Obama: Checks & Balances Work Great To Prevent Abuse By NSA… But, Perhaps We Could Fix Things

from the say-what-now dept

It appears that, for the first time, President Obama has, ever so slightly, conceded that perhaps laws need to be tightened up to prevent abuses by the NSA. Of course, that came immediately after he insisted (falsely) that the current checks and balances were working and that the NSA isn’t spying on Americans. This is a flat out lie from the President, and people should call him on it. He’s lying.

“What I can say with confidence is that when it comes to our domestic operation, the concerns that people have back home in the United States of America, that we do not surveil the American people or persons within the United States, that there are a lot of checks and balances in place designed to avoid a surveillance state,” Obama said. “There have been times where the procedures, because these are human endeavors, have not worked the way they should and we had to tighten them up. And I think there are legitimate questions that have been raised about the fact that as technology advances and capabilities grow, it may be that the laws that are currently in place are not sufficient to guard against the dangers of us being able to track so much.”

Once again, that first part — the part he says “with confidence” — is a lie. We’ve already seen plenty of evidence that while the NSA insists that it doesn’t surveil people within the US, it appears to do so regularly. Of course, since it classifies these as “incidental,” it doesn’t think they count, but they do. No, it may not be watching every single thing that US citizens do, but US citizens’ data are clearly captured and analyzed quite frequently.

That said, the second part of that statement is actually a tiny step forward, in that it’s President Obama actually signalling — for the first time — that the program has been abused and that new rules are possible. Many people will complain that it’s such a minor statement (and coming right after a flat out lie, not particularly trustworthy), but it is more or less a signal that the President is likely resolved to agree to changes in how the NSA operates. Now the fight will be over what kinds of changes. The administration will seek to minimize those changes, but just the admission that changes need to happen is at least a baby step in the right direction.

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Comments on “Obama: Checks & Balances Work Great To Prevent Abuse By NSA… But, Perhaps We Could Fix Things”

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Change You Can Believe In says:

Real changes or symbolic changes?

“Now the fight will be over what kinds of changes.”

If that’s the best we can hope for then it doesn’t bode well for our rights as American citizens. It amounts to conceding that the battle against domestic surveillance is all but lost and all that’s left to figure out is how much less awful we want it to be. “Least untruthful”, meet “least unconstitutional”.

The changes needed to make things right would amount to a scrapping everything we have and starting anew.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Real changes or symbolic changes?

True… and the mainstream media in the UK for example has said very little on the issue. Most people don’t even know ffs.

All those times he was claiming “Oh we don’t do it to Americans” “honest”. He basically ADMITTED he was doing it to the rest of the world and it was OK to do so.

Obama wants so much to be a “good president” that he plays the game to try and please everyone.

Please the contractors of the NSA… “contract for spy kit and you donate to Democrats… done”

oh shiiiett

Please the American people… “oh no we don’t spy on you… done”

oh shiiiett

Please the rest of the world… “oh no we don’t spy on you… done”

oh shiiiett

Please the Republicans… “I know they donate to you too, we will keep the spying” ….done”

The guy needs to stop trying to be a “good president” and start working for his people.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not spying on anyone?

And I can give assurances to the publics in europe and around the world that we’re not going around snooping at people’s emails or listening to their phone calls. What we try to do is to target very specifically areas of concern

I find it interesting that he’s having to address concerns by non-Americans too. Before, they’ve always said ‘don’t worry, we’re targeting international communications’. Now he’s having to dig deeper in the BS and assure the international community that they aren’t being spied on. Who does that leave? Is there anyone else that he hasn’t lied about?

Beech says:

” we do not surveil the American people or persons within the United States”

As with ever with our Glorious Leader, you really need to dig into every syllable that comes out of his mouth in search for loopholes. My choice of weasel word is “SURVEIL” because, wow, that word could mean anything. “Sure every 0 and 1 that comes out of your computer is being saved to a government hard drive until the heat death of the universe, but it doesn’t COUNT as surveillance until they look at it/mine it/ say it does.”

letherial (profile) says:

1. blaming just obama is ignorance at its finest
2. probably not every 0 and 1, just the important ones
3. the universe will probably end in coldness when the last star dies out. Unlikely we will be alive then.
4. I dont care what the government thinks, recording is surveying, I dont care if its never looked at. By there logic they could install a camera in everyone house as long as nobody looks at what its recording…until you know, someone does.

Anonymous Coward says:

You know, we’ve just had the revelation that AT&T is in cahoots with law enforcement. 25 years of databank data. Apparently no need of a warrant and no need of a judge to get in the way of finding your data.

If local enforcement is in it, sooner or later, the beans are gonna spill that the NSA is and has been in it. When that happens, so much for the idea that the NSA doesn’t spy on what you say on the phone.

That there is even the tiniest bit of bending towards owning up to a problem after all this time, this isn’t a real own up; its still the same game of cover up and lie. Nothing has changed. As such I want to see the entire internal spying closed down, lock, stock, and barrel.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think the real problem is congress coming back into session. What few congress critters actually listened to their constituents have heard an earful about how unhappy they are with the spying and privacy invasion.

He knows he’ll have to put in a fight over it when they return. He’s just setting the table ware before the dinner is served. It’s my hope he’s the main course over this crap.

He’s done nothing but lie and carry water for big corps and finance.

Anonymous Coward says:


We have lost all confidence with our leaders to tell the truth about anything. They have been proven to have lied much to often to retain any credibility whatsoever. I am ready to write-in Ed Snowden’s name at the next presidential election as the only honest player in the game. How can you tell when a politician is lying? His lips moved!

Anonymous Coward says:

“No, it may not be watching every single thing that US citizens do, but US citizens’ data are clearly captured and analyzed quite frequently.”

That it’s not every single citizen being queried (even though the potential exists for nearly every single individual) is beside the point. The fact is that with as many queries as are being run on a monthly basis it’s clear that there’s a lot more going on than we actually know about.

The point that should be made is that they’re probably targeting very specific groups of citizens and we don’t know that it’s justifiable legally and that it isn’t politically motivated. It’s very likely unconstitutional and is very likely not just passive surveillance. I’ll be willing to bet they’re exerting influence a la Cass Sunstein to neutralize political enemies’ influence.

GEMont (profile) says:

“The administration will seek to minimize those changes, but just the admission that changes need to happen is at least a baby step in the right direction.”

I don’t think you’re going to be very happy with the changes that your president has been ordered to implement however. The only changes that his corporate masters are considering are changes that make it :

a. impossible to leak more info about these surveillance operations by making it illegal for any news service to publish such things, and

b. impossible to hold anyone responsible for any of the abuses that will continue to take place at an ever increasing rate, such as the telcos’ and NSA’s employees.

But I’ll just bet you thought he meant he was going to put limits on the spooks’ snooping potential didn’t you…

Silly humans.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, which to some degree informs me about the word “surveil”. Left unmentioned in my original comment is that the entirety of the quotation is replete with commas, weasel words, etc. that can be relied upon to blunt criticisms such as here. Think what you will, but Obama is no fool and chooses his words with great care so that he can argue he was “against” before one group and “for” before another. Much like Clinton’s attempt to define “is”.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

All of which is true, not just for Obama & Clinton, but for literally every president, and almost every politician.

The point where I disagree is that this means that you can’t call Obama a liar about this stuff. You absolutely can: someone is lying when they are speaking in a way that is deceptive, even if what they say is technically true.

It’s why it doesn’t actually matter what any of them say.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I agree that one is free to call someone a liar, but I believe it would be wiser to refrain from doing when statements as susceptible to several meanings.

BTW, I would not discount the possibility that Obama may be relying upon what he has been told by his staff. If this proves to be the case I would be inclined to terminate the lot of them and then demand that the President stop being a mouthpiece and become a cross-examiner before accepting staff statements at face value.

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