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ACLU: Obama Worse Than Bush On Civil Liberty Issues

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UPDATED: Friday June 14, 2013 12:20 PM

The associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio says the Obama administration is worse than its predecessor on issues of transparency.

"We were hopeful when Obama came into office that some of what we had seen in the Bush years would be reversed," said Gary Daniels of the ACLU. "Instead, not only has it continued but it has expanded. We can't look to any one political party to solve or get us out of this mess. They're equal opportunity offenders."

Daniels says the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency this week because its phone surveillance program violates constitutional rights of free speech and privacy.

"We've maintained all along it's unconstitutional," said Daniels. "We've sued the federal government, the Bush administration and the Obama administration over these types of things more than once. What unfortunately happens a lot of times with these lawsuits is that they get knocked out of court. The Bush and Obama administrations have taken a very wide view and shut down lawsuits using a state secrets privilege. If the surveillance is secret, and you can't quite prove you've been surveilled, a lot of courts ask 'Why are you here challenging it?'"

The director of the NSA told Congress this week that "dozens" of terrorism threats had been stopped because of the NSA's huge database of every domestic phone call made by Americans.

But Daniels says the ACLU doesn't buy it.

"I don't think the burden should ever be on the American people to say why they want their privacy preserved,” said Daniels. “The burden needs to be on the government as to why they need to invade our privacy in such a way."

Daniels says 29-year-old Edward Snowden is yet another government official in a long line of whistleblowers who confirm the secrecy of government.

"Snowden has provided useful information, but this is nothing that was not known to the ACLU," said Daniels. "We have known for years that the government is collecting more information than phone records. There's evidence the federal government has collected information on financial and credit card transactions, emails, texts, web searches. So this is really the tip of the iceberg."

Two top Ohio political strategists disagree with the ACLU's position on the lawsuit.

"The more we can do to keep us safe I'm all for," said Republican strategist Bob Clegg. "I was for that when George Bush was president and I'm for that with Barack Obama as president."

"Personally, I'm not overly concerned about the NSA data gathering program; I don't think it's all that intrusive," said Democratic strategist Dale Butland. "If, God forbid, a suitcase nuke takes out downtown Chicago, we'll have calls for biometric national ID cards, surveillance drones over the homeland and all sorts of other things that are far more intrusive than this is."

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