Surveillance State Reform? Obama Sabotaging the Saboteurs

yellow whistle

Posted on March 25, 2014 by Ruth O’Brien

In the New York Times, Charlie Savage calls attention to the problem with Obama’s so-called reform of the surveillance state.  He captures it between a couple of innocuous dashes: “— if approved by Congress —.”  Now we need the ellipsis, since (hello) this ain’t going to happen.

So now the president is sabotaging thesaboteurs in grand style – their style.  He’s pulling the turnaround.  Of course Obama’s being “reasonable.”  Of course Obama’s happy to partner legislatively with Congress for privacy reform.  Obama gets to practice being Moses (or is it Joshua?) and lead Congress across a bridge (or is it off a cliff?). Obama gets to divert attention to the real bad guys, along with the previous president, George W. Bush. This is sweet, sweet schadenfreude, part of Obama’s dinner-party modus operandi.

But wait, that’s not exactly true.  Who did Snowden go after, after all?

A whistleblower didn’t sound off in the deep, dark days of the Bush administration, during the GOP’s fruitless hunt for Osama while escalating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. No, the most effective whistleblower in generations waited until he saw the clear light of “hope.”  That ray — but it was the wrong kind of ray, embodied by PRISM.  Okay.  Edward Snowden sought hope; he just didn’t understand it was false hope.

Obama is being foolish in not offering sanctuary to all whistleblowers.  He’s the one who tucked the highly successful qui tam whistleblower provisions in his signature legislation — Obamacare and Dodd-Frank.  So why can’t Obama wake up to some of the alarms he himself devised and set?

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About Ruth O'Brien

Professor Ruth O'Brien, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY) & Honorary Unaffiliated Academic Book Series Editor for The Public Square, Princeton University Press & Heretical Thought, Oxford University Press, USA Last book: Out of Many, One: Obama & the Third American Political Tradition (U of Chicago 2013). Nickname: Professorette by Rush Limbaugh (see

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