While President Donald Trump has constantly called to drain the swamp, one issue where privacy rights advocates have taken issue with him is illegal government spying. Trump has defended the spying capabilities of the federal government and spoken out in favor of it on many occasions.
But Trump’s opinion on the government creeps might be changing. After Trump was wiretapped by Obama’s FBI in an attempt to steal the presidency from him, it has made him uniquely aware of the problem. He took to his Twitter account to lambast the National Security Agency (NSA) on Tuesday.
Wow! The NSA has deleted 685 million phone calls and text messages. Privacy violations? They blame technical irregularities. Such a disgrace. The Witch Hunt continues!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2018
This follows the news that the NSA was destroying evidence at a rapid pace due to so-called ‘technical irregularities.’
The NSA said in their official statement about their bizarre behavior: “NSA is deleting the [call detail records] because several months ago NSA analysts noted technical irregularities in some data received from telecommunications service providers. These irregularities also resulted in the production to NSA of some CDRs that NSA was not authorized to receive. Because it was infeasible to identify and isolate properly produced data, NSA concluded that it should not use any of the CDRs.”
While the NSA claims the agency is correcting an error, their long-standing history of egregiously violating the Constitution – in particular the 4th Amendment – makes their story difficult to swallow. Trump isn’t believing the spin and neither are privacy rights advocates.
“This incident shows these companies acted with unacceptable carelessness and failed to comply with the law when they shared customers’ sensitive data with the government,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), one of the Senate’s top crusaders against illicit NSA spying, to the Associated Press.
“Over and over again, NSA says we don’t have to worry because these violations are inadvertent. At some point, that’s cold comfort when we’re trusting NSA to collect hundreds of mill of our records and they’re persistently failing to adhere to the legal limits,” said Liza Goitein, who serves as co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, to the Daily Beast.
President Trump would be wise to work with legislators on his side of the political aisle, namely Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mike Lee (R-UT), who have been national leaders on privacy right for close to a decade now.
“The Fourth Amendment safeguards liberty by protecting against government abuse of power. Overzealous law enforcement, even when well-intended, carries grave risks to Americans’ privacy and liberty. Members of Congress cannot continue to grant broad discretion to government agents and not expect these types of troubling outcomes,” Lee said about unconstitutional NSA spying.
“At the very least we should debate, we should debate whether or not we are going to relinquish our rights or whether or not we are going to have a full and able debate over whether or not we can live within the constitution or whether or not we have to go around the constitution,” Paul said on the Senate floor during an attempted filibuster to stop NSA spying.
If Trump really wanted to get serious about taking down the surveillance state, he could even pardon whistle-blowers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.