“President Obama believes that there should be increased transparency and reforms in our intelligence programs in order to give the public confidence that these programs have strong oversight and clear protections against abuse.”
During a press conference Friday afternoon, Obama refused to admit that any abuses had occurred, but he instead characterized the need for reform as one aimed at quelling the fears of the American people that such abuses have occurred or might occur in the future.
In fact, at one point, Obama appeared to minimize any real concern that he had that there was a need to actually reform the NSA and its activities, suggesting the real problem was the American people and their lack of trust in government—and in him:
“Well, the fact that I said that the programs are operating in a way that prevents abuse, that continues to be true, without the reforms. The question is how do I make the American people more comfortable. If I tell Michelle that I did the dishes—now, granted, in the White House I don’t do the dishes that much—(laughter)—but back in the day—and she’s a little skeptical, well, I’d like her to trust me, but maybe I need to bring her back and show her the dishes and not just have her take my word for it.”In a background statement released this evening, the President said he had decided on a four-step program of reform of intelligence-gathering:
1. “The Administration with work with Congress to pursue appropriate reforms”—Obama says he wants to give the American people “confidence” that sufficient safeguards exist to prevent government abuses of liberty. However, the President at no point suggested that programs such as the bulk phone record gathering program should be changed or eliminated.
2. “The Administration will work with Congress to improve the public’s confidence in the oversight conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).” A number of critics have pointed to the fact that the FISA or FISC court only hears the government side of surveillance requests. Obama claims steps can be taken to ensure “that the government’s position is challenged by an adversary.” Exactly how that work, or if it would be done in all cases, Obama did not specify. One can imagine that the NSA and its supporters in Congress would push back vigorously on any oversight mechanism requiring the nation’s intelligence officers to have to argue in court over whether potential terrorists should be surveilled. And, the mere existence of an adversary may have little impact on a court notorious for rubber-stamping virtually anything the NSA asks for.
3. “The President directed the Intelligence Community to make public as much information about these programs as possible.” The President argues that releasing information about NSA spy programs helps to inform Americans, “and the world”, about the nation’s spy activities. Again, this is quite bizarre and ironic, given the intense criticism the President and other NSA supporters have directed at Edward Snowden, whose whistleblowing on the NSA programs, is the only reason Barack Obama is now alleging he will consider reforming the programs. If the nation’s security was damaged by Edward Snowden telling the world about the NSA’s activities, then why is Barack Obama interested in doing the same?
4. “The President called for a high-level group of outside experts to review our intelligence and communications technologies.” Again, it is a strange thing for Barack Obama to only now be expressing a concern to learn how the NSA’s anti-constitutional behavior is impacting the public’s trust and its privacy. Why wasn’t this done a long time ago? And the answer is that Barack Obama did conduct these types of reviews years ago and determined that he would continue or expand the spy regime of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
It is quite evident that Obama is only interested in engaging in rhetorical exercises, that will act as smokescreens for him and his administration to wait out the public’s concerns.
As the New York Times pointed out this evening, in response to Obama’s announcements, the President just doesn’t seem to get it:
“Fundamentally, Mr. Obama does not seem to understand that the nation needs to hear more than soothing words about the government’s spying enterprise.”I would suggest something else: Barack Obama simply does not care what the American people think. He believes he and his spy chiefs literally know better than the people about what rights they should be willing to surrender to the government in return for promises of greater security.
Barack Obama has become the monster the right has always warned he was.
It is time to impeach him.
But there are none but his collaborators in Congress who would perform the task, and that would be too outrageous a perpetration of hypocrisy, as the whole Congress and the enabling judges of this anti-constitutional spy conspiracy need to resign as well.