To be more blunt about it, he’s lying. He gave an interview, and said the NSA programs (you know, the ones where they hoover up all our metadata, and all our browsing habits) were “transparent”.
Obama: So point number one, if you’re a U.S. person, then NSA is not listening to your phone calls and it’s not targeting your emails unless it’s getting an individualized court order. That’s the existing rule. There are two programs that were revealed by Mr. Snowden, allegedly, since there’s a criminal investigation taking place, and they caused all the ruckus. Program number one, called the 2015 Program, what that does is it gets data from the service providers like a Verizon in bulk, and basically you have call pairs. You have my telephone number connecting with your telephone number. There are no names. There is no content in that database. All it is, is the number pairs, when those calls took place, how long they took place. So that database is sitting there. Now, if the NSA through some other sources, maybe through the FBI, maybe through a tip that went to the CIA, maybe through the NYPD. Get a number that where there’s a reasonable, articulable suspicion that this might involve foreign terrorist activity related to Al-Qaeda and some other international terrorist actors. Then, what the NSA can do is it can query that database to see did any of the — did this number pop up? Did they make any other calls? And if they did, those calls will be spit out. A report will be produced. It will be turned over to the FBI. At no point is any content revealed because there’s no content that —
Charlie Rose: So I hear you saying, I have no problem with what NSA has been doing.
Barack Obama: Well, let me — let me finish, because I don’t. So, what happens is that the FBI — if, in fact, it now wants to get content; if, in fact, it wants to start tapping that phone — it’s got to go to the FISA court with probable cause and ask for a warrant.
Charlie Rose: But has FISA court turned down any request?
Barack Obama: The — because — the — first of all, Charlie, the number of requests are surprisingly small… number one. Number two, folks don’t go with a query unless they’ve got a pretty good suspicion.
Charlie Rose: Should this be transparent in some way?
Barack Obama: It is transparent. That’s why we set up the FISA court….
Note that he didn’t answer Rose. He dodged, told how the Court is supposed to work, but not if it’s actually denied a single request*
He’s also glossing the information in the Metadata. If all it is is useless numbers, then it’s a pointless waste of time. The only way the data can be used, if if at least one end of the number pair has a name. So that’s one lie.
Two, “the number of requests are surprisingly small,”**. That’s a response to requests to the FISC (the “FISA Court”). There was a shift in that response, which (to me) seems telling. The FISC gets a lot more than just, “can we unlock this single pair of numbers” requests. Since Obama was bobbing and weaving, I don’t think he was actually focusing his attention on this narrow subset. That’s one of the things you learn when doing interrogations; people who have things to hide, are thinking about them. Art Linkletter used to have a show, “Kids say the darndest things”. One of his stock questions (so stock you’d think it would have stopped working) was to ask at least one kid a week, “What did your parents tell you not to say”. I think Obama is suffering from that. He doesn’t want to talk about the scope of the NSA’s actually snooping into the lives of Americans; and it’s affecting his tone. His language is defensive.
That makes me think this isn’t the worst of it.
But back to that statement about FISC: What happens when a request comes to the FISC?
Director Keith Alexander was asked to explain the process that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts go through before approving a request to access the content of those communications. Alexander said that the courts work with the NSA to make sure that they are not violating American civil rights and those courts do not “rubber stamp” surveillance requests…
He said that he has been impressed with the FISA court’s diligence, “every time we make a mistake, how they work with us to make sure it is done correctly – to protect our civil liberties and privacy and go through the court process.”
Got that… if they fuck up the request, the Court tells them how to word it so they can do it. Maybe I’m being too harsh, maybe they tell them the warrant is overbroad, and they can’t have all the data they are asking for, but 1: If that’s the case HOW MUCH WERE THEY AFTER BEFORE?, and 2: I can’t know because the proceedings of that court aren’t transparent. They are classified. The Judges all have Top Secret Clearances, and the people on whom the warrants are served are enjoined from discussing it.
This the the same law the FBI used to demand the names, and durations, of every person who checked into any hotel in Las Vegas, for a several month period.
Steve Doocey is being hypocrite, in a big way, in his horror at all of this. “Doocey countered that the Obama administration has veered into “illegal” territory.” Never mind that the law Obama is using was written to deal with the fact that Bush straight up admitted he was breaking the law, and had no intention of stopping.
Obama’s defense of all this, “trust is, we won’t break the law”. He’s not quite as bad as Cheney, who said:
WALLACE: So what right do you think the American people have to know what government is doing?
CHENEY: Well, they get to vote for senior officials, like the President of the United States, or like the senior officials in Congress. And you have to have some trust in them.
Sorry, but I don’t get to vote on who gets to chair what House Committee, I sure as hell don’t get to vote on who the head of the NSA is, so he’s being more than a tad deceptive with that. Then again, this is the guy who sent me to war on the assurance that his intel folks (remember, he had a parallel track of “reliable” intel, not like the stuff the CIA was giving them about al Qaeda wanting to commit a mass-casualty attack on the US) that Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Trust us, he says; this is the guy who was VP to Bush fils, the one who was actively breaking the law. He also says that Snowden is a traitor, who “damaged Natinal Security. This is the same fuckmuppet who outed Valerie Plame; and burned an entire network of people who would have been able to tell us about folks who were actually managing to get those WMD he was pretending to be so concerned about when he could start a war (and make a few hundred million dollars in personal profit on the deal: a lot easier than selling Cardboard Shoes to the Union Army).
*to the best of my knowledge, the answer is No, they have not denied a single request.
** Apple and Facebook each said it was between 9-10,000 requests last year. What isn’t in that is the scope of those 18-20,000 requests they made of just those two companies.