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Obama Promise of NSA Oversight ‘Fizzles After 72 Hours’

[hat tip to jo6pac for sharing marcy blog!]

Grant Gross in “Obama Calls for Review of Surveillance Programs” reported in a spirit of “good faith” toward Obama and the White House on Friday, August 9th:

U.S. President Barack Obama will work with Congress to limit data collection by the National Security Agency under the Patriot Act and will appoint an independent board to review the country's surveillance programs, he said Friday.

It is not to be. Instead, it is one of Obama’s shortest but most craven Lucy and the football game-playing episodes with the American public. And that's saying something!

Marcy Wheeler in “This Independent Technical Review Group Brought to You By the Booz Allen Hamilton Director of National Intelligence™” writes on August 12th:

Huh. It took exactly 72 hours for that good idea to fizzle into a navel gaze directed by the guy who lies to Congress.


When Obama announced Friday the formation of a technical advisory group to review our SIGINT programs, I naively believed “outside” and “independent” meant “outside” and “independent.”


I also naively believed this was an effort to take up Ron Wyden and Mark Udall’s call to get an independent review of the program, which the rest of the Senate Intelligence Committee thwarted a year ago.



In the memo Obama just released ordering James Clapper to form such a committee, those words “outside” and “independent” disappear entirely.


And neither Obama nor the Intelligence Committees get to hear from this Group themselves. It all goes through James Clapper.

What on Friday was an outside and independent group is now branded by the Director of National Intelligence [see press release] as the Director of National Intelligence Group.

“At the direction of the President, I am establishing the Director of National Intelligence Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to examine our global signals-intelligence collection and surveillance capability.

“The Review Group will assess whether, in light of advancements in communications technologies, the United States employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust."

This is what Tom Carter and Joseph Kishore in “Obama’s white paper on NSA spying” have to say about Obama’s real intentions behind the public relations razzle dazzle of Friday :

This “oversight” is carried out by the very institutions that approve or operate the mass spying programs to begin with! It is as if a thief were to counsel his victim to rest assured that his stolen goods will be well looked after.

The white paper repeatedly cites laws, rules and “checks and balances” supposedly carried out by Congress and the FISA court, as though such things guarantee the civil liberties and privacy rights of the people. But, of course, the people are barred from checking any of this for themselves, since all of these operations are classified.

We are all to assume that those who preside over these mass spying programs are beyond reproach and of unimpeachable honesty and integrity. This entire argument violates the basic democratic conception of a “government of laws, not of men.”

Meanwhile, the highest-ranking intelligence official in the United States, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, was caught outright lying in testimony before Congress last March when asked about the extent of the administration’s spying on ordinary Americans. And not a single administration official or lawmaker has proposed that he face any sanctions, let alone impeachment and prosecution, for perjuring himself and lying to the American people.

Obama is shameless. Not only granting immunity for law-breaking constitution as well as moral, domestic and international law violators, but then putting said law breakers, like Clapper, IN CHARGE of “officially” investigating what they themselves are doing illegally! Beneath the Obama rhetoric is COLOSSAL SCAMMING.

Obama is even worse than the Bush cabal in using the PATRIOT ACT as a super-vacuum TO CONTINUE TO SUCK UP ALL OUR BASIC DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS.

Anybody in mainstream media remotely reporting the colossal Obama hypocrisy and treachery?

Obama has the nerve to declare who is a patriot and who is not. He should start with his seeming Manchurian candidate self!

You can bet there is a lot of graves-spinning going on of the founding fathers, sons and daughters of liberty and all from our American history who sacrificed so much in their lives to give us future Americans “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” not only over political treacheries during our recent past of profoundly regressive US administrations, but ESPECIALLY during this present Democratic faux-progressive “trust us” one! With each disingenuous sound “bite” on national tv Obama chews up and swallows another vital section of our US Constitution.

Tom Carter and Joseph Kishore explain that Obama’s Friday white paper on NSA surveillance tries to legally justify one of its telephone surveillance programs. They call it putting a “friendly face on police state spying.”

I picture one of those simplistic little “smiley faces” to dumb us down and distract us away from another full-frontal assault on our Constitutional rights.

To Carter and Kishore Obama and his spin-master attorneys are using the same manipulative playbook as they did when justifying “drones, torture and indefinite detention.” It seems to come down to the trumping by the Obama administration at every amoral turn of the Patriot Act OVER THE CONSTITUTION! “Basic democratic rights versus national security!”

Going back to Friday’s “good faith” Mr. Gross, aforementioned:

Courts have determined that the large-scale collection of records can meet the Patriot Act's relevance requirement because relevance is "a broad standard that permits discovery of large volumes of data in circumstances where doing so is necessary to identify much smaller amounts of information ... that directly bears on the matter being investigated," the white paper said.

Yes, SECRET COURTS DETERMINING CLASSIFIED -- SECRET -- POLICIES! Determining what is “relevant” and not Constitution-violating which before Snowden's disclosures average Americans had no clue about. Government of, by and for the people? I don't think so.

What Team Obama is willing to defend in Friday’s white paper, explain Carter and Kishore, is the mass collection of “telephony metadata”. Telephony metadata reveals the originator of the call, the number the caller dialed, the date and the time. This on nearly every citizen of America’s 315 million!

With this metadata Carter and Kishore insist the government “can determine in great detail the social and political affiliations of individuals.” They also declare “such a mass seizure of personal records, without specific warrants, is in flagrant violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, part of our Bill of Rights, which protects us all “against unreasonable searches and seizures” and prohibits searches without narrowly defined warrants based on probable cause."

Carter and Kishore stress that the manipulative language of Obama’s white paper fogs up the essence of the administration's OVERALL SPYING PROGRAMS. By defending only “one program” Obama is implying that the boundaries of that one program are not being efficiently violated in OTHER illegitimately authorized programs. Yes the telephony metadata does not provide internet and telephone content, but Snowden has revealed that other NSA programs do. Carter and Kishore declare that “there is not a single digital communication that is not being captured and kept for analysis by US intelligence agencies.”

Carter and Kishore:

One blatant lie follows the next. “The program is carefully limited,” and is not used for “any purpose other than counterterrorism,” the white paper states. Yet just last week it was reported that the NSA has been passing on information to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Internal Revenue Service and likely other agencies. The agencies have been using this secret data to carry out arrests and prosecutions, while covering up this fact in court—a blatant violation of due process.

The white paper repeatedly reminds the reader that the telephone spying program in question has been “authorized” and “renewed thirty-four times” by the FISA court. This only underscores the anti-democratic and unconstitutional character of the FISA court and its central role in the emerging police state framework.

A “court” in name only, this institution has been developed as a mechanism for subverting the Constitution, issuing secret interpretations of laws in secret rulings based on secret records and secret evidence, in which only one side—the government side—is represented. For a targeted individual or group, there is no right to appeal or even to know about its decisions.

Carter and Kishore call out Obama and his lawyers for insisting our “basic democratic rights” must be “balanced” (a/k/a "ENDED") in the interests of our “national security.” They write: "... This approach treats the Constitution as a list of suggestions or guidelines, to be followed when convenient but violated whenever necessary to wage the 'war on terror.' Similar arguments have been advanced by every dictatorship."

Soft fascism sure is hardening fast in smiley-faced (a/k/a two-faced) Obamaworld!

[cross-posted on open salon]

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jo6pac's picture
Submitted by jo6pac on

what it's anyone who doesn.t think this is for for Main Street will good luck.

Submitted by Hugh on

Not sure it counts as a fizzle when it was pretty much baked in. This was always going to be an exercise in sockpuppetry. Even the delivery was classic Obama. Promise something for the rubes and start walking it back practically before he has left the room. It also has more than a dash of Cheney in it: Get the lie out first, because it will have more impact and be seen and believed by more people than any subsequent debunking.

Lambert has up the post from Ian Welsh where he likens going to the liar DNI Clapper to set up the "oversight" panel as a "Kiss my ass" moment. About the most succinct description of what is going on here as I've seen.

wanderindiana's picture
Submitted by wanderindiana on

Of all the damn gall, indeed...

But there's trouble in Egypt to report, and there's a new iPhone coming...

How about the New York Times or the Washington Post calling bullshit on the Dear Leader?

U.S. media is still all about distraction, misdirection, and entertainment. And selling lies.

I'm gonna have to scrape up a few bucks to send to Lambert.

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

Yeah, “fizzles” is really the wrong metaphor, except maybe as a flare used to distract a heat-seeking missile or something.

The whole charade is one insulting distraction after another. As just one small part, that memo directing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to establish a “Review Group” talks about “appropriately accounting for other policy considerations” but doesn’t have a word about constitutional or other legal considerations.

And the entire frame of “maintaining the public trust” (as well as that of making “the American people more comfortable”) with regard to the criminal activities of the NSA is as mendacious as it is condescending. People don’t want to “trust” this all-encompassing surveillance or get all comfy with it—they want it to stop.