Dan Gillmor observes that the two top New York Times headlines this morning “sum up the Obama administration”:
The first article, by Charlie Savage, details numerous new powers the FBI has granted to its agents to spy on and surveill American citizens in the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing: “to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.” That policy expands upon a Bush era decision to allow FBI agents to conduct national security investigations aimed at citizens even in the absence of suspicion of wrongdoing and by using racial and religious considerations in determining targets. As Savage details with his typical thoroughness, the new Obama policy expands the surveillance activities the FBI is authorized to exploit for investigations opened under the “low threshold” created by Bush.
Like last month’s White-House-backed, reform-free Patriot Act extension, this is yet another step the Surveillance State inexorably takes: constantly gathering more and more data on citizens who have been accused of and are suspected of having done nothing wrong, without any oversight or accountability. This is par for Obama’s course. As Yale Professor Jack Balkin recently put it to Jane Mayer about the Obama presidency: “We are witnessing the bipartisan normalization and legitimization of a national-surveillance state.” This state, as much as anything, is devoted to gathering as much intrusive data as possible about as many citizens as possible without a shred of oversight or suspicion of wrongdoing: exactly that which has proven to create inevitable abuse and exactly that which the Fourth Amendment sought to bar.