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”

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  2. The Snowden Effect, Continued

    By Charles P. Pierce on January 23, 2014


    “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.

  3. 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.”

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

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



    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.


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