The Washington Post has a tremendous article out that’s brief, but shows exactly how President Obama has changed since he was a Senator in the Congress.
Congress eventually re-authorized the Patriot Act, including Section 215. A few years later, Obama was elected president of the United States. And under President Obama’s watch, the NSA engaged in surveillance suspiciously similar to the broad “fishing expeditions” Sen. Obama warned about.
The government has argued that records of every phone call made in the United States are “relevant” to counter-terrorism investigations generally, allowing them to obtain information about the private phone calls of millions of Americans — exactly the kind of argument Sen. Obama warned the government would make if the language of Section 215 wasn’t tightened.
The author’s conclusion as to what changed is the usual refrain that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and the more nuanced answer that perhaps once he entered office and saw the intelligence briefings, he feared more attacks, so did what he felt was necessary by rescinding certain civil liberties — a more practical and tangible explanation. I think the former still has validity, but I think the latter is likely the case.
I find that unfortunate, as I would love to see a more courageous and hopeful president in the post-9/11 era willing to stand up and reject such fear-mongering. Yeah, yeah, I know, easy for the ginger to say sitting behind a computer desk in Cincinnati, Ohio and not at the desk of the Oval Office with a bazillion intelligence agencies briefing you, but I eagerly seek a new paradigm that’s not so based in fear. Someone has to do it.