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Will Snowden's Vindication Be Obama's Downfall?

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As cracks are beginning to show in the previously impervious walls protecting the National Intelligence Agency's panopticon of domestic and global surveillance, a survey of recent editorials and reporting indicates that the political legacy of President Obama-once-vaunted as a "constitutional law" professor and defender of civil liberties-is now deeply enmeshed with controversial nature of the agency's programs.

With a combination of one-two (or right-left) punches over the last several days, officials at the NSA and the president who has consistently defended their vast surveillance network have both been hammered-though the term "slobberknockered" was also used-by a series of developments that put to question the legality of the agency's dragnet spying approach.

Described as a game-changing development by many, the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon on Monday was seen to vindicate the leaks by whistleblower Edward Snowden while simultaneously exposing Obama to deep criticism for the agency's behavior while under his command.

As Politico's Josh Gerstein phrased it, Leon's rulling "underscores the awkwardness of a president who won office in part by railing against the national security state established by President George W. Bush trying to defend much of that establishment while also maintaining his vow to restore civil liberties and bring an end to what seemed like a permanent war on terror."

In a development over the weekend, leaked details of the recommendations being drafted by the panel appointed by Obama came back with stronger recommendations than most predicted. Though still considered a watered-down and "whitewashed" report by most progressive analysts, even the NSA's strongest critics conceded that the panel went further than expected in criticizing the NSA programs made public by Snowden.

Even the Wall Street Journal chimed in, writing in an editorial that "word on Capitol Hill" was "that the scope and radicalism of the recommendations stunned even this White House, not least because the task force was stacked with Obama loyalists."   
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