President Obama Says He'll Rein In NSA... Then Proceeds To Praise And Defend Everything They've Done

from the not-very-convincing dept

In an interview on Thursday, President Obama said that he's going to propose some "self-restraint on the NSA" and to "initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence." Of course, he's the boss of the NSA. He doesn't need to "propose" anything -- he can order them to stop. Furthermore, it appears that nearly everything else he talked about was supporting the actions of the NSA, so it's a bit difficult to take seriously this idea that there will be any significant decrease in NSA activity.
"The challenge is...we do have people who are trying to hurt us. And they communicate through these same systems," Obama said. "And if we're going to do a good job preventing a terrorist attack in this country, a weapon of mass destruction getting on the New York subway system, etc., we do want to keep eyes on some bad actors."

"I want to everybody to be clear: the people at the NSA, generally, are looking out for the safety of the American people. They are not interested in reading your emails. They're not interested in reading your text messages. And that's not something that's done. And we've got a big system of checks and balances, including the courts and Congress, who have the capacity to prevent that from happening," the president added.
That's misleading to inaccurate, depending on your perspective. The checks and balances are not all they're cracked up to be, with everyone pretty much reliant on the NSA telling the truth, combined with the fact that many of those responsible for "oversight" are so close with the NSA that they're more co-conspirators than actual overseers.

Separately, can we drop this whole "they're not interested in reading your emails" bullshit? All people are saying there is "look you're a peon so shut up and deal with the fact that you have no privacy." That's ridiculous. Clearly the NSA is reading lots of people's emails (and getting data about them and what they do). While they might not make use of it today to spy on you in particular, that doesn't mean that it won't change in the future when suddenly you become "a person of interest" for whatever reason. It's easy for some people to think that the government won't ever care what they're doing -- but that can always change in a hurry and by the time it does, it's too late to start "worrying" about your privacy.

On top of that, recent revelations have made it clear that the NSA has no qualms at all about using information it gathers on non-terrorists that it doesn't like to try to destroy their lives. Sure, the NSA might not want to read your email today. But, piss off the wrong person tomorrow...

Separately, if they don't want to spy on me, let's make a simple deal then: stop doing it. It's hard to square this claim from NSA defenders that it's okay to spy on all of us because they don't want to spy on all of us. The right response is to stop spying on all of us. You want to go after the so-called "bad people," okay, then target those people but not everyone in hopes you might find some bad people mixed in there.

Oh, and once again, it's incredibly insulting how completely unconcerned the President and other NSA defenders seem to be about the rest of the world. Once again the message is basically: if you're not American, fuck you.
"The N.S.A. actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people's emails, not listening to the contents of their phone calls. Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws," Obama said.
But it can be constrained by their boss, who happens to be the President. Will he actually do anything?

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Dec 2013 @ 9:44am

    Re:

    I remember travelling a decade ago and having tourist shop owners tell me they hate f***** americans.

    They don't really do anything directly, but a great many of them have this attitude about them that combined with global american politics and the media make for a really bad combination for perception.

    Time for the US to take a step back and focus on fixing things at home rather than "lead" the world.

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