Barack Obama ran for President in 2008 promising that he would end George W. Bush’s attacks on Americans’ constitutional rights. He declared that the idea that freedom needed to be balanced by security was a “false choice”. Now we know that Obama has largely continued Bush’s attacks on the Bill of Rights, and has absolutely trashed the Fourth Amendment by expanding the Big Brother program to spy on our private emails, telephone calls, Internet activity and more through the National Security Agency.
So, Obama has been a big disappointment to Americans who believe in constitutional rights. Democratic voters can still look forward to the 2016 presidential election, to choose a better candidate this time around, right? Actually, the field of the most likely candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination looks absolutely horrid when it comes to the issue of stopping unreasonable search and seizure under the FISA Amendments Act and Patriot Act.
As Vice President, Joe Biden has surely known about Barack Obama’s massive electronic surveillance system for a long time. There’s no sign he has done anything to stop it.
Likewise, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had to be in the know on the NSA’s spying. Even after leaving the State Department, Clinton has expressed no reservations at all about the Big Brother system that has searched through trillions upon trillions of personal communications by Americans without any search warrant.
Writing for the Guardian, Ana Marie Cox observes, “Hillary Clinton… has done an elegant disappearing act with her views. She has gone from a vocal critic to silent beneficiary of the same programs. Once loud-mouthed Joe Biden has been just as mum.”
What about those 2016 Democrats who haven’t been part of the Obama White House?
“I think we’re on course to have a body of work that lays the framework of a candidacy for 2016,” says Martin O’Malley. O’Malley is in a perfect position to include opposition to NSA spying on Americans in his candidacy’s framework. He is the Governor of Maryland, where the National Security Agency has its headquarters. Still, O’Malley has not said a word about the daily violation of the constitutional rights of his constituents by the NSA.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has also been mentioned as a possible 2016 contender. Like O’Malley, he has said nothing and done nothing to protest the constant surveillance of Americans’ private communications by the government. What Cuomo has done as governor suggests that he would be happy to keep Big Brother spying on Americans up and running. Cuomo has expanded a program to seize DNA samples from New York residents, for example.
Well, what about Elizabeth Warren, who many progressives hoped would run for President in 2012? She’s in the U.S. Senate now, in a perfect position for a presidential campaign in 2016. All that Senator Warren has said is that there should be “informed discussion” of spying by the NSA.
The Washington Post observes that “no potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidates have taken up the mantle” of opposition to surveillance of Americans by the military spies at the NSA.
What if there was a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 who was willing to speak out against the NSA electronic surveillance of America? No such candidate exists, but even if one did, Democrats who care about civil liberties would have little reason for enthusiasm. Remember, Barack Obama once promised to protect our constitutional rights as a candidate. There is little reason for civil libertarians to trust Democratic politicians to keep their word.
What we need in a presidential candidate is a leader who has actually already put his or her political career on the line in order to actively oppose NSA spying against Americans. Two Democratic senators come to mind.