The fundamental problem is not the “transparency” of the federal government’s spy programs, but their unconstitutionality. It cannot be put clearer than this: It is a violation of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment for the federal government to surreptitiously and without warrant or reasonable suspicion, gather data on the private communications of law-abiding American citizens based on nothing more than the government’s assertion that such information might possibly help identify a suspected terrorist, or foil a possible plot at some point in the future.
The facts bear out the problem in the government’s shaky justification for the massive data-basing of communications information. Despite Obama’s repetitive, “the-sky-is-falling” rhetoric, a study of 225 terror cases since 9/11 shows the NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance program “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism,” and that often the government’s terrorism claims are “overblown” and “misleading.”
Moreover, the manner in which the government has exploited and abused the powers granted it in the USA PATRIOT Act -- such as vastly increasing the use of the so-called “business record” power to scoop up unlimited cell phone records -- is illustrative of the magnitude of the manner in which the government has been violating the privacy rights of the citizenry. Read carefully, Obama’s words make clear he has no intention of reining in such abuses to any meaningful extent.
In fact, the President’s speech may actually make matters worse. He purports to limit the government’s massive surveillance efforts without really doing so; and thereby offers us a false sense of security -- providing a shield behind which the agencies and government officials involved (such as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who likely perjured himself in front of Congress while testifying about the NSA last year), can hide as Uncle Sam continues his march into the Surveillance State.