At Reuters, liberal George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen has a long and very interesting piece comparing the notorious civil liberties violations committed by President Woodrow Wilson and his attorney general A. Mitchell Palmer to the troubling behavior of the NSA under President Barack Obama. “Obama is far from resembling Palmer in terms of civil liberties abuse,” Rosen writes, “but his conviction in his own progressive righteousness is an unfortunate trait when it comes to designing and overseeing surveillance programs.” As Rosen sees it, the time has come for Obama to drop that self-righteousness and start taking the Fourth Amendment seriously. He writes:
The Obama administration has consistently swatted down lawsuits that challenge it by saying that citizens who believe they have been victims of surveillance lack standing to bring them. It has also prosecuted the very whistleblowers whose leaks made possible the national debate the president says he welcomes.
Constitutional conversations are always welcome, and the one we’re having now could clarify the meaning of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions on unreasonable searches and seizures. The real lessons of the Palmer raids, however, suggest that instead of continuing to compromise the Fourth Amendment, Obama will ultimately have to acknowledge that it constrains national security intelligence gathering. Otherwise, he risks a similarly harsh verdict in the eyes of history.