Constitution, and not the whims of Big Brother.

7 comments to This Liberal Says Obama Must Resign Over Telephone Spying Abuses

  • Bill

    While I share your distaste for the FISA Amendments Act as well as your sense that the current data demands are unreasonable, I would like to offer one or two points of order and one question for you.

    1. Point of order: the article you cite, as well as similar ones in the NY Times and elsewhere, make it clear that the records include information regarding the calling and receiving phone numbers, but not the actual contents of the calls. It thus seems incorrect to assert, as you do here, that the data includes “who they talked to on the phone.” A phone number is not a name. I know this is a relatively small point (particularly in this era of widespread cell phones), but let’s please keep the facts straight in order to avoid sounding irresponsible.

    2. Point of order: Regarding your assertion that “the surveillance doesn’t have even a wisp of justification,” that may or may not be true. I’m guessing you don’t have any evidence for that. Again, sticking to the facts is the best way to remain credible.

    3. Question for you: Why the dramatic flourish of calling on Obama to resign? First off, its a tiresome meme: nowadays, every time a politician farts somebody calls for either his resignation or his impeachment. It makes you sound like John Boehner, or a member of the Italian parliament. And speaking of John Boehner, I assume that you’re prepared for a Boehner presidency then? After all, it might be reasonable to assume that Joe Biden also had knowledge of this affair…in which case he really should resign, too, which would leave us with Boehner as president (unless he knew about it too, in which case the dominos keep falling over until I suppose we end up with Al Haig as president). Instead of watering down your very good argument regarding the evils of the FISA Amendments Act with the melodrama of calling on the president to resign, hows about sticking to the real matter at hand…i.e., fighting for the repeal of FISAAA and the institution of some actual protection of private communications? It wouldn’t make quite as good a headline, but it would be rather more to the point.

    • Is it tiresome, Bill, to demand that a President who has seized the private phone records of millions of Americans resign from office?

      Is it really so exhausting for you to consider this?

      Are you so tired, Bill, that you can’t stand up for your constitutional rights?

      That’s pathetic. Drink some coffee. Wake up.

      When George W. Bush violated the Constitution by grabbing the private electronic communications records of millions of Americans, we demanded his resignation.

      That wasn’t melodrama. It was justified.

      Should we treat Barack Obama differently, just because he’s a Democrat?

      The real matter at hand is that Barack Obama has abused the trust of the American people and violated his oath of office.

      Stop making excuses for it, Bill.

      • Bill

        Yeah, well, like I say, melodrama and memes detract from your otherwise very good and important core argument. But if righteous wrath makes you feel better, go for it.

        • well, mild mannered admonitions that if we all just wait long enough, Barack Obama will take care of it certainly haven’t worked, Bill.

          So, what do you have in mind? Should we all just knit doilies until the very important Democrats make it all better?

  • Note: It’s been said by some that this massive seizure of Americans’ private papers – records of their daily private conversations – took place under authorization of the Patriot Act, rather than the FISA Amendments Act.

    That’s not at all clear, actually, given that the court order was issued by Judge Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was established by the original FISA – Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The FISA Amendments Act was necessary to amend FISA to create retroactive immunity and ongoing electronic surveillance over Americans.

    There’s another essential point to make about this court order – though the people in Congress who crafted the FISA Amendments Act and renewed it all promised that the only phone calls that would be spied upon would be those between people in the United States and those in foreign countries.

    That’s why they call it the FOREIGN Intelligence Surveillance Court!

    Yet, this court order that the Obama Administration obtained from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court gave the National Security Agency authorization to grab private records of phone calls “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls”.

    Bill, this is a REALLY big deal. The spying system that was supposedly set up to target foreign spies in foreign countries is now being used by Barack Obama to target Americans in the United States who are not even suspected of being spies. We’ve got LOCAL calls being grabbed – like people within one village calling people in the same village, Bill.

    So, please, now is not the time for you to log points of order with Irregular Times, as if WE are the problem. It would be much more useful, and dare I say less tiresome, for you to call up your U.S. Representative, or your local Democratic Party headquarters, and register a few points of order there.

  • Tom

    Obama stepping down doesn’t solve the problem. What should happen is that Congress, due to pressure from EVERYONE in America (including the people who are doing this spying), should now repeal these far too vague and overarching laws and either fix them or just get rid of them outright. I wouldn’t mind if Obama the fucking closet Republican resigned, since he hasn’t done much to help the average citizen and did absolutely nothing to reign in the TBTF banks and all the fraud of Wall Street, nor did he do anything about prosecuting anyone from the Bush administration for lying to us and involving us in the needless Iraq war (for oil – which the Chinese just swooped in and got). While they’re at it they can repeal the Citizens United Act and then we can dismiss the current Congress now too since they’re involved and probably know all about all this. Start over with a new election – no incumbents allowed, and no corporate money rigging the elections.

    Since this is all basically a pipe dream or the ramblings of disgruntled citizens, nothing will change (especially since the powers that be WANT it this way) and the US will continue down the road to fascism that we’re well on the way to.

    • Here’s how Obama resigning will help: It will weaken the institution of the Presidency for a generation, just as Richard Nixon’s resignation did. It will leave Biden, doddering like Gerald Ford, to demonstrate a less powerful, hobbled, humbled White House.

      Obama needs to admit that he was wrong to keep George W. Bush’s plan to spy on us, and to expand it, and then he needs to step aside.

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