Friday, August 09, 2013

America is not interested in spying on ordinary people

Because it was a Friday summer afternoon, Obama decided to slip in a press conference. On the 39th anniversary of a president officially stepping down in large part because of recordings he made in his own office, Obama naturally chose to defend recording the entire fucking world.

BEIBER FEVER? “At the same time, I’m focused on my number-one responsibility as Commander-in-Chief, and that’s keeping the American people safe. And in recent days, we’ve been reminded once again about the threats to our nation.”

REBALANCING: “As I said at the National Defense University back in May, in meeting those threats we have to strike the right balance between protecting our security and preserving our freedoms. And as part of this rebalancing, I called for a review of our surveillance programs.” Oh, that’s what he’s been doing to our freedoms: “rebalancing” them. It’s like getting a “realignment” for your car, and then the government gets the content of all your communications.

AN ORDERLY AND LAWFUL PROCESS: “Unfortunately, rather than an orderly and lawful process to debate these issues and come up with appropriate reforms, repeated leaks of classified information have initiated the debate in a very passionate, but not always fully informed way.” Although a lot more informed than he’d intended. No, his idea of an orderly and lawful process to debate these issues (did you know there are illegal ways to debate issues? that just shows that you’re not a constitutional lawyer) would have involved us all debating these issues in a purely theoretical way, without knowing what practices were being debated. You know, orderly. And lawful.

“Now, keep in mind that as a senator, I expressed a healthy skepticism about these programs...” And then he got those programs in his hot little hands and his views were no longer either healthy or sceptical. Funny, that.

MOSTLY POTATO-SHAPED: “But given the history of abuse by governments, it’s right to ask questions about surveillance -- particularly as technology is reshaping every aspect of our lives.”

SURE, BECAUSE HE’S READING ALL THEIR EMAILS: “I’m also mindful of how these issues are viewed overseas...” I think that’s the third time he’s referred to secret surveillance programs as “issues” rather than as a set of government practices, suggesting that the only concern he really has is with the public relations aspect of this.

“...because American leadership around the world depends upon the example of American democracy and American openness...” Also soldiers and guns and flying killer robots.

“...because what makes us different from other countries is not simply our ability to secure our nation, it’s the way we do it -- with open debate and democratic process.” Okay I’m pretty sure he’s just being sarcastic now.

He wants to reform the law governing the collection of phone records. “But given the scale of this program, I understand the concerns of those who would worry that it could be subject to abuse.” I don’t think the mass hoovering up of all our phone conversation is subject to abuse, I think it is, in itself, an abuse.

“So after having a dialogue with members of Congress and civil libertarians...” I love how he distinguishes those two groups. Shouldn’t all members of Congress be civil libertarians? Shouldn’t all Americans? What exactly is his definition of “civil libertarian” that implies that they’re a minority special-interest group of some kind?

AS ALICE SAID, HOW CAN I HAVE ADDITIONAL CONFIDENCE WHEN I HAVEN’T HAD ANY CONFIDENCE YET? “I believe that there are steps we can take to give the American people additional confidence that there are additional safeguards against abuse.”

“Second, I’ll work with Congress to improve the public’s confidence in the oversight conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISC.” Not to improve the actual oversight, just to improve the public’s confidence. Again, the only concern he really has is with public relations.

“And while I’ve got confidence in the court and I think they’ve done a fine job...” Sure, because they’ve never stopped him doing a single thing he wanted to do.

He says the FISA court might be allowed to hear from “an adversary” instead of just from the government, though he doesn’t say who that adversary might be. Maybe those crazy civil libertarians.

“Number three, we can, and must, be more transparent. So I’ve directed the intelligence community to make public as much information about these programs as possible.” Technically it’s quite “possible” to make all the information about these programs public, so presumably he means something else by “as possible.”

ALONGSIDE THE 40,000 OR SO ANTI-CIVIL LIBERTIES AND ANTI-PRIVACY OFFICERS: “The NSA is taking steps to put in place a full-time civil liberties and privacy officer”.

Also, the NSA will create a website.

HOLY MIXED METAPHORS, BATMAN! “We now have to unravel terrorist plots by finding a needle in the haystack of global telecommunications.”

I’D LIKE TO THINK THAT EVERYBODY IS EXTRAORDINARY IN THEIR OWN WAY: “And to others around the world, I want to make clear once again that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people.”

“It’s true we have significant capabilities. What’s also true is we show a restraint that many governments around the world don’t even think to do, refuse to show -- and that includes, by the way, some of America’s most vocal critics. We shouldn’t forget the difference between the ability of our government to collect information online under strict guidelines and for narrow purposes, and the willingness of some other governments to throw their own citizens in prison for what they say online.” Oh, burn.

“And I believe that those who have lawfully raised their voices on behalf of privacy and civil liberties are also patriots who love our country and want it to live up to our highest ideals.” But not the ones who have unlawfully raised their voices on behalf of privacy and civil liberties. I mean, obviously.

We won’t be boycotting the Olympics. “And one of the things I’m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we’re seeing there.” Is Russian homophobia predicated on a belief that homosexuals are bad athletes? I did not know that.

By the way, gay olympians, I’m pretty sure your president just said that you have an obligation to announce your sexual orientation.

OH NO HE DID NOT JUST CRITICIZE PUTIN’S POSTURE: “I don’t have a bad personal relationship with Putin. When we have conversations, they’re candid, they’re blunt; oftentimes, they’re constructive. I know the press likes to focus on body language and he’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom. But the truth is, is that when we’re in conversations together, oftentimes it’s very productive.”

He doesn’t think Snowden’s a patriot. “Mr. Snowden has been charged with three felonies. If, in fact, he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer and make his case.” He makes it sound so inviting. Thing is, though, courts can only determine what is legal, not what is right. You might want to keep this in mind when you’re writing your speech for the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington.

“But having said that, once the leaks have happened, what we’ve seen is information come out in dribs and in drabs, sometimes coming out sideways. Once the information is out, the administration comes in, tries to correct the record. But by that time, it’s too late or we’ve moved on, and a general impression has, I think, taken hold not only among the American public but also around the world that somehow we’re out there willy-nilly just sucking in information on everybody and doing what we please with it.” Sorry, I fell asleep while you were bitching about the difficulties of the 24-hour news cycle; what did you say about sucking willies?

Obama “hates” that people are attacking Larry Summers “preemptively” before he’s even nominated. Of course after he’s nominated, it’s kind of too late. “I felt the same way when people were attacking Susan Rice before she was nominated for anything.” So he hates those attacks because they might make him cravenly abandon Summers like he did Rice?

He says there are no abuses of the secret surveillance programs because that would be against the law.

“Having said that, though, if you are outside of the intelligence community, if you are the ordinary person and you start seeing a bunch of headlines saying, U.S.-Big Brother looking down on you, collecting telephone records, et cetera, well, understandably, people would be concerned. I would be, too, if I wasn’t inside the government.” So he’d be concerned if he were being spied on rather than the one doing the spying. Gotcha.

He says he and the NSA only want to foil terrorism.
Q Can you understand, though, why some people might not trust what you’re saying right now about wanting to --


Q -- that they should be comfortable with the process?
No he can’t.

“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. And so the program is -- I am comfortable that the program currently is not being abused. I’m comfortable that if the American people examined exactly what was taking place, how it was being used, what the safeguards were, that they would say, you know what, these folks are following the law and doing what they say they’re doing.” I take it that he’s inviting every American to go to Ford Meade and see for themselves.

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