Ewan MacAskill calls out
a rather astounding statement by President Obama during his most recent press conference in St. Petersburg at the G20 summit
. The very last question, which I believe is asked by AFP reporter Tangi Quemener, asks President Obama to respond to some of the recent NSA leaks, in particular the spying on Brazilian and Mexican officials. The President gives the usual long and winding answer about doing what intelligence agencies do, and various costs and benefits, but then there's this:
Now, just more specifically, then, on Brazil and Mexico. I said that I would look into the allegations. I mean, part of the problem here is we get these through the press and then I've got to go back and find out what’s going on with respect to these particular allegations -- I don’t subscribe to all these newspapers, although I think the NSA does -- now at least. (Laughter.)
Leaving aside the "joke" at the end, the admission is rather startling. Here is the President of the US admitting two astounding things. First, it appears that he and the NSA really have no clue at all what information Ed Snowden walked away with, and second (and worse), it appears that the President is admitting that he doesn't know what the NSA is doing and is similarly learning these facts from the press. This comes from the same President who has repeatedly insisted that there is plenty of oversight over these programs. If that's true, then he shouldn't be taken by surprise when the press reveals what the NSA is doing, and shouldn't have to "go back and find out what's going on." He's more or less admitting that there's no oversight and the NSA is a rogue agency making its own rules, only checked on when the press reveals something.