Mr. Obama made only minuscule changes to the NSA spying program. His speech Friday echoed some of the very modest changes to the NSA program that were leaked prior to today. We have to trust him because we will never know if most of the changes are being carried out.
The one thing that stood out was his plan for handling the Section 215 data collection program. He basically said that the government won’t store the information any longer. They will have someone else do it so they can readily access it if they need to.
Mr. Obama with a magnifying glass
He will end government storage of the data and replace it “by one in which the providers or a third party retain the bulk records, with government accessing information as needed.”
What difference will this make? Maybe George Soros could handle this third party consortium!
He emphasized that the programs do not involve the content of calls or the names of the people making the calls. He said the information is intended to meet specific security requirements.
He said that having a third party handle the storage will cost more, present legal challenges, have less accountability and will have a doubtful impact on improving public confidence.
So why are we doing it?
Another question of course is should we trust the government?
Reuters reported in August of last year that there is a secret US Drug Enforcement Administration unit that funnels information from intelligence intercepts to law enforcement and other government agencies so they can launch criminal investigations of citizens, even though these cases rarely involve national security issues.
Law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal the origin of the investigations from defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges.
Agents have been trained on how to “recreate” the investigative trail so the information can be used illicitly.
If true, this process, which is ethically questionable, does do an end-run around our constitutional rights.
The fact is that the government spies on everyone and shares it with everyone and will continue to do so. Check out Washington’s blog and consider the evidence.
When the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was asked by Congress “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”, he lied and said no, at least not “wittingly.”
We should trust them?
Getting back to Mr. Obama’s speech. He made some other changes to the NSA program such as limiting pursuit of phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization, instead of the current three.
Mr. Obama is going to monitor the NSA more and some NSA activities will be more transparent.
He won’t spy on our allied leaders unless government security requires it. He did call them out for their hypocrisy in that they undoubtedly spy on us.
Mr. Obama addressed the Snowden situation:
Given the fact of an open investigation, I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations. I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy. Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we might not fully understand for years to come.
Regardless of how we got here though, the task before us now is greater than simply repairing the damage done to our operations or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future.
We all want to be safe and the threats are undoubtedly great. The NSA needs to have a solid spying program, but is a government with this much power to spy – and possibly entrap citizens – too big?