The Daily Gamecock

NSA leaks worrying for US citizens

A number of scandals have arisen that, regardless of personal involvement by Obama, do not reflect well on his administration. It was revealed that the Internal Revenue Service was targeting Tea Party groups last month, and the organization took well-deserved heat over that. But more alarming is the recent scandal over the National Security Administration and the amount of information about random citizens that it has. This is just one of several events that demonstrates the Obama administration’s lack of concern for civil liberties.

Obama administration disregards civil liberties

Obama’s record on civil rights has not been bad. He gets a lot of credit for being the first president to openly support gay marriage. He has also made helping the underprivileged and underrepresented groups a big priority. But there have been serious lapses on the part of the administration on civil liberties.

The NSA leak is a perfect encapsulation of this. The highlight of the story is that a government-run data mining operation known as PRISM is working with some of the nation’s biggest technology companies and communications providers to get a ridiculous amount of information on private citizens. They have access to phone calls and can monitor Internet traffic.

Obama has claimed that the information will not be misused, but it’s difficult to believe that. While the capability to monitor communication and Internet usage is something that the federal government should have, there must be serious safeguards to prevent it’s misuse. It should be reserved for serious criminals and terrorism suspects. There is a very fine line between a safe state and a surveillance state, and the PRISM program clearly crosses that line.

That is the Obama Administration’s only big time failure when it comes to civil liberties. A favorite topic of mine is this administration’s over reliance on the use of drone strikes to kill terrorists in foreign lands regardless of whether or not they are U.S. citizens and seemingly as such entitled to due process. That is not to even mention the gross inaccuracy of drone strikes and the tremendous collateral damage they cause. Obama has staunchly defended the practice and claimed that civilian deaths would be prevented in the future but that doesn’t ease any apprehensions about the program. The willingness to extra-judicially assassinate any U.S. citizen is especially troubling, and the administration just admitted to doing just that last month.

There was a time when Obama was concerned with the Bush Administration’s overreaches on civil liberties. He criticized the PATRIOT Act, and panned things like indefinite detention, policies which he is currently defending. Civil liberties are crucial to our society, but so is safety. There must be a balance between the two, but the current administration has overstepped its bounds. I hope Obama can remember the senator he used to be; if not, it might be a long three and a half years.