Obama Spurns NSA Spying Reform
by Stephen Lendman
Huey Long once said fascism will arrive “wrapped in an American flag.” In “Friendly Fascism,” Bertram Gross (1912 – 1997) called Ronald Reagan its prototype ruler. Gross didn’t know Obama.
He represents the worst of rogue governance. He advances America’s imperium. He heads its police state apparatus. He’s waging war on humanity. He’s doing it abroad and at home.
He puts a smiling face on repression. He’s hardline. He’s ruthless. He’s done what supporters thought impossible. He exceeds the worst of George Bush. He says one thing. He does another. He demands it.
His promises ring hollow. He broke every major one made. He’s a serial liar. He’s a moral coward. On August 9, he defended the indefensible. He did so disingenuously.
He deplores transparency and reforms. He claimed otherwise. He lied saying so. He paid lip service to policies he won’t change. He hardened them on his watch.
A disingenuous White House press release headlined “Background on the President’s Statement on Reforms to NSA Programs,” saying:
“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.”
“That is what he has pursued as President, and today he is announcing several initiatives that will move that effort forward.”
“Since the disclosures were first made, the President has held a series of meetings with Intelligence Community leaders, during which he has emphasized the importance of transparency and openness and directed IC leadership to press forward with declassification of relevant materials, to the maximum extent possible, without undermining national security.”
“Already, the Administration has declassified unprecedented information about the activities of the National Security Agency (NSA).”
“On July 31, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) made public three documents dealing with the Section 215 program.”
“The Administration has also engaged Congress on these issues on 35 occasions, including several committee hearings and all-Senate and all-House Members’ meetings.”
“On August 1, the President met with a group of bipartisan members of Congress to discuss key programs under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”
“The President and senior White House and Administration officials have also engaged in a national dialogue on privacy in the 21st century, soliciting feedback from relevant stakeholder groups in the private sector, academia, and civil society.”
“To date, the Administration has taken various steps to advance this national privacy dialogue, including: meeting with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and leading several conversations on privacy issues with a broad array of organizations representing industry, civil society, civil rights and transparency groups.”
“Most recently, the President met with a group of leaders from the private sector, civil society and academia yesterday at the White House to discuss a range of privacy issues.”
“Today, the President directed his Administration to work with Congress to pursue appropriate reforms to our nation’s surveillance programs and the court that oversees them. Specifically, he laid out four steps his Administration will take:
(1) The Administration will work with Congress to pursue appropriate reforms to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. After having a dialogue with members of Congress and civil libertarians, the President believes that there are steps that can be taken to give the American people confidence that there are additional safeguards against abuse.
For example, steps could be taken to put in place greater oversight, transparency, and constraints on the use of this authority.
(2) The Administration will work with Congress to improve the public’s confidence in the oversight conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
Specifically, steps can be taken to make sure civil liberties concerns have a greater voice in appropriate cases by ensuring that the government’s position is challenged by an adversary.
(3) The President directed the Intelligence Community to make public as much information about these programs as possible. Already, the Administration has declassified unprecedented information about the activities of the NSA.
On July 31, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) made public three documents dealing with the section 215 program. The NSA is taking steps to put in place a full time Civil Liberties and Privacy Officer, and has released information that details its mission, authorities and oversight.
The Intelligence Community is creating a website that will serve as a hub for further transparency. This will give Americans – and the world – the ability to learn more about what our intelligence community does; how it does it; and why.
(4) The President called for a high-level group of outside experts to review our intelligence and communications technologies. The President is tasking this group to step back and review our capabilities – particularly our surveillance technologies.
They will consider how we can maintain the public’s trust, and how this surveillance impacts our foreign policy – particularly in an age when more and more information is becoming public.
They will provide an interim report in 60 days, and a final report by the end of this year, so that we can move forward with a better understanding of how these programs impact our security, our privacy, and our foreign policy.”
It bears repeating. Obama’s promises ring hollow. He pledges one thing. He does another. He does so repeatedly. He does it consistently. Rogue leaders govern that way.
Obama exceeds the worst of all his predecessors. He targets freedom for destruction. It’s practically gone already. He’s heading America for full-blown tyranny. He menaces humanity. He threatens its survival. He may destroy it on his watch.
At his Friday press conference, duplicity held center stage. Obama wants Americans feeling “more comfortable” about Big Brother watching everything they do.
In 1984, Orwell wrote:
“He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache.”
“O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose.”
“But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”
Washington Post editors called Obama’s promises “an encouraging opening bid.” New York Times editors called them “weak.” They’re not weak. They’re non-existent. Nothing with teeth was proposed. Doublespeak duplicity substituted.
It’s typical Obama. Weasel word deception is standard practice. Business as usual continues. Things don’t improve. They worsen. Lawless spying’s more intense than ever.
Everyone’s watched everywhere all the time. It’s worse than most people think. On August 9, London’s Guardian headlined “NSA loophole allows warrantless search for US citizens’ emails and phone calls.”
Snowden revealed a secret NSA backdoor. It’s a previously undisclosed rule. It lets NSA operatives “hunt for individual Americans’ communications using their name or other identifying information.”
It permits warrantless searches. In 2011, Obama approved it. He did it secretly. It reveals his true face. Lawlessness defines it. So does promising one thing and doing another.
Under the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) Section 702, warrantless intelligence data is collected. It’s official policy.
It includes foreign and domestic communications. Deceptive language calls it “incidental collection.” There’s nothing “incidental” about it.
It’s systematic meta-data mining. It’s done extrajudicially. It’s without oversight. Until now, it’s been secret. It’s far more extensive than previously believed.
On request, FISA court judges rubber-stamp approval. Whatever NSA wants it gets. Obama assurances about privacy and transparency ring hollow.
After the Guardian revealed NSA’s Prism program, he said:
“Now, with respect to the internet and emails, this doesn’t apply to US citizens and it doesn’t apply to people living in the United States.”
Prism and other revelations put a lie to his claiming Washington “do(esn’t) have a domestic spying program.”
It persists. It’s lawless. It’s pernicious. It affects all Americans. Congress plans no meaningful changes. Federal courts don’t protect. They’re complicit with anything goes.
“The Guardian put the latest revelations to the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence but no response had been received by the time of publication,” it said.
NSA consistently lies. Spokesperson Judith Emmel claims NSA operates lawfully. It doesn’t target Americans, she said.
It gathers intelligence about “foreign powers and their agents, foreign organizations, foreign persons or international terrorists.”
“In carrying out its signals intelligence mission, NSA collects only what it is explicitly authorized to collect.”
“Moreover, the agency’s activities are deployed only in response to requirements for information to protect the country and its interests.”
False! NSA’s a rogue agency. It operates lawlessly. It conducts espionage. It spies domestically. It isn’t for national security.
Nor is monitoring allies. It’s about control. It’s for economic advantage. It’s to be one up on foreign competitors. It’s for information used advantageously in trade, political, and military relations.
NSA hacks computer and telecommunication networks for the same reason. It does it globally. It focuses heavily on strategically important countries.
Don’t expect director Keith Alexander to explain. Don’t expect spokespersons to do it. They’re paid to lie.
According to ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer:
“(D)ragnet surveillance (is) poisonous to the freedoms of inquiry and association.” People know they’re being watched. They know their emails are read. Their phone calls are monitored. Web sites they access are known.
“They’ll hesitate before visiting controversial (ones), discussing controversial topics or investigating politically sensitive questions.”
“Individually, these hesitations might appear to be inconsequential, but the accumulation of them over time will change citizens’ relationship to one another and to the government.”
ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romero said:
“What’s clear is that (NSA) surveillance programs have gone much further than the president or Congress have ever admitted.”
Obama’s comments “are too little to late.” They fall short of “address(ing) serious” extrajudicial operations. “(D)ragnet surveillance” has no place in free societies.
House Speaker John Boehner loves Big Brother. He urged Obama not to let NSA criticism affects its operations. He reflects dominant congressional opinion.
His spokesman Brendan Buck said “we expect the White House to insist that no reform will compromise (NSA’s) operational integrity.”
“That must be the president’s red line, and he must enforce it. Our priority (isn’t about) saving face.”
It’s about stifling dissent. It’s targeting whistleblowers. It’s prosecuting and imprisoning them. It’s destroying freedom.
It’s making America a full-blown police state. It’s practically one already. It’s Stasi’s modern day incarnation writ large. Modern day technology way exceeds its capabilities.
On August 9, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) headlined “First Step of NSA Transparency: Come Clean About Access To Fiber Optic Cables of Telecom Companies.”
New information supplements what’s already known. It “add(s) to the towering pile of revelations showing that the NSA and the administration are not being honest with the American public – not just omitting classified information, but affirmatively misleading.”
They dissemble. They stonewall. They say one thing. They do another. Weasel word reform promises ring hollow.
Business as usual continues. Nothing suggests change. Police state lawlessness is official US policy.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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