Obama Declares “Reforms” While Dismissing Influence Of Snowden on NSA

President_Barack_ObamaNSA logo smallI just listened to the NSA speech by President Obama and as expected there is precious little in terms of real change. For civil libertarians, it is a nothing burger served hot and with a sympathetic smile. It is much of the same. Another review board composed of government officials. Another promise for the Executive Branch to review itself. I am in Salt Lake City today on the Sister Wives case, but I am struck by the absence of civil libertarians on the coverage by the networks. I will have to run to court but I was underwhelmed. It seemed like another attempt to reinvent privacy in a new surveillance friendly image.

As I tweeted earlier, it was rather unpersuasive to hear Obama say that he was always intended to force reforms and that Snowden was merely a coincidence. If you step back, you will note that the programs will continue and the intelligence community will retain its authority with little outside independent limits. The speech had the feel of a car salesman coming back from “speaking with the manager” and saying that he is able to offer a deal that no one likes but he wants to offer because he likes the customer. Of course, this “deal” does not require our consent.

In the end, the changes are either undefined (like the privacy advocates) or basically “trust us were your government” (including a reminder that NSA people are your neighbors).

The Paul Revere reference at the beginning seemed to set the less than honest approach of the speech. Revere and the Sons of Liberty were watching public movement of an enemy at war. Likewise, Obama again references “court” review of the metadata as if it were a true court applying real probable cause. FISC has been widely ridiculed as a rubber-stamp for the government. The Court is given a standard that is hard for the government not to satisfy with even the most casual filings.

In the end, it was in my view more spin than substance from the President.

What did you think?

98 thoughts on “Obama Declares “Reforms” While Dismissing Influence Of Snowden on NSA

  1. I guess the biggest question I have is who is going to decide who sits on the court that reviews requests to access the database and how transparent the process will be and why should anyone believe anyone in the administration or the intelligence community when they continue to say, “trust us”??

  2. First, Congress does not know what is going on. They are supposed to represent the people, but they have little information. Read this link, if you don’t believe me.

    https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2014/01/today_i_briefed.html

    The idea that Obama would have gotten around to telling us about all the spying without Snowden is simply rubbish. At each point, even after Snowden’s whistleblowing, Obama has lied and said something was not happening, only to have it shown that indeed, it was. Further, after lawsuits are filed, his DOJ has denied plaintiffs information and blocked their suits in every possible way.

    Why anyone would believe Obama or think that his “reforms” would actually protect the people, is beyond comprehension.

    Much of the data is collected by private corporations. The actual elected government, outside of the executive and a few high placed Congressional/Judicial lackeys, does not know what info is collected, how much the contractors are being paid, or what is being done with the information. The US is a totalitarian surveillance state. If a bunch of Democrats are OK with that because they like they guy who is president, then we have gotten to a very bad place in this nation. Citizens stand up for their rights no matter who is president.

  3. “I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom. That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens. No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. That is not who we are.”- Barrack Obama in 2007

  4. http://dailycaller.com/2013/06/11/biden-in-2006-dont-count-me-in-on-trusting-nsa-phone-call-surveillance/

    Back in 2006, in an appearance on CBS’s “The Early Show,” then-Democratic Delaware Sen. Joe Biden railed against the controversial National Security Administration program to monitor domestic phone calls.

    Biden likened the program to blind faith in giving up personal financial information.

    “I don’t think it passes the test, but it clearly doesn’t pass the test of two existing statutes that say you can’t do these kinds of things, forgetting the fourth amendment,” Biden said on CBS’s May 12, 2006 “The Early Show.”

    “And, Harry [Smith], the bottom line here is: Here you have the president of the United States making a judgment that’s not reviewable by the courts and not reviewable by the Congress, and we’re supposed to say OK, and they tell us — it’s a little bit like what would happen if the banks turned over all your checking records, without your name, but gave the checking account number and every single purchase you made and pattern of your behavior — and then you were told, ‘Don’t worry, they — that’s not invasion of your privacy.’”

    Biden, who as vice president has been quiet on the recent revelations about NSA seizure of phone records from major providers, then made the same argument many are making today — that seizing records of calls made, even without listening to the specific calls, can be an invasion of privacy.

    “Harry, I don’t have to listen to your phone calls to know what you’re doing,” Biden said. “If I know every single phone call you made, I’m able to determine every single person you talk to, I can get a pattern about your life that is very, very intrusive. And the real question here is: What do they do with this information that they collect that does not have anything to do with al Qaeda? There’s a whole deal when you talk about this kind of stuff, where the — under the law they’re supposed to demonstrate that they’re getting rid of and not keeping any extraneous information that they pick up on wiretaps and/or pick up in sweeps like this. And the president’s saying–I think I wrote down — he said, `this is not mining or trolling.’ If it’s true that 200 million Americans’ phone calls were monitored, in terms of not listening to what they said but to whom they spoke and who spoke to them, I don’t know, the Congress should investigate this.”

    Biden told “The Early Show” host Harry Smith that he did not care to put trust in then-President George W. Bush and then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

    “We have — no one’s arguing whether or not you have the right to go out and tap and go and do everything you need to do to track down al Qaida. That’s not the question here. Years ago, Harry, I was one of those guys that co-sponsored the bill called FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Everyone I’ve spoken to, who’s been briefed on this matter, says that everything that they want to do to deal with al Qaida is able to be done under FISA and maybe with a small amendment to FISA. But this idea that no court will review, no Congress will know and we’re going to trust the president and the vice president of the United States, that they’re doing the right thing, don’t count me in on that.”

  5. I think that people who object to the NSA programs would also object to most of our laws. The government already monitors and collects massive amounts of our personal lives. In fact this is enshrined in our Constitution, it is called the census. Then we all have Social Security numbers which are unfortunately in many cases secured from other agencies which is to our detriment. So if we can trust the Social Security Administration with such data, I can hardly see the problem with the NSA gathering metadata of such simple things as telephone records as to who and where calls are made. Then there is the fact that ALL financial transactions over $10,000 are reported as well. I don’t have the time to list all the areas in which we have the government keeping and looking at many aspects of our lives. In fact, bureaus such as the Labor Dept, Education, and others would be put out of business if we cut out their access to massive amounts of data.

    What it has to come down to is trust. We cannot have every person getting informed as to all the programs that are used by law enforcement to do their jobs. We do not object to the police withholding information that they develop in the course of an investigation. I am quite willing to have Sen such as Sanders, Franken, and others look at the programs and make their judgments because I TRUST them and their judgment.. What is needed is a process of annual review to make sure that the agencies are not exceeding their legal limits. That is the only way to allow the security agencies to do their legitimate jobs AND to preserve our Constitutional rights. I think that Obama is doing his best to strike that balance.

  6. I suppose that this message was intended to sooth over Germany’s critic of the US collection of data by the US…. Merkel didn’t seem to pleased from what I’ve read….

    I suppose once a propagandist always a propagandist…..

  7. Every day I am more and more grateful to Edward Snowden. I hope he has the best possible life wherever he ends up.

  8. “I think that people who object to the NSA programs would also object to most of our laws.” -randyjet

    LOL. And that’s where you lost me.

    Jill and “old nurse” have it right.

  9. randyjet,

    Do you trust Biden in 2006 and Obama in 2007? (see Felix above). They thought this stuff was illegal then and they weren’t willing to trust the government. Now they think it’s fabulous!!!! So which Biden and which Obama do you trust? Where they prototerrorists just trying to get away with things back then?

    In my link, I clearly show Congress members can’t get information from the NSA. They can’t even begin to do oversight without information. Which Congress members do you trust? Do you distrust those members who can’t get information or do you trust those other members who don’t care if they have the actual information anyway?

    At least one judge and several FISA rulings say this collection is not legal or Constitutional. Do you distrust them? Do you only trust people who agree with the NSA? If so, why?

  10. @randyjet ” I am quite willing to have Sen such as Sanders, Franken, and others look at the programs and make their judgments because I TRUST them and their judgment…… I think that Obama is doing his best to strike that balance.

    I think your view is probably going to be popular.

    But people like me have real doubts in part because of believable, detailed criticism of the intelligence oversight committees by former members and others, comments by FISA court judges the intelligence agencies were not forth coming or actively attempted to mislead, and Obama, himself, denied that spying was taking place prior to Snowden’s leaks.

    People like me don’t feel we can count on the committees to do a good job. We have clear evidence that we can not trust the president. And the agencies themselves do not cooperate with civilian oversight and control.

  11. https://www.aclu.org/national-security/aclu-comment-presidents-nsa-speech

    ACLU Comment on President’s NSA Speech

    January 17, 2014

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    CONTACT: media@aclu.org

    WASHINGTON – President Obama today announced changes to some aspects of the NSA’s surveillance programs and left others in place. Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, had this reaction:

    “The president’s speech outlined several developments which we welcome. Increased transparency for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, improved checks and balances at the FISA court through the creation of a panel of advocates, and increased privacy protections for non-U.S. citizens abroad – the first such assertion by a U.S. president – are all necessary and welcome reforms.

    “However, the president’s decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans’ data remains highly troubling. The president outlined a process to study the issue further and appears open to alternatives. But the president should end – not mend – the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data. When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the Constitution. The president’s own review panel recommended that bulk data collection be ended, and the president should accept that recommendation in its entirety.”

    A new chart comparing the ACLU’s proposals, President Obama’s announcement, and the USA FREEDOM Act (a bipartisan bill currently pending in Congress) is at:

    aclu.org/national-security/where-does-president-stand-nsa-reform

  12. Did it occur to anyone that the President and VP changed their minds about the benefit of the NSA program, because they have acquired more knowledge to better inform their opinion?

  13. As expected from President Obama. And the fact that he claimed it is being a coincidence with Edward Snowden’s efforts and his decision to reign in the NSA is a flat out lie. Why would he announce efforts to reform a program that was secret anyway? If it was a coincidence why did the US gov’t got to the extent it did to arrest Edward when the president was looking into the same issue?

    The speech was a sham.

  14. “It is only prudent never to place complete confidence in that by which we have even once been deceived.”
    Rene Descartes

  15. I’m aware that the POTUS takes an oath to the Constitution!

    I’m aware that the POTUS lies a lot. I’m aware that NSA engages in economic/industrial spying, as is the POTUS. I’m aware that NSA spies on heads of state who are supposed to be our allies, as is the POTUS. I’m aware that POTUS regularly and illegally sends drones to kill people and has other people tortured in Gitmo and black sites, all of which is expressly forbidden by our law. Here is a man who does not believe in or follow his oath of office. That should not be acceptable to anyone, but by god, it will be, no doubt of that.

  16. I had some reflections on the speech which I will offer off the top of my head.

    There are at least two pillars of this or any other tyranny:

    1) when we do it that makes it ok;
    2) especially when we do it to them

    We have lost touch with the ability to determine it … that is, as a nation we have lost the ability to determine constitutional right from constitutional wrong.

    What is evolving in our politics is sorta like the essence of a personality cult as far as I can tell (Nick calls it a duopoly).

    The it is no longer the determinate focus of our concept of tyranny, rather good constitutional law is determined by who is doing it (ipsie dixit).

    So what is evolving is “we can do it (which is defined as “anything”) to anybody, so long as we are doiing it to them …”

    And in our nation at the group level it is getting to look like our politics is conposed of two personality cults striving for power while putting the other personality cult down.

    I am seeing this infection spreading, because we see more and more of it being done to them, which eventually turns on the people:

    To whom are sovereigns accountable? In 1609 King James I offered Parliament his answer. Starting from the premise that the “[e]state of the monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth,” he equated kings to gods, because “they exercise a manner or resemblance of divine power upon earth.” Kings have absolute power and authority, “and yet accountable to none but God only.”

    (Follow The Immunity – 3). It is that old germ within that old epidemic which we thought we had immunized ourselves from.

    Stay thirsty for freedom my friends.

  17. consiglieri,
    I don’t doubt that Obama has more information that may have aided in his acceptance of the spying program, but just because he may have been scared by that intel or by the agencies plying that information does not make the 4th Amendment moot, does it?

  18. If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” – James Madison

    What is being expanded upon by decay is the definition of “foreign enemy.”

    In the end, that is being defined as “them.”

    This much is obvious.

    But have the next candidate and script been chosen?

    We seem to be going in a downward spiral as if that was the plan.

  19. SECRET laws and
    SECRET policies decided by
    SECRET courts
    … as to how these laws and policies shall be applied to the American citizen.

    WE AR NO LONGER SELF GOVERNING

  20. rafflaw
    consiglieri,

    Might I add the subsequent violations of other Rights and Laws?
    … Free association
    … Rights of the accused
    … Review of evidence

  21. O.K.
    Tomorrow or the day after either Greenwald or Wikileaks will reveal more of Obama’s lies… Just wait for it.

    Then, on cue, wait for the defenders of a rogue State. Right randyjet?

  22. Rafflaw – Of course, it doesn’t. I was simply pointing out that learning new information can and should change one’s opinion, and this change doesn’t make one a hypocrite.

  23. “… learning new information can and should change one’s opinion, and this change doesn’t make one a hypocrite.” — consiglieri39

    “New information” does not necessarily mean that one can and should change one’s opinion on the basis of it. Everything depends upon the quality and relevance of the information. Such new information can just as easily confirm one’s opinion if it contains additional evidence of wrongdoing or else contributes nothing relevant to the point at issue.

    Of course, changing one’s opinion as a consequence of learning something consequential does not make one a hypocrite; but changing one’s opinion based on bogus propganda from suspect sources calling their “information” “new” makes one not so much a hypocrite as a credulous fool. For President Obama to claim that he hasn’t done anything wrong but will fix the unbroken anyway, chiefly by preventing any further disclosures of wrongdoing constitutes such a glaring contradiction in terms that it mocks its own transparent pretensions even as it utters them. In other words:

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has become “It ain’t broke, but we’ll fix it anyway by making sure that no one else can ever report that it’s broke.”

    Not the crime itself, but the uncovering and publishing of it has become “criminal” or “espionage” or “treason” in the view of the U.S. government. So much for the First Amendment — along with the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth. There you have my summation of what I understand President Obama said while not saying anything at all. Yes, his lips did move, but that only confirms that he lies just to keep in practice; just so he won’t forget how.

  24. And as for that “noun plus verb plus 9/11″ thing that President Obama tried to sell again as his all-purpose excuse for dragging out hopeless quagmire wars while bankrupting the treasury and trampling on our Constitutional rights, it just seems to me like yet another iteration of:

    Changing Commanders in Brief

    The last guy-in-charge said, “Go shopping.”
    This war, he said, wouldn’t last long;
    Our victims, he swore, would repay us
    For plundering them for a song.

    In six months, at most, we’d be winners;
    The enemy vanquished and fled;
    And then, with our mission accomplished,
    We’d leave them to count up their dead.

    Our generals trained for the last war,
    Their learning-curve zero or less.
    In six years they’ll figure out something;
    Just what, will be anyone’s guess.

    They had them a “surge” in their payments
    To “enemies” placed on the dole
    So they wouldn’t shoot us so often
    Because of their land that we stole.

    The new guy took over, saluting,
    A race that had already run
    Its course, ‘cause the bungler before him
    Had exploited all of the fun.

    The new guy got rolled up like sushi.
    He blew his chance early to leave.
    More “surging” has just raised the death count.
    What next does he have up his sleeve?

    It sounded so good while campaigning:
    One little “good” war for one bad;
    Except that the Afghans hate bombings
    As much as Vietnamese had.

    Our generals, though, won’t admit it:
    They’ve taken eight years to do what?
    Yet somehow they think we’ll applaud them
    For not knowing doodley-squat.

    They say they need more stuff and faster
    Yet won’t explain what they would do
    Except to extend their disaster
    By breeding more pooches to screw.

    In common-sense language, the answer
    Replies to their “more, more, more” rant:
    “You would have, of course, if you could have;
    You didn’t, therefore, so you can’t.”

    The new guy Obama, like Dubya,
    Thinks playing Commander-in-Brief
    Means mission-creep “more” and saluting
    The Pentagram treasury thief.

    “A trillion a year?” Oh, who’s counting?
    “And all for what?” Don’t be a bore.
    “And who will pay?” No one, we promise.
    It’s what we call slush-funded “war.”

    Obama won’t ask the right question,
    To wit: “What on earth have we ‘won’?”
    Like Pharaoh, he thinks he can dictate:
    “So let it be written, then done.”

    He cried: “Yes, we can!” while campaigning,
    This slogan he sold and we bought.
    In office, however, he’s changed things:
    Himself. Now he says, “We cannot.”

    Our Wealth Care rules out Single Payer
    Our troops must remain on patrol.
    The votes don’t exist in the Congress
    That Democrats cannot control.

    We gave him majorities, plenty,
    Yet these he seems ready to blow.
    Now Wealth Care and Quagmire have named him:
    Commander of Old Status Quo.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2009

  25. Paul,
    What does the NSA have?
    Please, please, please let it be an affair and a blow job so we can begin the process of ridding ourselves of this madness.

  26. Paul

    So for me there is only one question. What does the NSA have on Obama to have him cower in fear?
    =====================
    The toxins of power are out upon everyone who is exposed to power.

    Our cultural amygdala is not only getting curiouser and curiouser, it is getting uglier and uglier.

  27. Randyjet: “I can hardly see the problem with the NSA gathering metadata of such simple things as telephone records as to who and where calls are made. Then there is the fact that ALL financial transactions over $10,000 are reported as well.”

    The problem, Randyjet, is that such things are none of their damned business.

  28. As one of the possibly few on this site who has been the victim of illegal acts and spying on the part of the FBI and CIA, I think that I have a bit better perspective than most on this subject. I have also read extensively on this subject and the NSA and its activities. To say that the US is a police state now or is on the way, is an outright lie. The US is a FAR freer country than it has been in our recent history, or at least in my lifetime which is over 60 decades. Virtually most of what people object to now has been done FAR more in the past and with FAR more restrictions on civil liberties than now. The only increase is in the technical ability to collect data. The instances of illegal searches, break ins, bombings, and other acts of terror that the government engaged in the past is gone.

    I think that people should read the ACLU statement on the speech which acknowledges this fact. I disagree with their last part which says that the bulk collection of data should be ended. The ability of intel gathering rests to a large degree in many cases on such bulk collection of data. I am amazed that people who say that they do not trust the government to hold such data have NO problems with a private for PROFIT company doing that very thing! At least I have some say in what the government may or may not do. That is NOT true of AT&T or any other company. I for one trust them a whole lot less. In fact, most of these companies are running their own intel programs using the same data. So which is worse? The problem is that I and most people cannot know how vital such collection is to the intelligence effort. That I am willing to leave to the professionals who DO the work, and have some kind of oversight on such activity. This does NOT involve actual listening to the content of such conversations which DO require a court order EVEN NOW.

    As for those who hate any policing power in the government, I think that they are the minority and as I said before, those are the very folks who hate any laws restricting what private citizens can do or any government regulation In order to have regulation, there has to be collecting records and intelligence on activities for those regulated actions.

  29. It was classic Professor Obama, assessing and being calm and quietly assertive. I bought in 2008. John Podesta is going to head the review board. He is a POLITICAL HACK. He’s your guy and he asked you all to bend over, grab your ankles, and “squeal like a piggy.” It appears a lotta folks enjoy it! NTTAWWT. Where is the outrage?? Because, this was outrageous.

  30. The difference, Randy, between AT&T and the gov’t is basic, corporations cannot throw you in jail or deprive you of your liberty when they disagree with you or view you as trouble. And then it goes on from there.

    It might be that in your experiences and what might be visible to the public now is one thing, but what happens if the spy and data gathering machine is then transferred into some nefarious leadership in the future? It only takes a change of intentions to turn the system on the American public and create a system worse than East Germany. Part of the way we deter tyrrany is to stop it when at the beginning before it takes complete control and a meltdown of society ensues to eject it from gov’t.

    I understand what you are talking about with the admirable effort to protect the citizenry from foreign or domestic attacks but consider many of the efforts of people who think they are doing the right thing might not necessarily be doing what is just. If it wasn’t for adherence to the constitution this country would be a far less free country and one that we probably wouldn’t recognize.

    And consider this also. Just think how many people now are concerned about writing e-mails or posting issues because the government might come knocking at their door. Think it doesn’t happen? Well why is there all this debate and worry in the public forum if people weren’t even slightly afraid about what is going on?

    Look at Martin Luther King. The FBI under J. Edgar spied on him and tried to frame him as being sexually immoral to discredit him and put him out of the public focus. What was his crime? Advocating civil rights and ending segregation, something that we take for granted today. This was greatly unconstitional yet the gov’t did this to him and others. Anyone who thinks the gov’t now isn’t prepared to do these things today are ignoring the reality of what is going on. And with this president acting unilaterally on so many issues what is to say he will be benevolent to respect congress or the will of the American people when he is disagreed with.

    If the public had any idea how much power even a local police officer has to destroy an individual’s life or livelihood, and I mean truly understood and not just watching TV but having the experience of working as one, they would be scared stiff at dealing with the cops. It is mostly because police are scrutinized by various oversight and constraints by the courts and other issues and because 98% of officers are committed to doing the right thing. But once the police are fully corrupted then nighmare scenarios will ensue. I have arrested people and several of them were put away for 40+ years. They deserved what they got but if a cop wanted to shaft someone it doesn’t take much to “make the case” against them and lie their way into the suspect’s conviction. Now imagine what a federal agency or a political machine can do to an individual or everyone else if corrupted. It is just like the spy system the NSA and gov’t has here. The system of law enforcement is well established and capable here especially at the local level. Without oversight and accountability it takes not much for the muscle of the system to do evil. Now we can see a megamachine of spy capability that has been created by the feds can do the same thing if not worse.

    Moreover on the issue of the president talking about not tapping the telephones of the citizenry and listening in. Well I’ll tell you terrorists don’t call other terrorists on an open telephone line and blab their plans out. Bin Laden learned that lesson with his satellite uplink. So the president’s pledge to end it was simply window dressing. Information from e-mail, banking transactions, and credit cards is exponentially more useful to the gov’t than some pen register of the 1970’s ever was. In fact, one can get more information from metadata than the content of the email message to begin with.

    I sympathize and understand your message about the gov’t wanting to protect the citizenry from attack, but what else is the gov’t afraid of is what is more worrying.

  31. Randy,
    I for one have a lot of problem with private data collection as well as governmental. My distrust of data mining is on a number of levels. First of all, there is always the risk of a data dump, such as the compromised credit information lost by Target when their servers were hacked. Also, I don’t appreciate Google, Microsoft and who knows what others are watching everything I do on the Internet. Currently the purpose is for targeting advertising, but every time I visit a site that sells chemicals, ammunition or tools that can be used for gunsmithing, I get a twinge and the pucker factor goes up.

    I have joked a couple of times that I may be on the no-fly list because of some of my writing on this blog. Except it may not be a joke.

    If the government was truly competent in what it does, I would be less militant. But it isn’t. I read the IRS has managed to misplace millions, if not billions of dollars. So far this past year, the IRS has lost $67 million. As in gone. That was money for the ACA trust fund and they can’t find it.

    Then there was the incident of the Border Patrol hassling a couple of gay guys in a Cirrus SR22 in Iowa City. Hell of a long way from any border.

    Don’t you feel a lot safer knowing these are the people in charge of your information?

  32. Darren The fact is that the government does not have the ability to throw any person in jail either unless they are accused of a crime. The one instance that was the exception was the Padilla case, which got tossed by the SCOTUS. There is no question that was an abuse of outrageous proportions. I also have to note that was done by W Bush, not Obama.

    As for a nefarious regime taking power, it did not take such a nefarious regime to do exactly that in the not so distant past when the Constitution was for all practical purposes a dead letter. You need to learn some US history. We were in FACT just such a Stasi kind of regime in the US back when I was growing up and active politically. At least the Stasi did not go out and murder people without some so called trial. The US DID. The US also went out and imprisoned hundreds of people for thought crimes up until the SCOTUS finally outlawed it.

    Once again, I refer you to the ACLU statement in which it states that for the FIRST time such checks as you advocate are being enacted. I saw the Presidents statement to establish review and advocates for the public. I welcome such measures which can fight against such abuses as happened in the past. This is a good opportunity to try and balance the our rights under the Constitution and the legitimate right to defend ourselves against crimes and attacks.

    I have personal experience with how much power cops have to throw you in jail on their whim. When I first moved to Houston, the police were totally corrupt and it was nearly a police state. Most cops were totally corrupt, but I am sure that about 70% of them thought they were doing the right thing. The rest were outright crooks. Now what they considered the “right thing” was is quite different from what the law said. So there were virtually no cops who respected the law at all. THEY were the law.

    The system of collecting data is hardly the same as that of accusing and convicting people of actual crimes. I agree that the listening in on phone calls is basically useless and that it should not be allowed without some warrant. The real intel as you pointed out comes from the mass collection of data which I think can yield useful intelligence. For those who are not committing criminal acts, getting such data is no threat at all. The only way it can be misused is if it has trade secrets that can be handed off to others who can use it for their own ends. As you note having outside observers and regulators is the only way to keep such things legitimate and in line with our rights. So I will endorse the ACLU statement with that one reservation.

  33. OS

    I get the same feeling now about where I go online after I case I had years ago. While investigating an internet fraud case I ran across an individual (unrelated to the fraud case) who was making some suspicous purchases off a large internet auction sight. He was buying a lot of surivalist items, some kook books (like illicit weapon making, anarchist cookbook type of things and gov’t conspiracy books) he would also throw in a lot of chaff such as cheap auction items like recipes for BBQ and other items (one or two bucks) dozens of them that effectively hid by numbers or obscurity what he was buying. Those alone are not cause for concern. But, he was also buying hardware here and there that could be assembled to build some highly dangerous constructs. I’m not going to say what it was in this forum but they were also the same items that could be used in another context that was completely harmless. What did it for me was one of his items tied the potentially dangerous construct being likely was a book concerning that topic.

    I called up ATF and informed them with what was going on.

    While I believed this case was certainly worth looking into, years later I began to recognize how easy it would be for some agency watching over the internet, and coming to conclusions too quickly, could nab someone who is just reading up on a subject or buying items that might seem in certain contexts to be nefarious if construed that way.

    On another topic given all we have seen lately with the NSA and companies datamining their customers, the aspect of being a cashless society is is no longer certain. There is much advantage these days of buying everything possible with cash and never giving personal information to retailers if possible, especially in light of the ability to spy on it by someone else later.

  34. OS From what I have read of intel collection, the way that they use mass data is to look for outliers in the mass. It is a legitimate function of police to look at those anomalies and to follow them up. It only becomes personalized when there is enough data to establish some suspicion of some individual. I have had lots of experience with the foibles of the FAA and the government so I know all of those horror stories apart from malicious intent. They are irritating to say the least, and it only becomes a real problem, if they take some action against a person that adversely affects them. Then there are the courts and the legal system to right those wrongs. As long as those remedies are available and as Darren would like to say, they are NOT corrupted, we are not in danger of losing our liberties. I have fought too long and hard to see all the gains that we made from the 60s-80s be vitiated now. I differ with the ACLU on many items, but I think that their letter is a good starting place. I would defer my opinion on the mega date collection to others independent of NSA to make the judgment as to how useful this technique is.

    Even the no fly list is subject to errors, the most notable one being Sen. Ted Kennedy who was denied boarding at DCA when a Ted Kennedy came up on the list. A pilot from Cape Air lost his job because he was suspected of being a terrorist because he had the same name as one who was on the no fly list. He finally got cleared after a number of years. The problem is that there are too many cops out trying to make work, and that is a real danger. What I think is needed is how to have them work smarter rather than wasting time, manpower, and money in fruitless investigations. I am not in intelligence or police work, so I have to once again defer to those who do have that experience and knowledge. The idea of having oversight in some panels, rather than Congressional committees is an excellent idea since the previous laws were not effective in that oversight because of political pressure.

  35. Randy wrote:
    “Darren The fact is that the government does not have the ability to throw any person in jail either unless they are accused of a crime. The one instance that was the exception was the Padilla case, which got tossed by the SCOTUS.”
    ~+~
    Actually that is incorrect. Individuals can be put in jail for under the Material Witness sections of state and federal law. Furthermore some states have civil arrests (WA was one of them) where individuals can be put in jail for not paying court ordered child support (non-criminal) and for contempt of court. Under other laws people can be taken into custody for things such as other issues such as investigations and held for 48 hours without charges being filed. Members of the military can be subjected to arrests for being AWOL even by members of the civilian police services.

    As far as the STASI goes what about the all the people who got shot in the back just trying to leave East Germany or Berlin, did they get a trial?

    You mention the NSA collection of all this data is essentially harmless unless someone is arrested or trade secrets published. Again, that does not address the issue of privacy and the constitutional protections. This is exactly the same as police or federal agents going in and photographing everything visible through the windows of everyone’s house. Not a problem? Well you’ve just given whatever agency the ability to sift through everything and discover whatever they might want to use against the person. There is no difference here. The fourth amendment states effectively that homes, papers and effects are not to be searched unless supported by probable cause and a search warrant. Blanket searches are not permitted. In fact, in WA it is illegal for the gov’t to take areal photographs of fenced areas of people’s homes without a search warrant. Taking a high-res photo of sections of the city and then searching every person’s property is the same thing being done here by the NSA.

    But I am a bit confused about what you are saying. You indicate the mass collection of data is no threat at all but then you go on saying how there is a lot of corruption in the police forces. What would stop a corrupt government agent or LEO or politician from then using the treasure trove of data to go after citizens as innocent as you have mentioned were thrown in jail illegally?

    As for the SCOTUS coming around to prevent abuses, this is certainly not always the rescue system for individual rights in all cases. The Dredd Scott decision, and several others in history have not been necessarily favorable to ordinary people. Professor Turley has even made much mention of these on recent cases, Gant v. Arizona was one of them where police can make pre-text stops on fishing expeditions to stop and later search people while looking for reasons to arrest them. Washington’s supreme court threw out pretext stops but the fed court did not. The SCOTUS also ruled that the feds can search your laptop computer if you cross an international border and BP can search your vehicle at check points a hundred miles from the Mexican border. You as a private citizen are temporarily detained for doing nothing at all wrong, much less just travelling within the US, and being a citizen thereof.

  36. it figures there are those who are alright with the nsa. yesterday i went to fill out some papers for a apartment i applied for. and one of the papers i was asked to fill out.. had this question on it..

    “To which Country do i owe my Allegiance?”

    now do tell me what that has to do with me applying for an apartment in a co-op building?

    a friend of mines who recently got laid off and applied for unemployment was told that she will have to fill and out and bring in a notarized statement that says she is a american citizen…. i ask again what do those two questions have to do with anything???

  37. The FISA Court is not a court. It does not deliberate two sides or opposing parties. It is at best a “review board” which is made up of chump judges who disgrace themselves by putting on robes for such an endeavor.
    Google: The Judges Trial at Nuremberg. We prosecuted Krauts after WWII for such farce.

  38. robin the reason for that form is that if you are not a legal resident or citizen, you cannot get benefits. simple. If your friend had a passport, that would be enough too, or a voter registration card. As for the co-op, it might be a condition in the bylaws.

  39. Obama elevated the art of lying to an unprecedented level. He failed the Pinocchio test. He exceeded the worst of Richard Nixon. He outdid George Bush.

    He’s more despot than democrat. He matched Star Trek. He went where no US leader went before. He made a mockery of changes to believe in.

  40. Stephen Lendman, Great comment. And the MSM and most US citizens could care less. That’s what is most disturbing to me. “We’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled,” said Malcolm X. The irony is ripe.

  41. Nick, Your concern is exactly mine. “And the MSM and most US citizens could care less.”
    To find that a politician has changed his mind and cares less about the Constitution than he claims is old news, He will leave office as every other politician eventually will. But it is the citizens and their willingness to elect hack after hack and have no concern about the Governments violating the Constitution, that is the most disturbing thing of all.

  42. I hate to say it but I voted for this lying sack of crap. And oh my goodness do I regret it. Ooops I just made the NSA watch list. Watch this NSA…..I don’t know where I heard the saying, but “if Obama were given an enema you could bury him in a match box.”

  43. Having not heard the message, and having now aided and abetted war crimes for five years, the President has failed. It becomes increasingly difficult to listen to anything the government says as the sound of the lies has reached nails on a chalkboard.

    Seat grand juries today.

  44. @Lew “Does Roberts appoint the judges on the secret police state court?”

    Apparently he chief justice makes the appointments.

    From a recent article in the NYT: “The recent leaks about government spying programs have focused attention on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and its role in deciding how intrusive the government can be in the name of national security. Less mentioned has been the person who has been quietly reshaping the secret court: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. ”

    A concern mentioned in the article is that Justice Roberts seems to choose only conservative judges with long executive branch experience making “.the court more likely to defer to government arguments that domestic spying programs are necessary.”

  45. We need to have a blog topic on the FISA Court.
    -How it was created.
    -Where it could find some basis in the Constitution and where it might be
    repugnant to the Constitution.
    -How it operates: why not two sides to every story? Why not in public? Why no
    FISAblog like Scotusblog? Where is Lyle?
    -Why it is a farce. Nothing ventured, nothing decided, nothing decisis, nada
    gained.
    -Which Branch of Government needs to get off its arse to stop NSA, CIA, KGB
    and others, including FISA from killing America.

    Here is the bottom line. Forty years from now. Do they spell it America or Amerika?

  46. earsoftheworld NOW THAT is what I call a good intelligent post with some folks who know the business in their report. Too bad you had to go over the top with your comments. I always hated Hayden and thought he was a crook and a traitor, but now I KNOW he is.

  47. Randyjet, the guy has broken almost every promise he’s ever made. Sorry, but I’ve fallen for his bs for the last time.

  48. “Obama’s NSA ‘reforms’ are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public”

    “Obama is draping the banner of change over the NSA status quo. Bulk surveillance that caused such outrage will remain in place”

    by Glenn Greenwald
    The Guardian, Friday 17 January 2014 14.23 EST

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/17/obama-nsa-reforms-bulk-surveillance-remains

    Excerpt:

    Ultimately, the radical essence of the NSA – a system of suspicion-less spying aimed at hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world – will fully endure even if all of Obama’s proposals are adopted. That’s because Obama never hid the real purpose of this process. It is, he and his officials repeatedly acknowledged, “to restore public confidence” in the NSA. In other words, the goal isn’t to truly reform the agency; it is deceive people into believing it has been so that they no longer fear it or are angry about it.

    As the ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romero said after the speech:

    The president should end – not mend – the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data. When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the constitution.

    That, in general, has long been Obama’s primary role in our political system and his premiere, defining value to the permanent power factions that run Washington. He prettifies the ugly; he drapes the banner of change over systematic status quo perpetuation; he makes Americans feel better about policies they find repellent without the need to change any of them in meaningful ways. He’s not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it.

    As is always the case, those who want genuine changes should not look to politicians, and certainly not to Barack Obama, to wait for it to be gifted. Obama was forced to give this speech by rising public pressure, increasingly scared US tech giants, and surprisingly strong resistance from the international community to the out-of-control American surveillance state.

    Today’s speech should be seen as the first step, not the last, on the road to restoring privacy. The causes that drove Obama to give this speech need to be, and will be, stoked and nurtured further until it becomes clear to official Washington that, this time around, cosmetic gestures are plainly inadequate.

  49. It’s almost like somebody smacked Obama upside the head in early 2008 and said hey, this is how it’s gonna be, so get used to it. The only other alternative is that he’s a sociopathic master manipulator — hence my comment that maybe he’s not actually running the country.

  50. Even now he says, with a straight face no less, that he welcomes this debate, he wants this debate, but without declassifying this stuff, there would be no way to have one in the first place. And in the same breath, he says Snowden’s actions were coincidental, that they didn’t help bring this debate about. I agree with the lying sack comment.

  51. I READ every post here and no one has commented about obama aka barry sotero and the ndaa executive bill nor the tpp trade act.

  52. “We’re not wearing our tinfoil hats, today, Robin.”

    And why should we? By now it should be clear NSA likely inserted technology to by pass them and render their protection ineffective.

    The good news is we many never have to vote again – NSA already knows how we feel on every issue.

  53. I am wondering how exactly consiglieri39 has been able to maintain any trust in the US govt or make jokes about people wearing tinfoil hats in light of what we are learning about our own military industrial complex and government.

    Most of all, I wonder how they can even see what someone else is wearing when they clearly have their own head firmly implanted in the ground.

  54. http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_20060.cfm

    Obama Appoints Monsanto Man as FDA Food Safety Czar

    New FDA deputy to lead food-safety mandate
    By Lyndsey Layton
    Washington Post, January 14, 2010
    Straight to the Source

    A year ago, Michael Taylor was sitting in his office at George Washington University, considering a basic mission of the federal government: making sure food is safe. He’d devoted his career to food safety, working in and out of government, and he was finally in academia where he could think deeply about what was wrong and how to fix it.

    And then the call came.

    The Obama administration wanted Taylor to implement the solutions he had been designing. A string of food poisoning outbreaks nationally had sickened thousands and killed dozens. Both parties in Congress were calling for tough new laws. The president promised the public that he would strengthen food safety.

    In July, Taylor became an adviser to Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Wednesday he was named deputy commissioner for foods, a new position that elevates food in an agency long criticized for placing greater emphasis on drugs and medical devices.

    Congress is moving ahead with legislation to grant vast new authority to the FDA to ensure food safety — the House passed a bill last year and the Senate is expected to take up its version soon — and Taylor will be responsible for implementing new laws aimed at preventing outbreaks instead of merely reacting after they occur.

    “We are at an historic tipping point — a moment when the forces have aligned like never before; the president, Congress, industry and the public have stepped up their support for our mission,” Taylor told a gathering of FDA staff members last month.

    Taylor is a familiar figure at the FDA. He began his career as a staff attorney at the agency in 1976. Then he worked for a decade at King & Spaulding, which represented Monsanto Corp., the agribusiness giant that developed genetically engineered corn, soybeans and bovine growth hormone. ad_icon

    He returned to the FDA in 1991 as deputy commissioner for policy and pushed through requirements that producers of seafood and juices adopt measures to prevent bacterial contamination. During the same period, the FDA approved Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone, and Taylor was partly responsible for a controversial policy that said milk from BGH-treated cows did not have to be labeled as such.

    >>> Read the Full Article

  55. (NaturalNews) The one man who may be responsible for more food related illnesses and deaths than anyone in history, Michael R. Taylor, has just been promoted from US Food Safety Czar to Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of the FDA, a position which would enable the giant biotech company Monsanto to silently and legally feed cancer causing vegetables to every living person who is not 100% strictly organic.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_R._Taylor

    Michael R. Taylor is the Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  56. “Independent review board says NSA phone data program is illegal and should end”

    By Ellen Nakashima, Updated: Thursday, January 23, 8:29 AM

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/independent-review-board-says-nsa-phone-data-program-is-illegal-and-should-end/2014/01/22/4cebd470-83dd-11e3-bbe5-6a2a3141e3a9_story.html

    Excerpt:

    An independent executive branch board has concluded that the National Security Agency’s long-running program to collect billions of Americans’ phone records is illegal and should end.

    In a strongly worded report to be issued Thursday, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) said that the statute upon which the program was based, Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, “does not provide an adequate basis to support this program.”

    The board’s conclusion goes further than President Obama, who said in a speech Friday that he thought the NSA’s database of records should be moved out of government hands but did not call for an outright halt to the program. The board had shared its conclusions with Obama in the days leading up to his speech.

    The divided panel also concluded that the program raises serious threats to civil liberties, has shown limited value in countering terrorism and is not sustainable from a policy perspective.

    “We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

    The report is bound to spur further debate in an already charged environment in which many lawmakers are divided about the program’s value and legality. Two federal judges have issued conflicting opinions on the program’s constitutionality.

    The 238-page report is arguably the most extensive analysis to date of the program’s statutory and constitutional underpinnings, as well as of its practical value.

    It rejects the reasoning of at least 15 federal surveillance court judges and the Justice Department in saying that the program cannot be grounded in Section 215. That statute requires that records sought by the government — in this case phone numbers dialed, call times and durations, but not call content — be relevant to an authorized investigation.

    continues…

  57. http://freesnowden.is/_2476.html

    Live Q&A with Edward Snowden: Thursday 23rd January, 8pm GMT, 3pm EST

    “Edward Snowden will be answering questions submitted by the public on his official support site, freesnowden.is, this Thursday 23 January at 8pm GMT, 3pm EST. The support site is run by The Courage Foundation and is the only endorsed Snowden Defence Fund.

    This is the first Snowden live chat since June 2013 and will last for an hour starting at 8pm GMT, 3pm EST. Questions can be submitted on twitter on the day of the event using the #AskSnowden hashtag. Edward Snowden’s responses will appear at http://www.freesnowden.is/asksnowden

    The live chat comes exactly a week after US President Barack Obama gave an address in response to the public concerns raised by Edward Snowden’s revelations about US surveillance practices. In the live chat, Edward Snowden is expected to give his first reaction to the President’s speech.

    Courage (formerly the Journalistic Source Protection Defence Fund) is a trust, audited by accountants Derek Rothera & Company in the UK, for the purpose of providing legal defence and campaign aid to journalistic sources. It is overseen by an unremunerated committee of trustees. Edward Snowden is its first recipient.”

  58. The Snowden Effect, Continued

    By Charles P. Pierce on January 23, 2014

    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/snowden-effect-new-york-times-012314?src=spr_TWITTER&spr_id=1456_41428428

    “By this time, all defenses based on the principle of “They’d never do that,” are moot. The NSA pretty clearly will do whatever it wants to do, whenever it wants to do it, and, if it gets caught later on, it will stand the gaff and move along to do whatever it wants to do next. This is not a rogue thing. This is what the NSA believes its mandate to be. This is what it has decided that its job is. If the country agrees with that, or decides to get distracted by what Edward Snowden says, or what is said in return about him, then the country has decided that it agrees. Ignorance is no longer an acceptable alibi. We know what’s going on.”

    ====

    Americans only know some of “what’s going on.” There’s more.

  59. Penalties for infractions have cost big manufacturers hundreds of millions of dollars – perhaps another reason why the meds they prepare are so expensive.
    In this type of pharmacies, doctors prepare the medicines by mixing different ingredients.
    They work very hard and try different things so that it becomes
    easy for us to cure our ailments.

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