“President Obama’s announced solution to the NSA spying controversy is the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration.” —Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.
By Marion Algier – Ask Marion
President Barack Obama announced on Friday (today) that he will require intelligence agencies to obtain permission from a secret court before tapping into a vast storehouse of telephone data, and will ultimately move that data out of the hands of the government. He also defended NSA operatives saying the agents were “our neighbors and friends.”
National Journal reported highlights from his speech:
In a bid to calm growing privacy concerns about the government’s spying powers, President Obama outlined a series of steps Friday aimed at ushering in “concrete and substantial” reforms to the National Security Agency.
“Americans recognized that we had to adapt to a world in which a bomb could be built in a basement and our electric grid could be shut down by operators an ocean away,” the president said during a major policy speech at the Department of Justice.
“And yet,” he added, “in our rush to respond to very real and novel threats, the risks of government overreach—the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security—became more pronounced.”
“The reforms I’m proposing today,” Obama said toward the end of the speech, “should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe.”…
…The White House also released a policy directive Friday morning, which recognizes that “signals intelligence activities and the possibility that such activities may be improperly disclosed to the public pose multiple risks,” including harming international relationships. The directive also orders that “privacy and civil liberties shall be integral considerations in the planning of U.S. signals intelligence activities.”
While the president recognized the surveillance program has grown in recent years, he also strongly defended those who work in the intelligence community, saying they do not abuse power. “After all,” he said, “the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors and our friends.”
“Those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties,” Obama said.
Very few have found comfort or even the hope of believability in Obama’s NSA speech.
Jeff Addicott’s Terrorism Law Report: Throughout his Administration, President Obama has been more about political expediency than real policy reform, and today’s speech addressing proposed changes to how the National Security Agency goes about gatherings its information was merely more of the same.
The controversy over the revelations that the NSA has been spying on Americans has proved embarrassing for the President, and so today’s speech was made in large part to address the controversy.
Though I’ve long since maintained that it’s important to balance the need for civil liberties with the need for increased lawful security, living in a post-9/11 world makes it necessary for us to err on the side of security. And I’ve also long since maintained that if you’re trying to stop a terrorist attack at the airport, you very well may be too late – therefore, those in charge of national security should be able to use any tools available to stop terrorist plans before they manifest into full-fledged attacks.
But today’s list of policy changes from President Obama don’t substantively change how the United States goes about its business of gathering domestic intelligence. Though U.S. spy agencies will no longer hold call records, the government can still access this information whenever it needs to – which doesn’t materially change how the information collected will be reviewed or used.
Substantive changes in laws governing surveillance should come from Congress, be it via amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or through new legislation to deal specifically with digital and cell phone communications. It’s not surprising that President Obama would opt to create new policy on his own rather than to work in a bipartisan manner with Congress to collaborate on this crucial issue.
And it also won’t be surprising if these measures don’t help President Obama regain the trust of the American public, be it on behalf of the National Security Agency or in his ability to strike the right balance between security and liberty. This Administration promised to be the most transparent in the history of the United States, and it’s failed to live up to this promise. And even if President Obama were offering up real reform in today’s speech, the American public is firmly in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” camp – and the measures being offered today will hardly be worth watching.
“The president’s speech was empathetic, balanced and thoughtful, but insufficient to meet the real needs of our globally connected world and a free Internet.” —Ed Black of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represents Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other concerned tech companies
Did you happen to see the size of those flags behind Obama at the National Security Agency speech? Those flags are getting bigger and bigger and bigger every speech he makes. And, you know, that’s what dictators do. As our liberties and our freedoms shrink, the symbols get bigger and bigger and bigger. It happens all over the Third World. You can see it. Read More Here: Obama’s NSA BS: As Our Liberties Shrink, the Flags Behind the Dictator Get Bigger
“President Obama’s speech today left many crucial questions unanswered. Now is the time for Congress to improve how it executes its constitutional oversight duties, to examine certain signals intelligence collection activities and practices, and to ensure that we are fulfilling our obligation to protect both the security of our nation and the freedom of our citizens.” —Sen. John McCain, R-AZ