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Monday, March 6, 2017

Trump: Privacy for Me, Not for Thee

Now that Trump thinks he has been a victim of the same spying he has favored on everyone else, he flies into a fury of outrage.

President Donald Trump has a consistency problem on the issues of government surveillance and privacy. For the most part, Trump seems to make his ideological decisions based on how something impacts his life personally.

This has been made overwhelmingly apparent watching Trump spend the entire weekend condemning former President Obama for allegedly wiretapping the phones at Trump hotels during the 2016 presidential campaign.

While addressing the press and calling for a full congressional inquiry, President Trump referred to these actions as Obama’s “greatest abuse of power.”

To be sure, if Trump’s accusations about Barack Obama prove to be true, this is absolutely appalling on behalf of the former president. However, is this the greatest abuse of power by the Obama Administration? Hardly.

Hope and Change

Trump called for a national boycott of Apple until the company agreed to unlock the phone.The Obama presidency was supposed to usher in a new era of government transparency. The Bush years had left the people traumatized as civil liberties and other constitutional safeguards were disregarded in the name of national security and the war on terror.  

The people wanted change and President Obama was going to be the man who led this country back to freedom.

Unfortunately, that was not the case.

It wasn’t long before journalists had dubbed the Obama Administration one of the least transparent presidencies in modern times. To make matters worse, Obama continued to execute Bush’s destructive foreign policy strategy— he just did so in secret and kept it from the American public—or so he thought.

Thanks to journalist Jeremy Scahill, the world discovered that President Obama had not only continued, but actually escalated the use of drone warfare in the Middle East. In Scahill’s Oscar nominated film, Dirty Wars, it was also revealed that  America’s favorite peaceful president had a secret kill list which he used to go after enemy combatants, including American citizens.

The Edward Snowden NSA leaks came as a further blow to then President Obama, who was elected on a platform that promised to protect government whistleblowers. Of course, this section was conveniently removed from his website shortly after Snowden’s first round of leaks.

Given this information you would think Trump would admire Snowden. After all, Snowden, like Trump, discovered that the government was illegally spying on its citizens, and spoke up. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

“Kill the Traitor”

Uttering the phrase “kill the traitor” in 2013, Donald Trump called for the execution of Edward Snowden. During the campaign, Trump claimed that Snowden was working as a spy for Russia.

While similar rhetoric was often thrown around by other Republican presidential candidates, Trump’s continued disapproval of Snowden was particularly perplexing, since it was only thanks to another infamous government whistleblower that Trump was thrown a lifeline when he needed it the most.

Whether he will admit it or not, the leaked Access Hollywood footage dealt a huge blow to the Trump campaign. His offensive comments about women were putty in the hands of Hillary Clinton, who was desperately looking for any way to take him down.

Just when it appeared like the Trump campaign would never recover from his past remarks, Wikileaks changed the game by leaking several of John Podesta’s personal email’s that admitted wrongdoing on the part of the Democratic National Committee.

He is right now and wrong before.Trump seized on this moment and shifted the focus back to “crooked Hillary” and the Democratic Party and away from his own Access Hollywood scandal. Publicly declaring his love for Wikileaks, Trump went on to praise Assange for the good work he was doing while simultaneously condemning Snowden for the same actions.

It should also not be forgotten that during the 2016 legal battle between Apple and the Department of Justice, Trump called for a national boycott of Apple until the company agreed to unlock the phone of San Bernardino shooter, Syed Farook.

Addressing a crowd Trump said:

“Apple ought to give the security for that phone, OK. What I think you ought to do is boycott Apple until such a time as they give that security number. How do you like that? I just thought of it. Boycott Apple.”

With these comments, Trump sided with the surveillance state – one that threatens and oppresses not only Americans but every digital user on the planet – rather than with commerce and consumers, who are in desperate need of privacy protection. Apple sought to give that to its customers, while Trump wanted to take it away.

Trump is absolutely right, the allegations that President Obama wiretapped his phones are indeed “very troubling.” However, they are no less troubling than the surveillance state that Trump has also advocated for both in his support of the Department of Justice’s fight against Apple, and his condemnation of Edward Snowden.

Now that Trump thinks he has been a victim of the same spying he has favored on everyone else, he flies into a fury of outrage. He is right now and wrong before.  

  • Brittany is a writer for the Pacific Legal Foundation. She is a co-host of “The Way The World Works,” a Tuttle Twins podcast for families.