WSJ: Obama Wants Anti-Terror Policies to Be Gutted

Monday, 12 Aug 2013 03:39 PM

By Dan Weil

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President Barack Obama is paving the way for Congress to eviscerate the effective anti-terrorist intelligence programs that have been in place since the George W. Bush administration, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial

"Edward Snowden must be smiling. Fresh from gaining asylum from Vladimir Putin, the self-admitted stealer of U.S. security secrets can now boast that he has caused an American president to retreat on his core powers as commander in chief," Journal editors write.

"That's the import of President Obama's announcement late Friday . . . that he wants to overhaul the intelligence and data collection programs he inherited from George W. Bush and has used since he took office." 

The president has put himself on a slippery slope, the editorial says. "Mr. Obama invited Congress to tie him and future presidents down with new oversight and limits on a surveillance program that no one has found to have been abused in a single instance."

Obama's move is "dangerous politically and as policy," the editorial says. What he should be doing is letting the public know why these programs are needed against a still powerful enemy.

In light of the recent shutdown of 19 U.S. embassies in fear of terrorist attacks, "the uses of surveillance in warning of the potential attack would seem to be clear. Surveillance saves American lives," the editorial says.

"Yet Mr. Obama has now joined the debate on his back foot, conceding that new bureaucratic intrusions are needed to interfere and limit his own war fighters."

Obama said the public must have confidence in the government's surveillance programs. "Well, yes, but a President's job is to give them that confidence, not to undermine that confidence at the start by saying the critics are right," the editorial says.

Obama is just making things worse by announcing his desire for an adversarial advocate to join the current surveillance review performed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), the editorial states.

"Even if the advocate's mandate is supposedly only for 'privacy,' this is a bad idea," Journal editors write. "The President is essentially inviting into his councils someone whose duty is to oppose surveillance requests that are presumably necessary for security."

The FISC already represents "a judicial intrusion on the executive that diffuses political accountability," the editorial says.

Obama's moves on foreign surveillance may represent a shift to the left on security policy, the editorial says. He might be trying to limit the policies of his successors.

"Especially if that is true, but even if he is merely trying to appease his left wing, wiser figures in both parties in Congress will need to protect the office of the presidency and the country from his security retreat," Journal editors write.

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