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Reaction mixed over NSA changes

TNS Regional News • Jan 19, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Talk to Ohioans about President Barack Obama’s attempt to answer National Security Council surveillance concerns, and you probably won’t hear agreement.

President Obama said Friday the federal government will end its collection of citizen phone data, but not everyone was convinced.

The United States was founded on a healthy streak of “skepticism” of the federal government and its intentions toward citizens, said Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a University of Dayton School of Law professor. Americans are right to be concerned about the issue, he said.

“In this day and age, when information is king, I think people should be concerned about how their data is used,” Hoffmeister said.

He understands the “balancing act” that national leaders must attempt, trying to reconcile security and privacy concerns that cut across ideological and party lines.

“It’s always going to be a balancing act between safeguarding our security and ensuring that people have some kind of privacy,” Hoffmeister said.

Bethe Goldenfield, chairwoman of the Warren County Democratic Party, said the president demonstrated he’s hearing citizen concerns.

“I think we’re making steps in the right direction,” said Goldenfield, who is also a member of the Warren County Board of Elections, but emphasized she was offering her opinions as an individual.

She said she appreciated Obama’s attempt to reconcile competing priorities. “It’s always a balancing act in a democracy, and that’s why we’ve (the nation) been able to survive.”

Gary Daniels, associate director of the Ohio ACLU, said Obama didn’t go far enough.

“It remains to be seen if any of what I think are these very modest reforms by the president have any effect,” Daniels said.

He was disappointed that Obama seemed to focus on the collection of phone metadata. “I understand the president wanting to focus on telephone metadata because that has generated the most (public) response.”

But the NSA examines a “whole lot of other stuff,” Daniels said. Chat room messages, emails, texts, social media comments and more are subject to government collections, he said.

All of that information together paints a picture of who we are as citizens, what our religious, social and political views are, he said. “That really quite frankly is none of the government’s business.”

“We shouldn’t have to explain to the government why we don’t want to be spied on,” Daniels said.

State Rep. Wes Retherford (R-Hamilton) said no matter what safeguards are put in place to protect the data collected by the NSA, he believes it must be done through the proper legal channels, including search warrants.

“If you’re a U.S. citizen and under investigation, you should still be afforded the right of having your information protected until probable cause is found,” Retherford said.

Retherford said he does approve of Obama’s proposed panel of outside advocates to review significant cases of foreign intelligence. Retherford said his hope is the outside panel would be “a lookout for the constitutional rights of citizens.”

“It’s a move in a better direction, but I’m still very pessimistic about the whole situation,” Retherford said.


By Thomas Gnau and Hannah Poturalski - Journal-News, Hamilton, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 the Journal-News (Hamilton, Ohio)

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