Instead of pesky informants, the Obama Administration prefers the “hoovering” of all electronic data, foreign and domestic, as well as the use of drones to spy on the citizenry. (And what does a drone do in such cases? It’s one of a million surveillance cameras, only it’s in the sky instead of on the ground.)
But rest assured, Barack “The Surveiller” Obama has made the determination with regards to your privacy and these programs are well worth the intrusion into every corner of the American life. It’s a small price to pay.
(The problem isn’t that these things are illegal; the problem is that they are legal.)
Send lawyers, drones, and money. It’s for your own good.
The surveillance state is simply not credible as the basic assertion of the watchers/gatherers appears to be this: “good” Americans are wholly surveilled while their privacy remains intact. Or, in some sort of paradox that makes sense only to the watchers and gatherers, we are monitored but free.
From the Washington Post comes the story of a leaker trying to do some damage repair:
The White House, the NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the record for this article. A senior intelligence official agreed to answer questions if not identified.
So based on the above, we likely have authorized leaks from an unidentified source. What’s comes next? The unnamed source’s plea for trust, naturally. Here’s what the leaker says:
“We have rich oversight across three branches of government. I’ve got an [inspector general] here, a fairly robust legal staff here . . . and there’s the Justice Department’s national security division,” the official said. “For those things done under court jurisdiction, the courts are intrusive in my business, appropriately so, and there are two congressional committees. It’s a belts-and-suspenders-and-Velcro approach, and inside there’s rich auditing.”
This might be the sort of “rich oversight” the IRS is subject to on non-profits, along with the associated “rich auditing.” (“Rich auditing” may in fact be code for “political targeting.” And as it turns out, the IRS is the one who does the auditing, not the public. We really don’t know much regarding the true genesis of the IRS scandal except that it’s a massive oversight failure. And ironically, those at the top often hide behind claims of “privacy.”)
Next, industry wants the top cover that only government can provide (and government is happy to do so. It makes the story sound so much better.)
When the New York Times revealed the warrantless surveillance of voice calls, in December 2005, the telephone companies got nervous. One of them, unnamed in the report, approached the NSA with a request. Rather than volunteer the data, at a price, the “provider preferred to be compelled to do so by a court order,” the report said. Other companies followed suit. The surveillance court order that recast the meaning of business records “essentially gave NSA the same authority to collect bulk telephony metadata from business records that it had” under Bush’s asserted authority alone.
So there you have it: meet the new boss, same as the old boss (except the new boss has a government approved program which is the same as the old, decider-approved program).
And what about the internet?
The NSA calls Internet metadata “digital network information.” Sophisticated analysis of those records can reveal unknown associates of known terrorism suspects. Depending on the methods applied, it can also expose medical conditions, political or religious affiliations, confidential business negotiations and extramarital affairs.
What permits the former and prevents the latter is a complex set of policies that the public is not permitted to see. “You could do analyses that give you more information, but the law and procedures don’t allow that,” a senior U.S. intelligence lawyer said.
We saw how that worked in preventing the Boston Marathon terror attacks, didn’t we? So where are we? We’re all the way back to where we started, with the Administration saying “trust me, trust the law, trust my procedures.”
The agency and its advocates maintain that its protection of that data is subject to rigorous controls and oversight by Congress and courts. For the public, it comes down to a question of unverifiable trust.
“The constraints that I operate under are much more remarkable than the powers that I enjoy,” said the senior intelligence official who declined to be named.
When asked why the NSA could not release an unclassified copy of its “minimization procedures,” which are supposed to strip accidentally collected records of their identifying details, the official suggested a reporter submit a freedom-of-information request.
So the final non sequiter is that the Administration’s leaker tells the reporter he/she’s leaking to that ‘A FOIA request should be submitted.’
After all this, if you’re going to give the leak, can’t you also include information which actually enhances your position? Why fall back on asking the leak-taker to file a FOIA request (which is far from timely and would be redacted to the point of incomprehensibility)? Good grief, man, you’re already leaking!
The failure to leak on “minimization procedures” is telling. This entire story, a gigantic “trust me” tale, is just like everything else coming out of the vast surveillance state: it comes across as disinformation and narrowly ranges between dissembling and wholly non-credible.
Remember when the President said no one was listening to your calls? Well, it seems he was pulling a Clapper.
Instead, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) is helping to unravel Obama’s disinformation campaign: (emphasis added)
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”
If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. “I was rather startled,” said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.
Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA’s formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.
Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler’s disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.
The disclosure appears to confirm some of the allegations made by Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst who leaked classified documents to the Guardian. Snowden said in a video interview that, while not all NSA analysts had this ability, he could from Hawaii “wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president.”
On the Truth-O-Meter, it’s Snowden 42, Administration 0… at halftime.
When the time is right—whenever that may be—expect another major media drop on America’s surveillance state, which has been much described as a legal endeavor which is well worth its modest privacy encroachment. In the meantime, the Administration appears to be working hard in order to get out in front of the likely media release:
… Michael Hayden told TPM yesterday that the NSA probably knows by now exactly what data Snowden has in his possession and therefore what leaks are still to come. Maybe that forced the agency to reveal more than they initially wanted to in their briefings this week with Congress: If they withheld something and then the world found out thanks to Snowden,, a lot of angry senators and representatives would want to know why they were kept in the dark.
(Nine tech companies have already been tagged as Prism players, so will the outrage go off scale when we find out about the rumored 50 participants?)
So even if this is all legal, does anyone think just because a law is in place, it’s congenitally Constitutional, desirable, justified, supported, and/or necessary?
(And what are we to think when someone, say a chief justice in a 5-4 ruling, turns himself into a political pretzel in ruling on Barack Obamacare in order to avoid being tarred as “political”?)
An obvious truth is no one believes the executive branch, the legislature, and the judiciary always get things right. After all, not even the President, the very face of the government leviathan, believes this, witness his outrage—staged or real—with regard to Citizens United.
So the lesson, assuming there is one, can be reduced to this: our government is composed of flawed people who make flawed decisions based on… what? The time of day, self-interest, glycemic level, mood, eternal truths, expediency, and naked politics all come to mind. But the more resources the government controls and the less transparent their activities, the greater the opportunity for misbehavior, whether great or small.
And since many view the Constitution as a mere guide, which is “living and breathing,” does it really matter a source of truth?
The oath of office requires the individual to practice fidelity to the Constitution. So if the Constitution is in a constant state of redefinement, what is the individual really honoring?
And in the end, who should be trusted to run our lives, the ruling class (that is, the vast government bureaucracy like the IRS, the Justice Department, the surveillance state, etc.) or its citizens?
The revelation of the Obama Administration’s massive e-gather known as Prism almost defies belief.
But it is sadly believable and it’s going to make the Administration’s Verizon gather look like a rounding error.
Especially when you add in rest of the things that are now likely to dribble out before too long, that is, stuff like the government credit card gather, passing people’s tax returns from one government agency to another, tying things together with your medical records, places you’ve driven fed to Uncle Sugar via your car’s black box, etc.. Use your imagination… if you dare.
Funny how none of this came out before the 2012 elections.
The government’s NSA/FBI-sponsored surveillance-of-Americans-only effort has a score and after seven years, Obama leads Bush 4 years to 3. From Politico:
“As far as I know, this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been in place for the past seven years,” Feinstein said. “This renewal is carried out by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress.”
Chambliss said the report in the Guardian Wednesday was “nothing new.”
“This has been going on for seven years,” he said. “…every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this. To my knowledge there has not been any citizen who has registered a complaint. It has proved meritorious because we have collected significant information on bad guys, but only on bad guys, over the years.”
So let’s see: 1) this has been going on seven years, 2) it’s a rubber-stamped renewal, 3) only “bad guys” are collected on, and 4) “therefore, it is lawful.” The last one sounds like Al Gore and his “no controlling legal authority” claim.
Of course, the millions of not bad guys the government is gathering on might disagree, that is, if they’d only been aware of what was happening.
What the left despised Bush for, Obama has managed to raise to high art.
Most transparent Administration ever.
It’s interesting the court which approved the domestic gathering of phone records—which targets Americans only—is a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Another government oxymoron (like” Justice Department”), it would seem. I’m shocked, shocked.
And what revelations will likely dribble out in the near future regarding the vacuuming of your information?
1) This FISA order is a rubber-stamp process.
2) The FISA order is a rolling effort which is set up for a limited period of time, but is always renewed at its expiration.
3) That all the other phone service providers are also under court order to provide the same information and the effort isn’t just limited to Verizon.
4) There’s no there there regarding the justification for the effort.
5) Americans don’t know what we don’t know as it concerns surveillance by the U.S. government.
Yes, they can hear you now. (And watch you.)
Most transparent (and ethical) Administration ever.
From the most transparent Administration ever, via Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian:
The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.
The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.
So here it is: if you have Verizon, all your calls made and all your calls received will be analyzed by the NSA and/or the FBI.
And the good news? The IRS is not said to be involved… yet.
The President is doing the second term shuffle with one “new” hire (Samantha Power as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) and one existing Administration member (Susan Rice) being recycled from the UN gig into the national security advisor’s role.
Rice is replacing Tom Donilon, the suspected source of critical (and yet mysteriously non-persecuted) national security leaks to the media. For the President, Rice’s desk change is 1) an attempt to burnish her resume for future government/lobbying work while 2) rewarding her loyalty for propagating the Administration’s post-Benghazi disinformation campaign, and 3) an obvious attempt to again snub Republicans.
And yet the President couldn’t bear the burden of nominating Rice for a position which requires a confirmation hearing as Rice—and perhaps Obama—could have been toast.
Power, on the other hand, is most famous for calling Hillary Clinton a monster during the 2008 presidential campaign. Team of non-rivals and all that.
It’s unlikely either Rice or Power will carry much weight within the Administration as they are both “prominent advocates of liberal interventionism, a foreign-policy credo that calls for the United States to act aggressively to defend human rights – by military means, if necessary.”
Decoded, this means their ideas may be honored if they advocate for things like the Navy delivering bottled water after an Indonesian earthquake, but not so much the use of U.S. troops for the civil war in Syria. In the second example, the President’s lead from behind philosophy will rule the day.
Or in other words, meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
It looks like former CIA Director Leon Panetta will be causing Jay Carney to continue the Administration’s intense embrace of cognitive dissonance and doublespeak.
Former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama Bin Laden raid and named the unit’s ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by Zero Dark Thirty filmmaker Mark Boal, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report obtained by a watchdog group.
Panetta also disclosed classified information designated as “top secret” and “secret” during his presentation at the CIA awards ceremony, says the draft IG report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight.
The problem (beyond Panetta’s unauthorized disclosures which by definition could cause grave or even exceptionally grave damage to the United States) is this:
The disclosure of the IG report could complicate the Obama administration’s claims that senior officials have not leaked classified information.
And yet some within the Administration knew of the leaks long ago, certainly long enough for the Justice Department to investigate and report on the issue before the 2012 elections, should they be politically inclined (or cleared) to do so. As it was, the Justice Department chose to selectively pursue the malfeasance of other, less significant, unauthorized disclosures.
In this example, as with the IRS disgrace and the Benghazi debacles, consider an important article of faith of the Obama Administration: the fish only rots from the tail.
From the Washington Examiner comes word of Barack Obamacare’s one person death panel:
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rebuffed an appeal from Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., on behalf of a girl who needs a lung transplant but can’t get one because of a federal regulation that prevents her from qualifying for a transplant.
What’s the problem the death panel has with this case? It violates a rule.
She [Sarah Murnaghan, a 10-year-old who needs a lung transplant] can’t qualify for an adult lung transplant until the age of 12, according to federal regulations, but Sebelius has the authority to waive that rule on her behalf. The pediatric lungs for which she qualifies aren’t available.
Although the left mocked Sarah Palin for calling out the death panel provisions of Barack Obamacare, they mocked her because of who she was, not because she was wrong. Meanwhile, the other Sarah in this story has three to five weeks to live.
The newest attempt at waiving the media away from the IRS part of the scandal trifecta that plagues the Administration comes from Obama apologist David Axelrod:
“I think it [the IRS targeting of conservative groups and individual taxpayers] was an idiotic thing to do,” Axelrod said. “But I will point you to the Inspector General’s report that said it wasn’t done for a political reason. They were flooded with applications.”
There are at least four problems with Axelrod’s spin: 1) it is self-evident this was done for political purpose, hence the instructions to the field from Washington and the known 88 individuals involved; 2) the “flood” of applications didn’t happen until targeting had already begun; 3) as part and parcel to the Obama Administration, Axelrod is incapable of underestimating their idiocy; 4) IRS employees have said it was done for political purpose.
If the lack of idiocy was the test for this Administration we’d have no Eric Holder, full employment, no pending Obamacare, Social Security and Medicare would be solvent, and the federal government would be running a surplus.
We have not mere idiocy with the Obama Administration; we have idiots with initiative, a most dangerous situation.
Additionally it’s clear the Administration thinks its existing scandal mitigation efforts have been inadequate, hence the appearance of Axelrod and “former White House advisor” David Plouffe.
Despite their efforts, the red Obama Fail warning light remains illuminated steadily.
If the Obama Administration would consider the naked hypocrisy of their words and actions, they’d have a better understanding why so much of the country—and the world—feels free to ignore their moral directives.
A few examples of the Administration’s malfeasance:
- The IRS uses its vast powers to muzzle free speech, to discriminate, and to punish.
- The Justice Department ignores the law, the Constitution, and prudent restraint. When such things aren’t ignored, they’re practiced with discriminatory malice.
- The President feels free to issue executive orders on extra-legal topics of all sorts (consider the mightily misnamed DREAM Act as an important case in point) while he calls on Guantanamo to be closed by Congressional action.
- Bureaucrats within the federal Leviathan propose punishing those who practice the First Amendment in unapproved ways.
- The Administration claims transparency while practicing its opposite (at best) or more often, disinformation.
- Childish non sequesters like “We have to spend more so we don’t go broke” are offered as soothing explanations to inconvenient problems and facts.
Although the traditional media is less enamored with President Obama than at any point in the past, their willingness to treat him as they would with a man with a parenthetical “R” by his name—that is, with pliers and a blowtorch—remains unobserved.
Pliers and a blowtorch aren’t necessary but something other than a nearly complete diet hypocrisy (the Administration) and junk journalism (the media) would be appreciated.
The traditional media’s failure to question the Administration’s poseur routine has gotten Mr. Obama to where he’s at but only the President himself can lead the left out of Scamalot. Don’t expect it to happen: it’s far easier for everyone to keep on doing what they’ve been doing.
Machiavellian kudos to Eric Holder for continuing to grasp the gullibility of the traditional media as it regards the serial malfeasance of the Obama Administration.
From the Washington Post’s ‘no-specifics’ reporting of the off-the-record meeting between the embattled AG and the handful of media who showed up for Holder’s propaganda delivery device:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. pledged Thursday to take concrete steps to address concerns that the Justice Department has overreached in its leak investigations and said officials would seek procedural and possibly legislative changes to protect journalists’ First Amendment rights.
Some (for example, those under investigation) might ask why Holder chose to overreach to begin with or why he won’t drop the current overreach.
Instead, Obama-like, Holder is telling the media to watch what he says and to ignore what he’s done. This would seem to make him the doppelganger of John Mitchell who famously said, ”Watch what we do, not what we say.”
So is the corollary that Richard Nixon’s doppelganger is Barack Obama?
In Jaws, the observations was, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
And from the dark, fetid bowels of the President’s own private Scamalot, it’s this: “You’re gonna need a bigger bus.”
After all, the body count for those the Administration is pondering throwing under the bigger bus continues to grow. Bodies from the State Department regarding Benghazigate? Check. The Treasury Department’s IRS debacle? Check. The Justice Department’s extra-legal proceedings? Check. The HHS extra-Constitutional fundraising? Check. Overwhelmed White House apologist-in-chief Jay Carney-Worker? Check.
But the leading candidate to become the speed bump/road kill in the who-gets-bussed-next competition is clearly Eric Holder, the man who may pay for the sins of the Administration with his political scalp. Remember that years ago, Holder was the guy who fixed things with a presidential pardon for fugitive from justice Marc Rich. (Holder feigned after the fact ignorance on that one as well.)
In fact, on that note, it’s entirely possible that Holder already has Obama’s pardon in his proverbial pocket.
Such is life in transparency-land and the shire of Scamalot.
The President is mired in a triple-play of scandals. The IRS appears as a Democrat fed freedom-munching monstrosity, the oxymoron known as the “Justice Department” is suppressing the First Amendment, and the Benghazi security debacle and subsequent cover-up are slowly being unpeeled. (The extra-legal wranglings of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius could prove to be a four-fer.)
What’s a President to do? Distract the media and the masses by attempting to appear presidential. Look, squirrel!
A modest distraction campaign was attempted via the President’s trip outside the District to view the devastation in Oklahoma, a locale where a presidential sounding speech can be read, promises made, pain felt, and big government extolled. However, even under such circumstances, it seems the Administration cannot resist its first impulse, to blame others.
Briefing the media aboard Air Force One on the way to Oklahoma, White House principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest responded to a reporter’s question about what the disaster said about the role of government by first saying: “It’s not a day for politics.”
He then continued: “That said, I think it is evident to any impartial observer here what an important role the federal government can play in providing assistance to our people at their time of urgent need. And you talk about an agency like FEMA that, when this president took office, did not have a very good reputation.”
In Obamaland—and for the pure Obamaphille—squaring the circle is thus as easy as saying one thing (it’s not about politics) and immediately implying the opposite (FEMA under Bush was inept). And ponder this, Earnest-one: maybe FEMA didn’t have a very good reputation (is it any better now?), but the IRS and the Justice Department were less of a problem.
Still looking to appear presidential, the President has also attempted to align himself with the cool kids. In such a case, it means heading over to New Jersey to hang with cool kid extra-grande, Chris Christie.
With New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie at Obama’s side, effective government, bipartisanship and economic opportunity will be the unmistakable message in the face of the coastal recovery.
The unmistakable message sadly flies in the face of the ground truth and past presidential practices (ineffective government, bitter partisanship, and economic regression). On top of that, there’s the President’s ongoing demonization of those who would disagree with him. So as it regards Christie, all the President can bring forward is his face and hope for a great photo op and maybe a couple of cute bumper stickers about the truth and light of the federal Leviathan.
The bad news for conservatives is rolling back Obama’s damage to America may be a Sisyphean task that takes tons (literally, in Biden-speak) of political capital.
The good news for conservatives is at this rate—posing, scandal-tamping, and feigning ignorance—Barry will never get his groove back. (That and a Republican House…)
The story is disturbing: Chinese hackers have compromised U.S. weapons systems including missile defense (the PAC-3, THAAD, and Aegis systems), aircraft (the F/A-18, the V-22, the Blackhawk helicopter, and the F-35), as well as the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship.
But imbedded within the story is another angle, the fact that Eric Holder would now appear to be cleared hot to tap the phone lines of the Washington Post, the private cell phones of its reporters, as well as their texts and e-mails.
How so? The report the Chinese hacking story is based on information that is not intended for public release (emphasis added):
Among more than two dozen major weapons systems whose designs were breached were programs critical to U.S. missile defenses and combat aircraft and ships, according to a previously undisclosed section of a confidential report prepared for Pentagon leaders by the Defense Science Board.
As such, the President’s war on the press should be set to continue unabated.
If consistency counts for anything, one would expect the Administration to go after the Washington Post.
Will they have the stones to do so? Don’t count on it. The Washington Post does not equal Fox News.
President Obama likes things both ways: spilling national secrets when it benefits his re-election campaign while persecuting whistle-blowers when it doesn’t; badmouthing the Bush Administration for Gitmo while failing to close it himself; bashing enhanced interrogations while using death-by-drone; saying that big government is the way of truth and light while offering non-culpability on myriad big government scandals.
Another area where the President wants it both ways is as it regards Wall Street fat cats, who are said to be a great cause of America’s evils. And yet, the Obama Administration in enabling the very fat cats is so loathes:
White House records show that Elizabeth Fowler, then a top health-policy adviser to President Obama, met with executives from half a dozen investment firms in 2011 and 2012.
… Separately, an official in the agency that oversees Medicare and Medicaid spoke in December with managers of hedge funds, pension plans and mutual funds in a conference call.
Why is such information provided by the Administration to these seekers of insider truth? One guess.
Hedge fund executives and other investors are increasingly interested in the timing and nature of health-policy decisions in Washington because they directly affect the profits and stock prices of pharmaceutical, insurance, hospital and managed-care companies.
How can we tell the Administration is lying? 1) Their lips are moving and 2) their bank accounts are growing.
Fowler described her sessions with investors as innocuous, discussions of public information of the sort that would be supplied to any group that asked for it. “As a general principle, I met with anyone who requested a meeting,” said Fowler, who went to work for the Washington office of pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson six months ago.
Right. With anyone who requested a meeting. That’s right up there with “The President would never behave in a political manner.” All this as we watch the Administration’s revolving door continue to spin.
Most transparent Administration ever.
The LA Times acknowledges the President has a crisis on his hands. The problem with their assessment is they think it’s a public relations crisis.
Caught up in a public relations crisis, White House officials have drawn open a few curtains, revealing once-secret documents and answering queries that they would ordinarily have dismissed with an eye roll.
But the sharing has been selective and done under duress. It has come in fits and starts to an administration that promised to be the most open in American history.
Many allies of the president think that with this burst of sunshine he has arrested the run of bad news and taken charge of the “narrative.” Even in some Obama-friendly quarters, though, the sharing is seen as too little and too late, and all the more disappointing for the high hopes Obama had set for transparency at the outset of his presidency.
This isn’t a public relations crisis, its an existential moral crisis, of which the Obama Administration is failing miserably. Death by drones, Fast and Furious, the IRS, the AP and Fox hunts (get it?) are not public relations problems; instead, they’re a series of moral failures.
As Dean Wormer might say, “Fat, drunk, stupid, inept, and immoral is no way to go through life, Barry.”
Lois Lerner has set the standard for this, America’s most transparent Administration ever, by pleading the fifth on the ongoing IRS scandal, as opposed to providing testimony on the topic to the Congress.
Lerner did this after making a statement—or was it testimony?—saying she had done nothing wrong, told no lies, violated no rules or guidelines, nor committed any crimes.
The disconnect between Lerner’s statement and her actions don’t really make any sense. Cue the foreboding music.