Jacob Sullum on Why Obama Changed His Mind About the NSA's Phone Record Dragnet



Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee last July, Deputy Attorney General James Cole explained why the National Security Agency (NSA) needed to collect everyone's telephone records. "If you're looking for the needle in the haystack," he said, "you have to have the entire haystack to look through."

Judging from the changes that President Obama recommended last week, he has decided that looking for a needle in a haystack might not be the smartest way to prevent terrorist attacks. Jacob Sullum says Obama's decision to eliminate the NSA database he once defended as essential to national security shows how important transparency is in protecting civil liberties, since he thought everything was fine as long as it was secret.