The same is true of James Clapper, director of national intelligence, who “revised” his testimony before Congress about monitoring citizens’ emails (he said “No, sir” at the time) when he told the National Journal, “What I said was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails. I stand by that.”
That might be news to former CIA Director David Petraeus, who resigned last fall after the FBI read through thousands of pages of emails from what he thought were anonymous, private accounts, exposing an affair with his biographer. As Binney noted, “What probable cause did they have? There was no crime.”
Again, the point is not that the government is reading all of our emails. It is that it is collecting them, and if it decides anyone is of special interest, for whatever reason, it can then read them.
Obama’s stance on all this is especially rich, since when he was a senator, he blasted President Bush for, “illegal wiretapping of American citizens” and “ignoring the law when it is inconvenient.”
In his first inaugural address, Obama declared, “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”
It appears, if Pew Research Center polls are to be believed, that a majority of Americans agree with the president that this kind of surveillance is necessary to keep us safe. That they think Ben Franklin’s warning – that those who trade freedom for security will end up with neither – is outdated.
I hope they’re right. Because I think we’re about to find out.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.