Playing games with our information

President Barack Obama’s stance flying in the face of two recent government panels recommending changes to the National Security Agency’s conduct of domestic electronic data collection is yet another indication of the imperial presidency he desires.

Obama has acted with executive order, policy interpretation and sheer force of will on matters ranging from environmental controls to the conflict between religious freedoms and the requirement to provide birth control and abortion in the health care law. He clearly stated in his State of the Union address for 2013 his willingness to act when Congress can’t or won’t.

But when it comes to the federal government’s bulk collection and storage of everyone’s phone records for analysis at the whim of the nation’s chief spies, Obama kicks the can to Congress, after the administration expresses an unwillingness to change the data collection system.

We’re not advocating an end to keeping an eye on those who mean to do the nation harm, just the control of the storage and the right to inspect the records by the government. The tech companies already have and can track our every move and store it. The federal government, dating back to the Bush-era Patriot Act, has said it must keep and store all the phone records for five years of every American, using 9-11 as the specter against which anyone opposing the program must fight.

Sept. 11, 2001, could have been prevented had the personal bureaucratic fiefdoms of various federal agencies seen fit to share information each already had with one another. The information was there, in the government’s hands, without the sweeping Big Brother domestic spying made possible through the NSA’s massive data warehousing program.

The issue is what the government can do with the data in a less-than-benign fashion.

Obama is choosing to play political games that protect his right to be the imperial president, having his way and hanging onto all the capabilities to be sure that he, and future presidents, can consolidate their power.