In his remarks today on the surveillance state he has done so much to nurture, expand and protect, President Obama demonstrated once again his capacity to square the circle and be on every side of an issue. As always with Obama, noble sentiments were expressed and soothing reassurances provided.
“When you cut through the noise,” the President said, “what’s really at stake is how we remain true to who we are in a world that is remaking itself at dizzying speed.”
His answer? Do nothing; at least do nothing important or that will curb the surveillance state in any significant way. That’s because Obama supports government spying and believes in the surveillance state quite passionately.
What can you say about a man who appointed a bunch of his closest and most trusted confidants to make recommendations on these issue, then chose to gut most of those already much too weak recommendations because they would have done something, however minimal?
But don’t worry. Obama has asked Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to come up with still more recommendations. Clapper is the man who famously lied to Congress and got away with it. Unlike Edward Snowden, Clapper didn’t have to flee the country to avoid punishment for his crime. He knew no one would ever punish someone like him.
That’s what equal justice means in America today. If you’re part of the apparatus that spies on Americans and defends the status quo, you need fear no punishment. If you challenge the powers that be in any serious way, you better be prepared to flee the country because Obama and his cronies won’t tolerate meaningful dissent.
When you cut through all the rhetoric and spin Obama fed the nation today, there’s just no there there. As Peter Baker put it in the New York Times:
“He deferred to James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, by rejecting a proposal by his review panel to require court approval of administrative subpoenas known as national security letters. He avoided offending Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. by declining to accept a recommendation to take away his unilateral power to appoint every member of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees secret spying programs.”
“Mr. Obama agreed with telecommunications providers and did not back a proposal to have them keep the bulk data now housed at the N.S.A. He did not take on the N.S.A. military establishment by permitting a civilian to head the agency or by making the director’s position subject to Senate confirmation, two other recommendations of his advisers. And he acceded to Judge John D. Bates, the former surveillance court chief judge who had told Congress that any new privacy advocate appointed to argue before the court should not be an independent figure allowed to participate across the board.”
He also failed to address the panel’s call for the N.S.A. to stop undermining commercial efforts to create better encryption technology.
Obama did place modest new restrictions on access to domestic phone records collected by the National Security Agency, but the changes he announced will allow it to continue and expand the collection of personal data from billions of people around the world, Americans and foreign citizens alike.
Obama described principles for “restricting the use of this information” but not for gathering less of it. For Obama, spying does not include the ingestion of tens of trillions of records about the telephone calls, e-mails, locations and relationships of people for whom there is no suspicion of relevance to any threat.
Obama also did his best to reassure foreign leaders like Angela Merkel that he won’t be spying on them unless it’s really, really, important. Apparently, Obama cares more about them than he does about your own constitutional right to privacy.
Most importantly, Obama offered not one shred of evidence that the surveillance state has made Americans safer. There’s a reason for that. It hasn’t.
That was the conclusion of the President’s review panel as well as a federal judge in Washington who ruled that the bulk collection program was probably unconstitutional; and it’s also the conclusion of an extensive report by the New America Foundation finding that the program “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity.”
Come on, people; use your common sense. If the government couldn’t stop the Boston Marathon bombers after being told by the Russians to keep an eye on them, do you really think you’re going to be one iota safer from the indiscriminate collection of your own most personal data?
Did you ever wonder why the government never wins the war on terror? Here’s a clue if you need one. Even if it could win, which it can’t, it doesn’t want to win. It needs the terrorist boogeyman to keep you meek and submissive, just the way earlier generations were kept meek and submissive by the Cold War.
Unlike the Cold War, however, where the Soviet Union collapsed, there will always be terrorists and thus an excuse for the government to know everything about you. And even though it may not be using that information against us right now, at least most of us, these are petty bureaucrats after all and it won’t be long before that changes as well.
Just like the military-industrial complex needs wars to justify its continued existence and its continuing rape of your tax dollars, the petty bureaucrats who run our spy agencies need to be able to use all that information they collect to justify the claim they’re protecting us from something other than themselves; and like most politicians in this country, Obama doesn’t really have any core beliefs that would lead him to want to do anything about this.
Perhaps I’ll have more to say on all of this when I can find the time, but for now it’s clear that Obama’s speech was nothing more than an effort to obfuscate these critical issues, to delay any meaningful reforms, and to conceal the most relevant fact of all.
Government spying on Americans will continue unabated because that’s what Obama wants and the man has no respect for your fourth amendment freedoms.