National security and Obama’s tightrope

The agencies overseeing US security, namely the FBI, CIA, and NSA, have been under the spotlight over the last few weeks, and rightly so.  The scope and scale of surveillance is breathtaking, in that it would appear that anybody with a cellphone or internet connection (i.e. almost anybody walking this planet) can be spied on. 


In 2009, President Obama stood in the East Room and said: “…sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I know that restoring transparency is not only the surest way to achieve results, but also to earn back the trust in government without which we cannot deliver the changes the American people sent us here to make.”  Granted, President Obama used these words to refer to and the stimulus package, but I think those words capture the essence of why the American People chose Obama over McCain and so thoroughly repudiated the policies under President Bush, including extraordinary rendition, waterboarding, and other programs that purportedly kept the nation safe.


So while the surveillance programs no doubt started under the Bush Administration, the same or similar programs with the same amount of transparency have clearly continued under the Obama Administration.  There is a difference between Presidents Bush and Obama, however, which is encouraging.


On May 23, 2013 President Obama delivered a speech that outlined ways to put limits on President Bush’s boundless war and a new emphasis to at long last put an end to the war on terror. Those limits should include limitations on what America’s security apparatus can and cannot do, and the broad outlines of those limits should take place in an open and public debate.  


And although we should readily acknowledge that as the threat of terrorism shifts into new theaters and morphs into new threats, we need to be on the ready.  But the world has always been a dangerous place, and we can can keep this nation safe without prosecuting a relentless and boundless war or by wiretapping/monitoring everybody.  I hope President Obama continues down that road, and hastens the pace while he’s at it.


For if the price for peace is peace of mind, we are paying too much.


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