Back when the Bush administration was making every effort to stretch executive power to levels never before seen, many said that this was of little concern because future Presidents could always reverse those programs and policies. Things like the Patriot Act, which transgressed personal privacy and freedom in decidedly un-American ways, were temporary measures required by the exceptional events of 9-11.
However, the reality would seem to be that once you let the Genie out of the bottle, it’s tough to get it back in. Three key provisions of the Patriot Act are due to expire, and if any administration should be positioned to reverse the Bush-era wrongs, it should be Obama’s. Yet that is apparently not going to happen. Obama is backing the renewal of these three powers allowing the government to spy on its own citizens without probable cause.
I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. Obama has failed to follow through on his promises to close the Guantanamo prison and deal with the people held there without due process. He has also renewed the U.S. policy of rendition to foreign soil.
I don’t know if this is really what Obama wants to do or if this is a bit of bi-partisan pandering intended to preemptively quell the hew and cry of the right that he’s soft on terrorism. Either way, it’s very disappointing. I expected better of him. He closed his healthcare speech the other week with an emotional appeal to our morality. That universal healthcare was the right thing to do. It was the human thing to do. I submit that it would be hypocritical of him to not use that same moral high-ground when making decisions about our national security policies. We all want to be safe, but not at the expense of our privacy, personal freedoms, or our dignity with regard to how we treat others, including our enemies.