By Jack Minor –
President Obama, who has no problem using executive orders to bypass Congress and effect changes to legislation has suddenly gotten cold feet when it comes to concerns over the National Security Agency’s collection of phone data on most Americans, choosing instead to defer to Congress to fix the problem.
On Friday, the president held a long-anticipated announcement about what he intended to do about revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden about the extent of the NSA’s spying programs on both Americans and individuals abroad. The president claimed he was unaware of what the agency was doing until he heard about in the media. Obama has also claimed ignorance on a plethora of issues ranging from Fast and Furious, the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups and the issues with the Healthcare.gov website, just to name a few.
One of the biggest concerns of the public, both in American and abroad was over the collection of what is called metadata, information on cell phone calls such as location, number called, duration of the call etc.
The president stated that the program “as it currently exists” was going to be ended.
However, he then went on to say the data would still be collected, the issue would now be over who stores it. The president stated that the government would continue to collect and hold onto the data until Congress decides who should store the information.
One of the suggestions that has been proposed is to require the individual telecom companies to retain the information and have it readily available for law enforcement. However, the companies have fought back saying they want no part in storing the information. Among their concerns are the additional cost they would accrue from having to store the data as well as liability issues should the information become compromised. Additionally, privacy advocates have warned that if the cell phone companies had the data they could be pressured to release the information for a variety of reasons including divorce proceedings.
The president’s decision to put off a decision is noteworthy when one considers that as the head of the executive branch, which is tasked with enforcing laws he would have the discretion to instruct the agencies under his authority such as the NSA what procedures they were allowed to do in this issue.
Obama recently said he had no problem using his executive power to go around congress on issues he personally supported such as global warming and gun control.