“I don’t think anybody in the press, or anybody in Congress, or frankly most people in the public ought to be too surprised when they realized that this was taken to the end,” Congressman John Tierney said Monday. “If you have an executive and you tell them you want to keep them safe and here are the boundaries, then they’re probably going to go to the extent of the boundaries, because nobody wants to be asking the question the day after: ‘Why didn’t you do something to prevent whatever might have happened?’”
Some members of Congress have long sounded the alarm about how the Patriot Act has been interpreted and used by the government. Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado wrote Attorney General Eric Holder last year saying most Americans “would be stunned” to learn the details of how the secret courts have interpreted the Patriot Act. There “now is a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows,” they wrote.
Tierney, who voted against the Patriot Act, said, “There were many of us who thought that we could have struck a better balance for privacy and civil liberties with security at the same time, and now we’re going to have that debate, hopefully.”
For a president who campaigned for more transparency and more attention to privacy rights, Obama’s lack of transparency and disregard for individual freedom are disappointing. The public and Congress need to take the lead in fixing the Patriot Act and ensuring Americans can be confident their private lives are not unduly intruded on by their government.