Ever since Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s wiretapping to the world, President Obama have been trying to assuage Americans' fears and apprehensions over domestic spying — and much to no avail. Obama's latest effort came on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where Obama made clear that America does not have a domestic spying program. Unfortunately, the facts show otherwise.
While Americans are generally willing to accept the NSA's right to investigate dangerous people by obtaining a warrant through legal means, we do not condone warantless spying. President Obama misled the public when he told Jay Leno that the NSA merely uses “mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat.” In reality, the NSA is monitoring the American people without adequate checks.
The White House has been using a loophole in the 2011 Fisa Amendment Act, which was intended to allow the NSA to monitor only foreign targets and U.S. citizens in direct contact with them, to spy on additional law-abiding citizens in the program's database, whom it calls “incidental collections.” The White House has essentially argued it's perfectly acceptable to violate Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights, just as long as it is an accident.
On Friday, President Obama tried to further mollify the public by launching a website “that is going to serve as the hub for further transparency, [it] can be a home for citizens who are interested in learning more about our activities and declassifying efforts in responding to queries that people have about these programs.”
But, we deserve much more than a website where the administration can publish convenient information in hopes it will put us at ease. We need legislative and executive action to legally guarantee that no U.S. citizen is investigated without a warrant.
The only way that an unelected government agency such as the NSA can be democratically monitored is by congressional oversight that deters unlawful espionage and effectively identifies and reprimands those who commit it. Quibbles over the necessity of the NSA’s program may still remain despite regulation — many Americans do not believe the government should have any right to spy on U.S. citizens, regardless of indictment — yet even the staunchest proponents of the NSA ought to demand there be firm limits to government investigation.
Former Obama adviser Van Jones even admitted, "Everybody knows I love this president, but this is ridiculous ... we do have a domestic spying program, and what we need to be able to do is figure out how to balance these things, not pretend like there’s no balancing to be done.”
The very principles that the NSA seeks to defend by tracking terrorists are compromised if it has the right to do so arbitrarily. If President Obama is sincere about ensuring this program’s transparency, then he must actively enlist oversight and impose inflexible restrictions and, as the executive, he must be committed to enforcing them.