In a seething Thursday editorial, The New York Times lambasted the Obama administration for expanding cell phone data collection, a measure that they said violates Americans’ rights to privacy and liberty.
“The administration has now lost all credibility. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it,” the editorial board wrote.
The Times’ fierce criticism cited the president’s actions as a flagrant abuse of the Patriot Act to spy on both Americans suspected of terrorism and ordinary citizens.
The intelligence gathering expansion is remarkable, “especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability,” the editorial reads.
Efforts to defend the administration’s programs were dubbed unconvincing and unpersuasive by the Times. An administration official quoted in an earlier Times piece attempted to save face by explaining the data gathered — which includes the phone numbers and data locations of Verizon phones making and receiving calls — does not include the customer’s name — a slightly unmoving defense, in the opinion of the Times.
According to the editorial, California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Thursday that authorities require this information in order to prevent citizens from becoming terrorists in the future. She afterward admitted not knowing how the data that iss collected is being used.
“This sort of tracking can reveal a lot of personal and intimate information about an individual. To casually permit this surveillance — with the American public having no idea that the executive branch is now exercising this power — fundamentally shifts power between the individual and the state, and repudiates constitutional principles governing search, seizure and privacy,” the editorial reads.
The Times criticized Obama’s stance after he criticized the previous Bush administration for a surveillance policy that “puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide.” (RELATED: Mark Levin: ‘We have the elements of a police state’)
The administration’s use of secret lethal drone strikes, wiretapping and spying on major media outlets, and now compiling massive amounts of data from the digitally communicated lives of private citizens “shows, once again, why [the Patriot Act] needs to be sharply curtailed if not repealed,” the editorial board wrote.