Simple Question: How Could President Obama Not Know That Ed Snowden Had The IG Report That Showed Widespread NSA Abuse?

from the absolutely-incredible dept

Among the many stunning things in the report from Barton Gellman and the Washington Post last night was the fact that it totally debunked President Obama's statements from less than a week ago, arguing (1) that these programs were not abused and (2) that no one was "listening in on people's phone calls (see update below). Both of those appear to be untrue. Here were President Obama's direct comments at last week's press conference:
If you look at the reports, even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden’s put forward, all the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and, you know, listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s e-mails.

What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now part of the reason they’re not abused is because they’re — these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC
And yet, the Inspector General's report shows that just in the DC area alone there were thousands of violations and abuses, and some included intercepting the content of tons of phone calls in the DC area. Update: In an update, the Washington Post admits that the report was about metadata, not actual content, and they had misreported this initially.

Now, I know that some will take the cynical stance that politicians will just lie with abandon and not care about it. But the fact is that while many (perhaps all) are less than truthful at times, they very, very rarely will bumble into making a major statement like this that can be shown to be flat out false in black and white like this in a setting where the remarks were carefully scripted. So here's the thing I don't understand: by this point, the government must at least have some idea of what documents Snowden got, even if they haven't quantified all of them. They had to know that this Inspector's General report was out there and there was a high likelihood that Snowden had leaked it as well.

So I honestly can't figure out what the White House was thinking in having Obama make such a statement. You can argue that he offered a lie for convenience, and hoped that the truth wouldn't come out, but the White House had to know that there was a very high probability of him being proven a liar very soon after making those statements, which then would undermine the entire purpose of the press conference. Yes, politicians lie, but they lie for strategic reasons, and here it seems like the White House can't even think one step ahead in this chess game. Without last week's press conferences, the disclosures from last night would still be stunning and damaging, but coming so soon after the press conference, they're devastating.


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  1.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 4:51am

    I can see your point but honestly if he didn't know the next step will be to come down fiercely with his Presidential-motherfucking-eagle hammer on NSA, Mr Alexander and Mr Clapper. You know, DEMAND answers and justifications for all the deceiving actions and declarations and initiating deep reforms to bring the agency back under control.

    If Obama actually does that then your theory may be right. Of course even if he does it may be too late to save him from going down in history as one of the worst presidents ever.

     

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    rw (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 5:28am

    Re:

    "... worst presidents ever."

    He already did that with Obamacare.

     

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    rw (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 5:31am

    That press conference was a delaying tactic. The next step is shutting down Congress, tearing up the constitution, and becoming a complete police state. Like the Soviet Union really wanted to be. Then the final step is World Domination!! :>

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 6:54am

    Its called secrecy.

    I doubt obama even knows half of what the nsa does. Just because a man becomes president doesn't mean he's let in on everything.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 6:57am

    Lesson from Clapper

    Obama wasn't lying; he was just giving the least untruthful answer.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 6:58am

    It's time to stop funding the NSA completely. If our elected leaders don't want to do it, we the people can by refusing to work and pay taxes until our demands are met.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 6:59am

    Re: Lesson from Clapper

    I go with this. Obama talked about "abuse" which implies intent. The audit claims all these incidents were accidental.

     

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  8.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:05am

    Re: Re:

    the healthcare plan had some decent ideas actually, it's just a lot of it was complete garbage and very poorly thought out.

    free birth control and physicals and basic health stuff at a level that the entire world has a higher standard on than we do (US is far from a leader for healthcare) is a good thing.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:06am

    This particular revelation in the Washington Post appears to be deliberately chosen in response to the comments the president made in the new conference.

    And its a great strategy for the Washington Post and Guardian to take. The president and other members of the government can't not talk about this lest they lose in public opinion due to sheer silence. These news organizations just wait for them to say something stupid and dig through the treasure trove of information provided by Snowden to refute everything the government says.

    It's like a simple game of trading punches. But, right now, the Washington Post and Guardian have bigger fists.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:10am

    Although the NSA knows which documents are out there, maybe Obama never bothered to ask?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:12am

    Re:

    I assume the NSA just lied to Obama like they lie to congress and everyone else.

    You'd think if they lied to enough people they'd run out of people defending them.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:14am

    does it perhaps show that Obama is just a mouth piece for whoever is really running the country? whoever that may be, isn't going to stand up there and make him/herself look a complete plum. letting (ordering) someone else to do that is a bit different. perhaps it also shows the further contempt that the people are held in by government. i know they will go to extraordinary lengths to 'be right' but to go to the lengths they are atm to be proven wrong almost as soon as the words are spoken is a bit ridiculous.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:15am

    Who cares? -- So long as you're OFF the NSA crimes?

    Any distraction will do.

    Masnicking: daily spurts of short and trivial traffic-generating items.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:18am

    Re: Re:

    "Obamacare" didn't throw the Constitution onto the ground and started to stomp on it like it was a bunch of grapes at a winery.

    At BEST opponents to it would mumble something and gesture wildly at the 10th amendment.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:20am

    Re:

    Not really I doubt he beat Bush Jr.

     

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    bgmcb (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:22am

    Either

    they really don't know what Snowden has or they don't dare admit what they have done.

    The President must be pissed. What ever secret keeps him restrained must be a doozy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:22am

    Re: Who cares? -- So long as you're OFF the NSA crimes?

    haha, what? Is your autoresponder broken or something? This couldn't be more on topic of the NSA crimes.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:26am

    Re: Who cares? -- So long as you're OFF the NSA crimes?

    There is nothing trivial about what is being discussed here.

     

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    RyanNerd (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:26am

    Re: Its called secrecy.

    If you are going to publicly defend a program and are the President of the United States then you better damn well do your homework and find out what you are defending. Make sure you have a platform of truth. Otherwise stuff like this just might bite you in the butt later on.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:28am

    Re: Its called secrecy.

    He probably knows more than you think, but garbage in/garbage out still applies. He also probably trusts their judgement as they're theoretically the experts there, so if they assure him the things they do are necessary, he takes their word for it.

    He's also probably unwilling to start hammering the NSA over stuff that was pretty much in place before he was president. Especially as if he started hammering them on it, he'd start getting hammered by the Republicans for "being soft on terrorism", or "letting the terrorists win".

     

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    NoahVail (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:28am

    Given the gushing outpouring of Press Love that followed Obama into the presidency
    and
    given the general ineptitude of most US news outlets, why would Pres Obama expect to be challenged on this?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:36am

    Re: Re: Lesson from Clapper

    No, the report states that some of it was accidental -such as the typos. In other cases it's quite clear that there was abuse, like retaining data after being told to dispose of it.

     

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    dcameronngosborne, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:36am

    Re: why would Pres Obama expect to be challenged on this?

    i think this is the point. Not everyone reads the Washington Post and the Guardian. In fact very few do. And all of them already vote against the parties that support NSA/GCHQ behaviour. So none of these revelations make much of a difference to those in power.
    So Politicians lie about secrecy. So what? Its the economy, stupid!

     

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    Pragmatic, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:38am

    Re:

    I understand that this is what the investor/state clauses in the alphabet soup treaties are for.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:38am

    Snowden "was bothered by technology companies"

    Yeah, me too!
    In February 2010, while working for Dell, Snowden wrote ... that he was bothered by technology companies allegedly giving the U.S. government access to private computer servers.

    "It really concerns me how little this sort of corporate behavior bothers those outside of technology circles," Snowden wrote under the screen name "The True HooHA." "Society really seems to have developed an unquestioning obedience towards spooky types."

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/15/usa-security-snowden-dell-idUSL2N0GF11220130815

    RE-FOCUS on NSA crimes facilitated by corporations, Mike! You have rumped the shirk. (Or whatever that phrase is.)


    Now, I want to explicitly hedge that won't surprise me if Snowden's backstory soon collapses so that his "revelations" are discredited!

    Snowden has said he left Dell for a job at Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii around March of this year, specifically to gain access to additional top-secret documents that could be leaked to the media.

    Booz Allen Hamilton fired Snowden after he fled to Hong Kong with a trove of secret material.

    Really? Changed jobs and went to Hawaii for access, there found a hot stripper girlfriend, then threw it all over to be international fugitive in THREE months? Man, that's some idealism.

    And then there's the "trove", which if exists, Russia now has? -- Though Russia appeared reluctant to take him? Pffft!

    I don't believe it's much of a stretch from those wacky "facts" to guess that part of the Snowden flap is to gin up a new cold war with Russia, partly over Syria, as seems in progress...

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:39am

    Re:

    In an NSA baack-office in the near future:

    The Congress and Senate will not longer be of any concern to us. I've just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. Fear will keep the locals in line.

     

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    Pragmatic, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:42am

    Re:

    That's why they are keeping our wages down, AC so we can't afford to do that. Remember, hoarding food is considered to be suspicious, and you'd have to do that if you weren't drawing a wage or hadn't got savings to rely on to get you through a strike.

    Besides, due to Republican action against unions, you'd quickly be replaced. Union-bashing has already demonized them to such a degree that if they got involved in this national strike you're proposing, they'd have "terrorist" added to the list of things they're accused of being.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:44am

    Re: Re: Re:

    It's implementation sure has. Illegal selective delays on imposed requirements. Illegal expansion of tax credits, subsides, and fines to states with a federal exchange. The list goes on and on really.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 7:58am

    Re:

    They also release information a little at a time which keeps the issue from being removed permanently from the radar by some other sensational story that the mainstream press decides to run with. It also allows the public to digest it a little at a time. It's a brilliant move on their part and one that very effectively counters the weaseling, dodging and distracting attempts by those desperately trying to make this go away.

     

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  30.  
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    ss, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:02am

    Re: Snowden "was bothered by technology companies"

    Just ... idiot.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:02am

    Not defending Obama, but it is perfectly possible that he didn't know at all, he trust others with the details and gets only reports from others, probably others failed him.

    Either way it looks bad, if he knew and it is being dishonest or by incompetence the government couldn't look at everything that Snowden has taken to prevent this kind of thing from happening it just shows that this government is not to be trusted.

    This is exactly why strong, meaningful oversight is always a good thing, not this crap, not this crap.

     

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  32.  
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    Aaron (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:17am

    Re: Lesson from Clapper

    You know what the least untruthful answer is? The truth.

     

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  33.  
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    Jeff (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:20am

    Re: Snowden "was bothered by technology companies"

    When you think, does the friction of your brain cells rubbing together catch the rest of your body on fire??

     

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    NoahVail (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re: why would Pres Obama expect to be challenged on this?

    You might have lost me.

    Readers of WaPo and the Guardian tend to be folks who vote against both the Repub and Dems (the parties who support surveillance abuse)?

    I'm not so sure about that.

     

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    John Nemesh, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:24am

    Re:

    Um, Congress is ALREADY shut down. They are already to step 3.

     

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    John Nemesh, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:25am

    Re: Re: Lesson from Clapper

    you don't "accidentally" listen to a phone call.

     

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    John Nemesh, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:26am

    Re: Snowden "was bothered by technology companies"

    Sorry, no one is buying your disinformation.

     

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    Reader, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:38am

    Re: Re: Its called secrecy.

    Right. How is it ignored that NSA's own audit is the source of these disclosures, which they routinely conduct in efforts to continuously improve very complex and labor intensive operations. Then, for traffic driving sensationalism, this gets conflated into the headline that the NSA is scandalously spying on the public again. The NSA couldn't care less about the public's personal lives, as long as they're not engaged in plans for mass violence or cyber crimes. They couldn't be more eager to exclude all the superfluous content from private citizens. It seems easier for people to delude themselves that defense organizations actually eavesdrop on over a trillion conversations a year, rather than supposing that they really interested in thwarting real dangers.

    Not to say this capability shouldn't remain under continuous scrutiny, since, like all power, it can be abused. But so far, there's no justification for the lather that the press keeps stirring up to suggest a fiendish governmental conspiracy to invade the population's privacy.

     

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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:44am

    Re: Snowden "was bothered by technology companies"

    Been meaning to comment on an OOTB rant for a while but it always seemed pointless, but this time I just decided to do it.

    OOTB you confuse me. You hate corporations so much and wear your tin-foil hat with a strange pride. Yet you rant against the person that is exposing a lot of the corporations cooperation with the government.

    You have every right to speak your mind!! And I have never once voted your posts to be hidden as everyone should see how an insane person can make articulate arguments to the world with inarticulate information.

    But really your mind seems to be a place of conflicting rants and one of very little substance.

     

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    anonymouse, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:47am

    OBAMA

    Obama does not know anything that the NSA are doing he is being lied to, or that is going to be his excuse when the shit hits the fan and, according to Snowden the worst is yet to come.


    The NSA is in total control here/
    The fact that they did not come out and tell congress the truth and tried to cover up some of the leaks as being lies until they were proven correct is a very big warning to all that this s much much worse than it has been said to be.

    For Obama to have come out and said what he did means one of two things in my mind. He was either lying knowingly or he was lied to.

    The only way for this to be resolved is if the NSA is audited by a completely independent organisation. Where all the lies are removed, where if the NSA does not provide all the documentation available and another leak proves it then the head of the NSA must be questioned under oath in a public hearing for the interest of the country, forget state secrets if anyone thinks they are above congress they need to be shown they are not, even if it means that some methods they use are made public.


    No secret is big enough to remove oversight and the fact that the NSA has probably been doing things they should not be doing is beyond disgusting.

    I mean what is to say that they have not been monitoring all calls made in the tea-party group, what is to say they have not been monitoring all communications between republican representatives and their grass roots supporters.

    Or that they have not been monitoring communications between big business and politicians. The NSA has gone way over what they are supposed to be doing and I have a feeling not even OBAMA knows the worst yet.

     

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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:48am

    Re:

    Sadly, I agree with you. I really don't think anyone in our government really knows all the information that Snowden has.

    And that in and of itself is very worrying. Not because of Snowden but because it also means that they might not know what information that people intent on harming America might have.

     

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    Vera City (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:50am

    Worse than you think

    Mike,

    What is more disturbing is that in the Washington Post article it states that they had been in contact with the NSA about this document before the story came out and they have been working on it for awhile. Since these articles are being extensively vetted by the Post's lawyers before they are being published, it is fairly safe to assume that the contact was over week ago.

    It is not that the NSA didn't know that this was going to be released, they did and that information did not make it through to the President's office. Unless, of course, the public response is being written by people who do not have security clearances and are not being given the information.

     

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    Applesauce, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:52am

    No new daily show

    Thursday night, The Daily Show went into reruns until September. The Daily show is the only TV show likely to report this "seriously". So, with nobody reporting on it, the lie will quickly fade.

     

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    sorrykb (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 8:59am

    Maybe they reckoned we'd be so impressed that there was an audit at all that we wouldn't care about its results.

     

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    Tman, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Its called secrecy.

    That's how self reporting works. Everyone expects there to be some abuse, but as long as we don't report the really bad stuff, who's the wiser?

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 9:33am

    Re: Its called secrecy.

    I doubt obama even knows half of what the nsa does. Just because a man becomes president doesn't mean he's let in on everything.

    That's true to a certain extent, but there's *no way* that the administration didn't know about the details of the IG report.

     

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    Miko, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 9:34am

    Re:

    Yeah, refusing to pay taxes until they stop is a great idea. I mean, it's not like they can stop a large-scale tax protest using some sort of massive spying infrastructure that funnels information to the IRS.

     

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  48.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 9:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Its called secrecy.

    The NSA couldn't care less about the public's personal lives, as long as they're not engaged in plans for mass violence or cyber crimes.

    Or having hot steamy phone sex, as was revealed a few years ago... but... details.

    They couldn't be more eager to exclude all the superfluous content from private citizens. It seems easier for people to delude themselves that defense organizations actually eavesdrop on over a trillion conversations a year, rather than supposing that they really interested in thwarting real dangers.

    More seriously you're totally missing the point here. Of course the NSA isn't interested in everyone's everyday calls, but that's not what people are concerned about. It's the possibility of serious abuse that becomes a problem. This could be in the form of if you ever did come into the cross hairs of the government for any reason -- such as Aaron Swartz being arrested for downloading gov't funded research -- the ability to delve into someone's background and find "other" violations becomes way too easy in an overcriminalized era.

    Not to say this capability shouldn't remain under continuous scrutiny, since, like all power, it can be abused. But so far, there's no justification for the lather that the press keeps stirring up to suggest a fiendish governmental conspiracy to invade the population's privacy.

    Sentence one and sentence two contrast each other. There is no continuous scrutiny. That's the concern. What this is revealing is the complete failure of scrutiny.

    No one is arguing that the government was directly spying on this person or that person, but that they shouldn't even have the ability to do that. Yet they do and denied it. What we know and you don't seem to recognize is that sooner or later this power gets abused. The evidence is pretty much all of human history.

    So some of us believe that the protections provided to us under the Constitution should be obeyed to prevent that kind of abuse. It's only the truly foolish who argue that "well, sure, it might be abused, but let's not worry until then." You are incredibly naive.

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 9:56am

    The simple answer to your question

    You are dealing with 18,000+ documents if memory serves me correctly. The White House is in crisis mode and scrambling every which way. They have more than half a dozen "non-scandals". The ACA (aka ObamaCare) is going down in flames with unions, house and Senate opting out. The economy is worsening regardless of what the administration is saying.

    The result, they screwed the pooch on this one, and popcorn sales have gone up.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 10:03am

    Re: Re: Snowden "was bothered by technology companies"

    Your confusion is due to the clash of 'word' vs 'actions'.

    OoTB has shown over and over and over, that while he may say he hates 'all' corporations, with the exception of google, which he has a fixation on, he cannot jump in and deflect criticism from corps and the government fast enough when they get caught doing something wrong.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 10:28am

    Re: Re:

    If you don't work, there is nothing to tax, and you're not doing anything illegal.

     

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    btrussell (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 10:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Its called secrecy.

    "This could be in the form of if you ever did come into the cross hairs of the government for any reason -- such as Aaron Swartz being arrested for downloading gov't funded research -- the ability to delve into someone's background and find "other" violations becomes way too easy in an overcriminalized era."

    More than just the government will want and gain access to this stored data.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 10:32am

    I belive one question everyone should be asking is what kinds of scandalous information does the NSA have on those elected officials that are standing up to protect these programs?

     

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    sorrykb (profile), Aug 16th, 2013 @ 11:33am

    Re:

    I belive one question everyone should be asking is what kinds of scandalous information does the NSA have on those elected officials that are standing up to protect these programs?

    They don't need scandalous information. The elected officials already know that not protecting these programs would jeopardize their future careers as consultants/lobbyists/CEOs for defense contractors.

    Scandals are ephemeral. Money is eternal.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 3:18pm

    I wonder if Obama is going to stick with his tried and true "I just found out about this on the news like the rest of the public"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    icon
    toyotabedzrock (profile), Aug 17th, 2013 @ 1:02am

    Simple

    I have said this starting in June, as an admin you can erase the logs which would leave other logs but would limit the NSA from knowing everything he took.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    mijj, Aug 17th, 2013 @ 2:10am

    i reckon Obama and Officialdom will just spin what they want the Public to believe. This goes hand in glove with Obama's obfuscating Cold War rhetoric.

    Their hope is that the bulk of the public will rally behind the protective authoritative officials and ignore the obscure person in a far off enemy land telling them stuff they prefer to deny.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
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    hopponit (profile), Aug 17th, 2013 @ 10:07pm

    Obama not knowing what Snowden has

    I'm a little worried that this shows a deeper cancer. The 'spooks' and advisers may not trust Obama! They may be spoon feeding him lies to cover their tracks. They may be scared that he will turn on them when lies are exposed. He really may NOT know the true facts. Sorry to say I don't believe this much myself, but if it is true we have even more to worry about.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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