Paying the Price on Privacy

The Obama administration’s needs to take a long look in the mirror after revelations about government surveillance.

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"You just worry that you're going to see searches of the databases and an expansion for purposes that were not intended when the information was collected," theorized Chris Calabrese, an American Civil Liberties Union privacy lobbyist.

Interestingly, those were concerns raised in April, two months ago, during the debate over the expansion of background checks for all commercial gun sales and the fear that the government would create a national gun registry.

Recent polling shows that privacy concerns that were raised in April have only intensified as a result of recent revelations of increased government surveillance and interference. In particular, the disclosure, by the media and not the administration, of surveillance on domestic and foreign targets, journalists and media outlets, and select scrutiny on specific conservative organizations has caused the American people to now question Obama's character and brand.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

According to a recent CNN poll, President Obama's approval rating has fallen to 45 percent, the lowest in 18 months. But even more alarming is the fact that, for the first time in his presidency, only half the polled public believes he is honest or trustworthy – down from 75 percent in January 2009. 

Forty-three percent are now saying that the Obama administration has gone "too far" in restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism, and 57 percent disagree with the president's view on the size and power of the federal government. 

This week, Vice President Biden renewed the administration's pledge to fight for gun safety legislation, warning elected officials, "You will pay a price, a political price for not getting engaged and dealing with gun safety."

[Read the U.S. News debate: Should Congress Support Universal Background Checks for Gun Purchases?]

But it appears it's the president and his administration who are the ones currently paying a political price for their lack of engagement with the American public. This has become increasingly clear as their position on the expanding role of government in the private lives of citizens has evolved. 

Just as the momentum for this year's gun control legislation was born out of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, no legislation is drafted in a vacuum. Passage of new gun safety legislation will be nearly impossible if the president doesn't restore trust and credibility with the American people and live up to his promise of running "the most transparent administration."

  • Read Lara Brown: Dear Politics: It's Not Me, It's You
  • Read Leslie Marshall: Who Do You Believe: Snowden or the President?
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