Reactions to Obama’s NSA Address
by Stephen Lendman
Hundreds of Stop Watching Us activists protested outside the Justice Department. They did so before he spoke.
They wore STOP SPYING glasses. They held signs saying “Stop Spying on Us.” “Big Brother In Chief.” “Obama = Tyranny.”
CODEPINK members were there. On Thursday, co-founder Medea Benjamin said:
“Though President Obama is scheduled to lay out reforms for the NSA spying program, we have little reason to believe they will be sufficient of implemented.”
“The intelligence agencies in the US are totally out of control – from mass dragnet spying, to killing by remote control…” and it’s time for transparency and accountability.”
Bill of Rights Defense Committee executive director Shahid Buttar said:
“Despite pledging to stop Bush era abuses, President Obama has repeatedly chosen to leave the NSA free to monitor the American people en masse.”
“More than any other issue, his administration’s complicity in mass surveillance will come to define its legacy.”
It’s certain unless he “chooses to finally support reforms like the USA FREEDOM Act, which would end bulk collection, and start a longer process needed to remove the officials caught lying to Congress, and fix the broken secret FISA court process.”
Clearly, he has no intention of doing it. A same day article said the worst of business as usual will continue.
Skepticism and then some followed Obama’s address. Center for Constitutional Rights President Emeritus Michael Ratner said:
“I didn’t expect a lot, but I think we got almost nothing in terms of actually reining in what I call this national surveillance state.”
“We have a right to privacy.” Not according to Obama. “So you have this vast surveillance apparatus.”
“And then you have a speech that basically lauds the people who are spies, talks about them really as, oh, they’re your neighbor. They don’t want to do anything wrong to you. They’re only out to protect you.”
His address was a shameless PR stunt. It was smoke and mirrors. It was long on rhetoric. It was short on substance. It delivered empty promises.
It was filled “with a lot of BS about oversight (and) transparency,” said Ratner. It was “completely meaningless.”
Obama wants us to trust the government “which we’ve shown can’t (be) trust(ed).”
Former Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson called Obama’s address “disappointing, but not surprising.”
“It is simply not realistic to expect the federal government to voluntarily relinquish powers it has granted itself, even when (they’re) unconstitutional.”
“And when the government has convinced itself that it is OK to sweep up the phone calls, texts and emails of hundreds of millions of Americans, it is no surprise that the President is not really proposing to change anything.”
TechFreedom president Berin Szoka said Obama’s “speech will probably be remembered most for the much-needed reforms it didn’t announce.”
Law Professor Jonathan Turley called Obama’s address “a nothing burger served hot and with a sympathetic smile.”
“It was much of the same. Another review board composed of government officials. Another promise for the Executive Branch to review itself.”
“I was underwhelmed. It seemed like another attempt to reinvent privacy in a new surveillance friendly image.”
Mass surveillance “will continued and the intelligence community will retain its authority with little outside independent limits.”
Obama’s reform is “basically ‘trust us, we’re your government’ (including a reminder that NSA people are your neighbors).”
His speech was “more spin than substance.” It was typical Obama.
The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) said Obama’s “proposed reforms (far) short of what is needed, particularly in terms of actionable solutions.”
CDT director Greg Nojeim said:
“(W)e were disappointed in (Obama’s) failure to offer a clear path forward on (vital) reforms.”
His “proposed changes do not fully address the fundamental problem of bulk collection of personal metadata and fail to adequately protect the rights of people around the world.”
Partnership for Civil Justice Fund co-founders Carl Messineo and Mara Verheyden-Hilliard said:
“Rather than dismantling the NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance programs, or even substantially restraining them, President Obama today has issued his endorsement of them.”
“The speech today was ‘historic’ in the worst sense. It represents a historic failure by a president to rein in mass government illegality and violations of fundamental rights.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said Obama’s so-called reforms have “have a long way to go. Now it’s up to Congress and courts” to act.
EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn said:
“Mass non-targeted surveillance violates international human rights law.”
“It is disproportionate because it sweeps up the communications and communications records of million of innocent people first and only sorts out second what is actually needed.”
“(T)he NSA must be forbidden from engaging in mass, untargeted surveillance in the US or abroad.”
ACLU executive director Anthony Romero said:
Obama’s “decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans’ data remains highly troubling.”
Glushko-Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic staff lawyer Tamir Israel said:
“Protecting foreigners’ privacy rights” is essential. Recognizing it “in principle is unhelpful, as (Obama’s) Directive leaves the US foreign intelligence apparatus’ capacity to indiscriminately spy on all the activities of all foreigners all the time largely untouched.”
Privacy International Legal Director Carly Nyst said:
“The reforms proposed by President Obama fundamentally ignore those who are spied on simply because they don’t have an American passport.”
“We need genuine, effective changes that account for the way the world now communicates. Secret international intelligence-sharing arrangements must come to an end and human rights must be properly guaranteed to humans, not just American citizens.”
Amnesty International executive director Steven Hawkins said:
“The big picture takeaway from today’s speech is that the right of privacy remains under grave threat both here at home and around the world.”
Access executive director Brett Solomon said:
“The human right to privacy is universal. The rights of persons outside of the United States are as fundamental as the rights of U.S. citizens.”
“However, the President’s defense of ongoing overseas intelligence collection programs ensures that the citizens of the world will continue to be subject to mass surveillance.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called Obama’s speech “embarrassing.” He spoke “for almost 45 minutes and sa(id) almost nothing.”
“He’s been very reluctant to make any concrete reforms, and unfortunately, today we see very few” presented.
On January 17, London’s Guardian headlined Obama NSA reforms receive mixed response in Europe and Brazil,” saying:
“Europeans were largely underwhelmed by Barack Obama’s speech on limited reform of US espionage practices, saying the measures did not go far enough to address concerns over American snooping on its European allies.”
NSA supporters loved Obama’s speech. House and Senate intelligence committee chairpersons Rep. Mike Rogers (R. MI) and Diane Feinstein (D. CA) issued a joint statement, saying:
“Today President Obama gave a strong speech in defense of the need to collect and use intelligence in order to protect the nation and to prevent terrorist attacks around the world.”
“We strongly agree with his comments in support and praise of the professionals in our intelligence community who do this work while upholding the civil liberties and privacy rights of all Americans.”
Democrats largely supported Obama’s speech. Republicans offered mixed reactions. Speaker John Boehner said:
“I look forward to learning more about how the new procedure for accessing data will not put Americans at greater risk.”
“And the House will review any legislative reforms proposed by the administration.” It “will not erode the operational integrity of critical programs that have helped keep America safe.”
Senator Rand Paul dissented strongly, saying:
“The Fourth Amendment requires an individualized warrant based on probable cause before the government can search phone records and e-mails.”
“I intend to continue the fight to restore Americans’ rights through my Fourth Amendment Restoration Act and my legal challenge against the NSA. The American people should not expect the fox to guard the hen house.”
The Financial Times called Obama “defiant on US surveillance activities.”
Wall Street Journal editors said he delivered “a conflicted addressâ€¦His new anti-terror proposals will do little to secure American privacy but they might make the country less safe.”
New York Times editors support the worst of Obama’s policies. They praised his speech. It “was in large part an admission that he had been wrong,” they said.
He “announced important new restrictions on the collection of information about ordinary Americans…He called for greater oversight of the intelligence community…”
He “acknowledged that intrusive forms of technology posed a growing threat to civil liberties.” At the same time, “his reforms (lacked) specifics…”
Calling “on Congress to create a panel of independent advocates (is) a huge improvement” over current practice.
Times editors largely defended the worst of lawless mass surveillance. They left rule of law principles unaddressed. They ignored America’s fast track toward tyranny. They betrayed their readers in the process.
The Chicago Tribune defended Obama saying:
His “proposals outlined Friday are modest enough to give Americans some confidence that their privacy will be better protected without creating a greater risk to their security.”
Los Angeles Times editors called Obama’s “NSA reforms a significant step.”
His “overarching theme…was that, with the best of intentions, the government over which (he) presides has gone too far in taking advantage of advanced technology.”
He must “restore the proper balance between security and privacy.”
Since mid-2013, the Washington Post discussed Snowden documents in detail. Numerous articles explained how NSA violates personal privacy.
Unless Obama acts to change current policy, intrusive “programs will carry on unabated,” said WaPo.
Obama tried putting lipstick on a pig. Expect nothing substantive ahead to change. Washington is a cesspool of lawlessness. Things are worse than ever now.
Congress and federal courts are in lockstep with the worst administration policies. Rule of law principles don’t matter.
Government by diktats threatens everyone. Freedom is fast disappearing. It’s happening in plain sight.
Obama did more to destroy it than any previous president. It takes a giant leap of faith to think he’ll reverse things.
He waged war on democratic values. He did so from day one in office. He’s a duplicitous con man. He broke every major promise made.
He wants Americans to trust him. He gives chutzpah new meaning. He intends business as usual.
Sustained in-his-face public outrage is the only chance to stop him. Inertia so far keeps it contained.
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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