Precisely because civil libertarians have focused on these abuses, they're old news -- which means that progressives reveling in Obama's speech can't claim ignorance of them. When they applaud the president's "muscular liberalism," without qualification, they're effectively applauding his strong-arm security state.
That's not entirely surprising, given his many nods to important liberal causes (which, in general, I support) and given the tendency of many liberal as well as centrist Democrats to ignore, trivialize, or endorse the post-9/11 assault on liberty. When Democratic members of Congress talk about their party's values, they sound just like the president; they talk about equality, social and economic justice, and immigration reform. They rarely talk about the preservation of liberty.
I doubt that either the president or the Congressional enablers of his anti-libertarian agenda consider themselves the enemies of freedom. Instead, I suspect, they define freedom differently than civil libertarians do.
What are we talking about when we talk about freedom? It depends on who's talking:
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has one peculiar answer. "Freedom is about authority," he once perversely advised. "Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do." In another view, as Barack Obama suggested in his inaugural address, freedom is about equality. It requires a thriving middle class and equal opportunities for lower-income Americans.
When the subject is liberty, the egalitarian left mirrors the authoritarian right. For Giuliani and Obama, freedom isn't primary; it's contingent on what they value most -- authority and equality, respectively.
Listen, again, to Obama. He talks about freedom as an adjunct to equality: "When a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free ..."
His statement is partly true. Yes, poverty can effectively imprison people, and I want an impoverished little girl to enjoy equal opportunity. I want my tax dollars help to help feed, clothe, and educate her. But neither a good education nor a good job will suffice to make her free -- not when she's subject to ubiquitous government surveillance; not when she's at the mercy of unaccountable federal prosecutors armed with a vague, voluminous criminal code; not when she can be arrested and prosecuted for indulging in a little victimless drug use (as the president once did), even if it's legal in her state.
Obama did make at least one passing reference to freedom from state control: "We have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority," he observed. That too is partly true, and perhaps it's why the administration insists that so many of its authoritarian executive actions and interpretations of law must be hidden from us.