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Friday, December 27, 2013

New York Times Editorial, "This Week, Mass Surveillance Wins": Don't Blame Obama

Today, in response to the decision of a federal district court upholding the constitutionality of the NSA's colossal collection of telephone data from the American public, The New York Times begins by observing in an editorial entitled "This Week, Mass Surveillance Wins" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/28/opinion/this-week-mass-surveillance-wins.html?_r=0):

"Has the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records actually helped to prevent terrorist attacks?

No, according to the 300-page report issued this month by a panel of legal and intelligence experts appointed by President Obama.

Yet in a ruling issued on Friday, Judge William Pauley III of the Federal District Court in Manhattan came to the opposite conclusion. 'The effectiveness of bulk telephony metadata collection cannot be seriously disputed,' Judge Pauley wrote in a deeply troubling decision dismissing a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union that challenged the constitutionality of the N.S.A.’s bulk data collection program."

The conclusion of the editorial board of The Times:

"The presidential panel made many good recommendations to reform both the surveillance law and the intelligence court that rules on government surveillance requests. Congress and Mr. Obama should adopt as many of these as possible. Court rulings will not suffice to rein in an agency that continues to take advantage of the law’s vague and malleable standards."

Hold your horses! The federal district court opinion can and should be appealed to a federal circuit court, and if need be, the circuit court's decision can be appealed to the US Supreme Court. Yes, this process could take years.

In addition, Congress can enact legislation limiting the power of the NSA. This might also have to wait until after the 2014 midterm elections.

Meanwhile, however, President Obama, a would-be Constitutional lawyer, can immediately adopt his panel's recommendations, rein in his agency and also fire James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, who, as acknowledged by The Times, "falsely told the Senate Intelligence Committee in March that the N.S.A. was not collecting any type of data at all on hundreds of millions of Americans." But Obama isn't doing anything of the sort. You see, the federal government knows best.

Does the editorial board of The Times place the blame on the president, where it squarely belongs? No, Obama's cheerleaders at The Times can't bring themselves to do this.

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