Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Early Test for Obama on Domestic Spying Views

President-elect Barack Obama will face a series of early decisions on domestic spying that will test his administration’s views on presidential power and civil liberties. The Justice Department will be asked to respond to motions in legal challenges to the National Security Agency’s wiretapping program, and must decide whether to continue the tactics used by the Bush administration — which has used broad claims of national security and “state secrets” to try to derail the challenges — or instead agree to disclose publicly more information about how the program was run.

Governing will be different than campaigning. I look for some change, but not radical change. Yes, radical; pun intended.

“I don’t think President-elect Obama embraces Dick Cheney’s theory of unfettered presidential power,” said Jon B. Eisenberg, a San Francisco lawyer involved in one lawsuit against the wiretapping program. “So if President-elect Obama doesn’t embrace that theory, one would expect a change in the direction of how the new administration handles this litigation.”

Agreed. Then again ...

But other legal and political analysts suggest that Mr. Obama, as president, may be more willing to accept the broadened presidential powers that he once condemned as a candidate, particularly since Congress has approved expanded surveillance powers for the government.

In the proposal in June that Mr. Obama ultimately voted to support, Congress set up a new surveillance framework that gave intelligence officials much broader authority to eavesdrop on international communications without prior court approval.

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