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Is the NSA Spying Scandal As Bad As Watergate?

Everybody knows that this year's NSA revelations are a big deal. The whole debacle's already prompted the president to order reforms and internet companies to fight back. Activists want to push the outrage further. They want us to believe that this scandal is as bad as Watergate.


At least the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and friends do. The nonprofit just released a celebrity-studded video comparing the NSA scandal to Watergate in order to build support for the Stop Watching Us campaign. It's kind of a lofty claim bringing to mind big words like "impeachment" and "crook," but when it's bookended by testimonials from Daniel Ellsberg and a crew of NSA whistleblowers who are not named Edward, the comparison is a little bit more compelling. [EFF]

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Of course it's as bad as Watergate. Watergate was a President using his resources to do some fairly ham-handed spying on a few offices of the opposing political party, using a handful of shady henchmen to bug some phones and look at some files. Then he tried to hide it, inappropriately using his staff and admin's powers to do so. Very bad stuff indeed. But, the Obama/NSA scandal is large scale, institutional, fully funded, covert surveillance of the communications of hundreds of millions of people, with absolutely no hope of recourse.

Much as I dislike Nixon and think that was serious misconduct, he didn't pretend that his actions were all-american and apple-pie. He just kept lying about it. I can handle the lie. A president wrapping himself in the American flag and saying that this surveillance regime is good for America? Yeah, I'll take Nixon's little, petty agenda against the Democratic Party over this any day of the week.

I mean this without any political bias or fanfare for the political right, and as someone who was not a fan of George Bush, and has not thought well of Republicans for some time: This is only being tolerated because Obama is a Democrat. Seriously guys, if this was happening under a Republican, we would all be losing our minds. The guy would (rightly) be impeached or at least effectively neutered politically. Anyone remember when Bush illegally wiretapped a few hundred folks overseas in the "war on terror?" What a fire storm that was.

Watergate is a boyscout outing involving some underage drinking. Obama/NSA gate, that's a whole other level of wrong.