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ACLU turns on Obama: Privacy invasions abhorrent, shocking

Sunday, June 16, 2013 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: ACLU, President Obama, NSA spying

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(NaturalNews) One by one, traditionally left-wing and liberal institutions are turning on President Obama, who is perhaps the most liberal president in U.S. history, following disclosure of a series of horrific abuses of power that have taken place during his tenure.

In early June an editorial from no less than The New York Times bashed the president over the National Security Agency's wholesale capture of metadata on millions of Verizon customers (and, really, on every American, we now know), declaring that the president who once promised his administration would be the most transparent ever had "lost all credibility" on the issue of privacy protection.

Now, the American Civil Liberties Union has lashed out at the president over the same issue - his administration's massive, serial violations of the Fourth Amendment - calling the abuse much more than just a "modest encroachment" on privacy.

"Metadata is back in the news, following The Guardian's extraordinary revelation on Wednesday revealing that the National Security Agency has been secretly scooping up the phone records of millions of Americans," writes Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. "But intelligence officials - echoed by President Obama today, who characterized access to metadata a "modest encroachment" on privacy - are implying that the information they're collecting is relatively innocuous, since they don't listen in on the actual phone conversations."

Metadata is key

Going further, Stanley notes why this massive theft of metadata on Americans is a big deal.

In an op-ed piece for Reuters, Stanley - along with colleague Ben Wizner - point to evidence that metadata is key to revealing anything and everything about a person, including their sexual orientation, and the implications that kind of information could have when it winds up in the hands of an all-powerful entity like the federal government's spy network:

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study a few years back found that reviewing people's social networking contacts alone was sufficient to determine their sexual orientation. Consider, metadata from email communications was sufficient to identify the mistress of then-CIA Director David Petraeus and then drive him out of office.

Petraeus went from hero of Iraq and Afghanistan to director of the world's most powerful foreign spy service - to an asterisk in the dustbin of U.S. military and intelligence history.

So when Obama and his congressional surrogates from both parties try to tell you that, hey, all of this spying is no big deal because they aren't listening to the content of phone calls, Stanley and Wizner say that's irrelevant, considering what metadata can tell already tell the government about you and your activities (which makes sense as to why the NSA is capturing it):

The "who," "when" and "how frequently" of communications are often more revealing than what is said or written. Calls between a reporter and a government whistleblower, for example, may reveal a relationship that can be incriminating all on its own.

Boy, does that sound familiar.

What about metadata indicating repeated calls to, say, hotlines for gay teenagers? Alcoholics Anonymous? An abortion clinic? A gambling bookie? Your doctor's office or pharmacy? A mental health clinic?

Serious constitutional crisis

"If a politician were revealed to have repeatedly called a phone sex hotline after 2:00 a.m., no one would need to know what was said on the call before drawing conclusions," write Stanley and Wizner. "In addition sophisticated data-mining technologies have compounded the privacy implications by allowing the government to analyze terabytes of metadata and reveal far more details about a person's life than ever before."

These are all legal but intensely private activities that the government has no business knowing about. They have nothing to do with the prevention of terrorist attacks. They are all actions that are protected by the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, at a minimum.

And yet, you have a president and members of Congress trying to tell you that the NSA has every right to do this, and that the NSA employee, Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on these constitutional abuses, is the real traitor.

That a traditionally "progressive" liberal organization like the ACLU would put aside its usual partisan tone to call out this president and his administration for what it has done should be a good indicator to you that this is a serious constitutional crisis.

Sources for this article include:




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