This article originally appeared in the 1.23.14 issue of Metroland
So, did the President’s speech about NSA spying put your
fears to rest?
I heard most of it in the car.
He sounded nervous, overly careful in his
choices of words, and thoroughly unconvincing.
This from the guy who’s delivered, over and over, some of the most
compelling speeches of our lifetime.
What did he
It was kind of like this: we’ll
have more “oversight” in section this and that proceedings (trust us, trust us!),
we’ll have study groups look at scary things, we’ll have a secret public
advocate attend secret court hearings and provide double-secret “oversight”
(trust us some more!), and, maybe we won’t let the government hold all that
surveillance data anymore, maybe we’ll leave it all with somebody in the
This last thingee,
coming mere weeks after Target and a bunch of other big retailers admitted that
their customer credit card data had been filched by folks using a program
whipped up by a 17 year-old, does not make me feel safer.
Let’s outsource surveillance!
What could possibly go wrong?
failed to address the fact that his NSA henchmen had been caught bald-faced
lying to Congress.
And while he
acknowledged Edward Snowden, without whom this speech and the “reforms” it brings
would not have happened, he refused to cut him any slack whatsoever.
So Snowden is still, in the eyes of the Feds,
a rogue criminal, and not the whistleblower hero he so obviously is (NSA toady
Rep. Mike Rogers, who has no more business being the head of the House
Intelligence Committee than my dog Kimchi, was blabbing away on Sunday morning
teevee that Snowden had help from the Rooskies, despite a total lack of
evidence that this was remotely true).
sources for this sort of thing, Techdirt.com and the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, were surprisingly, albeit tepidly, positive following the speech.
Apparently expectations for any kind of
change had been so low that the modest gestures approximating a call for reform
generated some optimism.
Further to the left (over where it meets
libertarianism), there were the predictable howls of protest about the wretched
police state we find ourselves laboring in.
Normally, I’d dismiss these as the histrionic and narcissistic work of sad
contrarians, except what these bohos were saying was pretty close to what I’ve
been saying (or at least thinking) for a long time.
I highly recommend that you take the time to
read Chris Hedges’ What Obama Really
over at Truthdig.com for a scholarly and comprehensive look at
the historical and socio-economic forces that got us here.
Holy moly times 10. I used to think that I
use the word “fascist” a little too much here.
The lack of
meaningful change we can believe in is probably most evident in the lack of a
firestorm from the NSA’s staunchest defenders, like the aforementioned creep
Rep. Mike Rogers, various former NSA officials (who make fortunes from their
NSA connections) or Rogers’ Democratic counterpart Senator Diane Feinstein, who
has made one wacky statement after another about the propriety of the
government’s unrestrained spying on its own citizenry.
Most recently, Feinstein went on Meet The Press
and said that everything
the NSA is doing is just fine because the NSA is so “professional.”
And she said it over and over again.
Trust us! End of argument.
mainstream press, as usual, gives the whole issue a pass.
You know the drill, there’s good arguments on
both sides and it’s not our job to report the truth.
read this column much, you know that we like Obama over here.
A whole lot.
Which makes this privacy thing troubling, to say the least.
As a presidential candidate, Obama was
emphatic that he would end the government spying on its own citizens, add
transparency to the NSA, and do everything he could to restore meaning to the
Fourth Amendment. This was all way pre-Snowden; there were reports of abuses of
the law, of the NSA being a little to cozy with telcos, but this stuff was
barely front-page news.
And as a former
constitutional law professor, one would assume he knew what he was saying.
If you’ve read spy novels or
war history books, you know that there’s oftentimes good-guy clandestine things
going on that can’t be made public, like when the US let the Germans bomb the
bejesus out of some European cities during WWII, because to reveal prior knowledge
of the bombings would betray intelligence sources needed for the larger
Did Obama flip because of things we
That’s the root of the
whole “trust us” deal, isn’t it?
Or did he
just hit a bureaucracy / shadow government more powerful than the presidency,
and lacks the power, or the will, or the balls to take it down?
Paul Rapp is an
earnest IP attorney busily practicing near the NY/MA border who is enjoying the IFC show“Spoils of Babylon” way too much.