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Obama vs. Obama on the "Choice" Between Security and Freedom

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama on December 15, 2005, proposing reforms to the Patriot Act:

“A few years before I even arrived in the Senate, I began hearing concerns from people of every background and political leaning that this law, the very purpose of which was to protect us, was also threatening to violate some of the rights and freedoms we hold most dear; that it does not just provide law enforcement the powers it needed to keep us safe but powers it did not need to invade our privacy without cause or suspicion.

“Now, in Washington, this issue has tended to generate into the typical either/or debate: Either we protect our people from terror or we protect our most cherished principles. I suggest this is a false choice. It asks too little of us and it assumes too little about America.

“That is why, as it has come to time to reauthorize the USA PATRIOT Act, we have been working in a bipartisan way to do both, to show the American people we can track down terrorists without trampling on our civil liberties, to show the American people that the Federal Government will only issue warrants and execute searches because it needs to do so, not because it can do so.”

Remarks of President Barack Obama on June 7, 2013, explaining why he has been engaged in secret uses of the Patriot Act and now opposes the reforms he proposed in 2005:

I think it’s important for everybody to understand — and I think the American people understand — that there are some tradeoffs involved. I came in with a healthy skepticism about these programs. My team evaluated them. We scrubbed them thoroughly. We actually expanded some of the oversight, increased some of safeguards. But my assessment and my team’s assessment was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks. And the modest encroachments on the privacy that are involved in getting phone numbers or duration without a name attached and not looking at content, that on net, it was worth us doing. Some other folks may have a different assessment on that.

But I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”

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