Archived Story

Editorial: Will spying on Americans actually stop? Doubtful

Published 9:10am Monday, January 20, 2014

Of course, President Barack Obama — or any president faced with the same situation — is going to call on spies to stop spying on the American people. That’s just what Obama did on Friday as a reaction to leaks from whistleblowing fugitive Edward Snowden, who revealed the NSA was keeping tabs on telephones, Internet and all kinds of aspects of our daily lives, often without permission of a court.

But we remain skeptical whether that will really happen, as no doubt many Americans are, too. Just because a president ordered it doesn’t mean the spies won’t stop going farther than they should, especially when they have the technology and know-how to do so. In fact, that’s what led America to its present surveillance madness — under Democratic and Republican administrations. There is an institutional culture, from Gen. Keith Alexander and his “Star Trek” command center on down, to overreach. That’s difficult to alter. And despite having laws in place already to protect the privacy of American people, spying on them happened anyway, thanks to questionable, roundabout interpretations of those laws. One of those laws is commonly called the Fourth Amendment.

Besides, what president wants to deal with another large-scale attack on American soil like Sept. 11, 2001? None do. It’s an incentive to say one thing today and do another tomorrow. What Obama said on Friday sounds like a sweeping reform, but we wouldn’t be surprised one iota if the implementation of that reform is lackluster.