Reports suggest that President Obama has no intention of making substantive changes to entrenched spying programs and will instead call on Congress to decide the way forward. Given a recent poll indicating clear support for reigning in these programs, it appears to be another opportunity lost for Obama to live up to his bold words from 2007.
While Obama's aides may have us believe the bulk surveillance program is actually preventing terrorist attacks—an oft-repeated justification and a falsehood at that—the reality is that Obama has decided our privacy rights are less important than his political legacy.
In a statement yesterday, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero best summed up our collective disappointment:
“President Obama’s speech on Friday will not only determine the direction of national security policies and programs, but also define his civil liberties legacy. If the speech is anything like what is being reported, the president will go down in history for having retained and defended George W. Bush’s surveillance programs rather than reformed them.
“Keeping the storage of all Americans’ data in government hands and asking ‘lawmakers to weigh in,’ as reported, is passing the buck – when the buck should stop with the president. If Congress fails to act on this matter, as it has on other critical policy issues, President Obama will effectively be handing off a treasure trove of all our private data to succeeding presidents – whether it is Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, or Hillary Clinton.”