by John Glaser
April 3, 2014

On June 7 Barack Obama made his first public statements about the NSA surveillance programs leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. After justifying the programs as subject to congressional and judicial oversight, he insisted he did not want “to suggest that, you know, you just say ‘trust me, we’re doing the right thing, we know who the bad guys are.’”

But, he added, “If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress, and don’t trust federal judges, to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here.”

The problem isn’t so much that the American people don’t trust their government with unprecedented powers in the realm of national security, but that the government continues to insist on our trust despite an incontestable track record of deceit and incompetence.

Generations of political leaders have lied the country into war, feigned ignorance of illegal activities they personally administered, and knowingly violated countless Americans’ constitutional rights. And yet, despite his sarcastic denial of a “trust me” doctrine, one of Obama’s central tenets, in an unprecedentedly secretive administration, has been exactly that: trust us.

The debate over NSA spying prior to Edward Snowden’s leaks was inappreciable. In total silence the Obama administration was carrying out and expanding the agency’s surveillance operations.

In a now notorious exchange, Sen. Ron Wyden asked James Clapper, director of national intelligence, four months before Snowden’s leaks, whether the NSA collects data on millions of Americans. An awkward, reluctant Clapper, displaying the classic poker tell of avoiding eye contact and scratching his perspiring brow, responded, “No, sir.” Pressed by Wyden, Clapper clarified, “Not wittingly.”

Read more