Message to Obama: Respecting the Rule of Law includes respecting the Constitution

I have been on the road with business, and working on a fairly big announcement for next week, so I have been slow in keeping up with the emerging NSA scandal.  I want to give a few brief thoughts on Obama's defense of extensive NSA data gathering.  

That’s not to suggest that, you know, you just say, trust me, we’re doing the right thing, we know who the bad guys are. And the reason that’s not how it works is because we’ve got congressional oversight and judicial oversight. And if people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress and don’t trust federal judges to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.

  1. I don't trust any of the three branches of government.  You know what, neither did many of the folks who wrote the Constitution
  2. The involvement of the three branches of government in this issue boil down to less than two dozen people:  the President, a subset of the 15 members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a subset of the 11 judges (3?) on the FISA court, which has demonstrated pretty conclusively that they will approve any warrant no matter how absurdly broad
  3. Non-specific warrants that basically cover open-ended data gathering on every single person in the country, with no particular suspect or target named, are clearly un-Constitutional.  "and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."  I would love to know what probable cause the NSA cited to seized Warren Meyer's Verizon call records.  20 Washington insiders cannot change the Constitution -- that requires a vote of 3/4 of the states.
  4. Obama has stopped even pretending to care about the Constitution, an amazing fact given that he is nominally a Constitutional professor
  5. Partisan hypocrisy has never been clearer, as traditional defenders of civil liberties and opponents of the Patriot Act like Al Franken rush to defend the NSA spying (thank God for Linsey Graham, who can be counted on to be a consistent authoritarian).  Democrats and Republicans have basically switched sides on the issue.

When assessing any new government power, imagine your worst political enemy wielding the power and make your judgement of the powers' appropriateness based on that worst-case scenario.  Clearly, though, no one can see past the occupant of the White House. with Coke party members backing powers for Coke Presidents but opposing them for Pepsi Presidents and vice-versa.


  1. marque2:

    The courts have mucked things up with expectations of privacy rulings. Because you give your phone number away freely, especially with caller ID, you don't have an expectation of privacy for your phone number per the courts, - or at least that is the claim going around.

    I still don't like it. Part of the problem is that we don't bother checking people who come in, even when we have good evidence that the folks are up to no good - and so the government compensates by spying on all of us. Well if we just kept folks who want to do harm out,Tsarnaev comes to mind, all this back handed spying wouldn't be needed.

  2. LarryGross:

    re: ..." less than two dozen people" - maybe.... how many paid govt employees and contractors knew about it and said not a word except for one guy?

    I suspect we got a couple thousand or more people who are getting paid and know EXACTLY what they are doing to get paid.

  3. marque2:

    Ah but the program was only started by a dozen or so folks, yes once the program is enacted you need to hire a whole bunch of folks, but it wasn't those employees decisions to start spying on us. Warren is correct.

  4. perlhaqr:

    4. Obama has stopped even pretending to care about the Constitution, an
    amazing fact given that he is nominally a Constitutional professor

    Hey, it's not like I have a heavy working knowledge of the New Mexico motor vehicle code so I can stay well inside it... You have to study what you want to subvert if you hope to get away with it.

  5. LarryGross:

    from your PERSONAL point of view. would you chose to make your living doing something that you knew was spying on people in general .

    Think of all those people, working every day, knowing exactly what they are doing and just one guy took a principled stand and the rest just keep on helping the govt do it.

    from a political point of view - what do you think their view is - left, right, middle?

    who would spy on their fellow citizens for money?

  6. HenryBowman419:

    he is nominally a Constitutional professor

    Why does this canard continue to be peddled by supposedly educated people? Obama was a lecturer, not a professor. Note that he has never published any scholarly work, not one. No self-respecting university would hire him as a professor.

  7. marque2:

    Larry we are not in disagreement about the spying programs, I don't like them either.

    But as for folks spying on others - many people won't even know that is what they doing. Either they will be given double speak to make it sound legit, lie about what the data is, or the person working will only be let know about enough detail to get their job done, so he won't really know the big picture. Having worked on a defense project - for a private company before I can tell you sometimes you have no clue what you are working on.

    This whistleblower guy happened to be able to access more because he was an IT person.

    Of course, and this is an aside, - note I am glad the leak was done - I think the government is very lax about their own security requirements. When I was doing secure work we had localized networks, not connected to any other - esp not the internet. The computers only had the info on them we needed to know and nothing else. Every program had their own IT guy, who could only work on the one small disconnected network for their program, no cross helping allowed. Working in private industry for a deliverable contract the data / info was very secure.

    Seems though in government or for contracts directly working for the government, all the secret networks are linked together, and they have no idea which computers have access to the Internet or not. They let guys in IT work the whole system. Why are they not following the same security standards they force on private contractors doing deliverable work for the government? If they did, these leaks could not happen.

  8. marque2:

    Didn't he have two books ghostwritten about him? You know where he did scholarly research on eating dogs and such.

  9. bigmaq1980:

    Tsarnaev case is this case, the information was given to them on a platter and their "follow up" on that was, in retrospect, atrocious to say the least.

    This says a lot when one compares the "need" for the NSA collection program(s).

    If the government cannot handle information provided to them and "keep us safe", then the rationale for subverting the Constitution to have such a broad a scope on collecting vast amounts of data on our citizens to analyze for "threats" in order to "keep us safe" is thin to non-existent.