Editorial: Most citizens want reforms of government spying programs

Feb. 17, 2014 @ 11:07 PM

With the revelations last year of the federal government’s intrusion into the lives of Americans in the name of national security, something interesting happened.

Many liberals and conservatives agreed on an issue.

While there have been some on both sides of the aisle that support the domestic spying — largely behind the “we’re fighting terrorists” mantra or partisan hypocrisy – most political pundits and columnists have been united that the government’s overreaching techniques are bad for America.

“No one, friend or foe, can any longer believe that there is some rational process that guides United States national security initiatives,” Philip Giraldi, a columnist for The American Conservative, wrote. “It is like an unthinking predatory beast that has been unchained, and now lashing out in all directions with little discrimination or sense of proportion.”

Liberal columnist David Sirota of Slate.com said last month that the government wasn’t presenting findings of successes of the program, because the program simply isn’t working.

“These are the inconvenient truths that NSA defenders do not want the public to know because they threaten to ignite a powerful backlash against the surveillance state,” Sirota wrote. “Thus, without countervailing facts of their own, the agency’s defenders are resorting to an age-old public relations trick: They are trying to scream a scary motto (in this case ‘national security!’) as often and as loudly as possible to either distract everyone’s attention or fully drown out any fact-based discourse.”

Despite widespread belief that the spying goes too far, it doesn’t seem much is being done to slow the massive government data-collecting effort.

Just last month President Obama was largely defensive of the government spying programs in a speech, even after mentioning the government’s own intelligence over-reaches during the Civil Rights era.

“Everyone who has looked at these problems, including skeptics of existing programs, recognizes that we have real enemies and threats, and that intelligence serves a vital role in confronting them,” the president said. 

“The challenge is getting the details right, and that is not simple,” he said, later. “In fact, during the course of our review, I have often reminded myself I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Dr. King, who were spied upon by their own government. And as president, a president who looks at intelligence every morning, I also can’t help but be reminded that America must be vigilant in the face of threats.”

The president then proposed a variety of complex changes and oversights.

“I am open to working with Congress to ensure that we build a broad consensus for how to move forward, and I’m confident that we can shape an approach that meets our security needs while upholding the civil liberties of every American,” he said.

Most, however, were dismissive of the president’s proposals.

“So, basically, the rule is, ‘We will totally follow the rules until such a time that we determine that we will no longer follow the rules. But don’t worry about it, you won’t hear about it, because we’re going to do it in secret,’” comedian Jon Stewart said on his popular “The Daily Show.”

Sadly, Stewart’s comments ring true. 

It was only a few years ago that the president argued staunchly against domestic spying in the lead up to his campaign for the land’s highest office.

For the American people, it seems the only politicians concerned about Americans’ rights to privacy are those not currently in office.