In a scathing editorial, the Gray Lady says Barack Obama’s presidency, which once promised unprecedented transparency, is instead “proving the truism that the executive will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it.”

The editorial is a response to the news that the FBI and NSA forced Verizon as a matter of routine to turn over records of all phone calls.

“Within hours of the disclosure that the federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights,” writes the paper’s editorial board.

The Times also chastised members of Congress as a group and some individuals by name. The whole institution came in for a spanking for granting the executive branch such sweeping surveillance powers in the first place. And the ranking members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which “is supposed to be preventing this sort of overreaching,” offered “absurd” defenses of the administration, notes the Times.

The mass surveillance of Americans by their government, “fundamentally shifts power between the individual and the state, and repudiates constitutional principles governing search, seizure and privacy.”

The editorial board writes that the latest scandal of administration overreach fits a bigger pattern that includes violations of press freedom and the killing of American citizens abroad. In all these matters, the government has not only been abusive of power, but highly secretive.

The senior administration official quoted in The Times said the executive branch internally reviews surveillance programs to ensure that they “comply with the Constitution and laws of the United States and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties.”

That’s no longer good enough. Mr. Obama clearly had no intention of revealing this eavesdropping, just as he would not have acknowledged the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, had it not been reported in the press. Even then, it took him more than a year and a half to acknowledge the killing, and he is still keeping secret the protocol by which he makes such decisions.

It has long been said by President Obama’s opponents that he is a media darling who enjoys an unfair advantage in the press. It seems those days are over.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer.

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