Friday, January 17, 2014

Will Obama Rein in the NSA - Or Wimp Out?

Not very long from now President Barack Obama will give a speech and let us know to what extent he plans to rein in the excesses of the out-of-control,' stomp on the Constitution' NSA.  This comes one day after the latest revelations, namely of the NSA scarfing up 200 million text messages every day, in untargeted global sweeps. See, e.g.

 This means they aren't particularly concerned whether you're a terrorist or not they just want the collected data and have it filed away. Maybe because you might be found to be an "enemy of the state" - later, i.e. after protesting a fracking well, or contaminated water from one.
The issue is how far Obama will go to rope in these snoops  given they've already violated the 4th amendment almost every way one can conceive. Just google: PRISM, Xkeyscore, and MUSCULAR.
Recall what brought us to this point. After Edward Snowden released files exposing the extent of NSA overreach, Obama appointed a commission of security experts to look into the  NSA excesses and propose solutions.  The commission issued a nearly 300-page report in December, making 46 recommendations to rein in the most excessive and offensive  programs, including PRISM and Xkeyscore. In addition, the panel advised that the NSA be banned from attempting to undermine the security of the internet – concerns pounded by tech companies (Google, Facebook, Yahoo) when their top executives met with Obama on the first Monday last month. All the executives expressed the fear that their respective business models and market shares were being undermined by the NSA dragnet surveillance,  which meant fewer buyers and customers for their systems.

Regarding Edward Snowden, NSA honcho James Clapper called his brave act ‘treason’ but it then came out that Clapper had lied before a Senate Intelligence Committee months before Snowden's first document release. When asked if the NSA did mass surveillance, Clapper responded in the negative then tried to "cute it up" by saying it was the "least untruthful  answer" he was able to provide.  This is what prompted Patriot Act co-author Jim Sensenbrenner  to say:

Oversight only works when the agency that oversight is directed at tells the truth, and having Mr. Clapper say he gave the least untruthful answer should, in my opinion, have resulted in a firing and a prosecution.     

Meanwhile, the Neoliberal media and politicos, the ones cozy with the security state, condemned him as a “traitor” – which is nonsense. As Article IV of the Nuremberg laws makes clear, the citizen has a much higher duty to his conscience than following orders  or oaths that violate a Constitution or basic morality.  And there’s no issue that Snowden did the right thing when one reads the timeless words of the fourth amendment to the Bill of Rights:


The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized

If one reads it slowly and carefully, especially the underscored sections, the magnitude of Snowden’s heroic deed becomes clear. Clearly the NSA’s mass vacuuming up of data violates the amendment.  “Secure in one’s person” can obviously only mean as pertains to an individual. You cannot have a collective or whole population that is secure in its person!  If the inherent right to privacy enshrined in this amendment was purely a “myth” – such as those like Dick Cheney and Dianne Feinstein have implied by their actions- then security as to particular papers, persons, effects wouldn’t matter. The state can then claim de facto ownership of whatever a person has – nothing could be claimed apart from the state – and so the person emerges as merely an appendage. In this proto-fascist world, security trumps liberty at every juncture and the state uses the bogey of fear (e.g. terror attacks)  to reinforce and expand that control.
Thus, the documents leaked by Snowden compelled attention because they revealed to Americans a history they did not know they had. They revealed that the state had vastly more power than the citizen because it could – based on a claim of “terror” – usurp the citizen's  rights to his own privacy, i.e.  in his papers and effects, and do so secretly. They showed the NSA could collect with impunity all the email address books on the planet, as well as cell phone location records, the cell phone messages of other leaders, and domestic call logs and browsing histories.
In addition, more and more politicos and even media began to back off after more of the disclosures revealed the pernicious extent of the NSA's overstepping.  Most of that data, by definition and intent, belonged to ordinary people suspected of nothing. But vast new storage capacity and processing tools enabled the NSA to indiscriminately snatch the information to map human relationships on a planetary scale. Only in this way, its leadership believed, could the NSA reach beyond its universe of known intelligence targets.  In other words, by analogy, it was similar to a home owner using a machine gun to get rid of a wasp’s nest.
Meanwhile, the only words Obama had spoken had been in defense of  NSA and the entrenched security state and against Snowden, expressing in one cabinet meeting that he felt Snowden acted out of "narcissism" and averring in a news conference, that “Mr. Snowden is not really a patriot.    The sad thing is that this issued from the mouth of a former constitutional law professor!  It also made the objective observer wonder if the guy that once openly spoke against such secrecy and  Patriot Act excesses (as a U.S. senator) had since become a captive to the system. 

On the other hand, it's possible Obama was played by the security statists after his 2008 election. According to a NY Times piece yesterday, Obama was told before his inauguration of a supposed plot by Somali extremists to attack the ceremony.. David Axelrod, his long time adviser, called this "a welcome to the NBA moment before the big game". As it turned out the report proved unfounded but it did have the intended effect of  reinforcing in Obama the "need to detect threats before they materialized".  This, of course, makes it even more suspicious- especially to a person familiar with deep politics (see also Peter Dale Scott's 'The War Conspiracy').
Obviously, the card played by the security statists made a deep impression on Obama, which civil libertarians learned when they confronted him last month about the NSA overreach. Obama simply replied he was now "Commander-in -chief" and he had a "different role to play, to protect the American people". This despite the fact the odds of any given American being killed in a terror attack are actually less than 1 in 346,000 or about the same as being killed by a monster asteroid. (See Gideon Rachman's Financial Times  analysis in my May 4, 2011 blog post).
Let's also grasp that decades earlier both Ike and JFK had been played by the national security state,  as I previously described in my November 4th blog post.  Both responded strongly after they'd been played by trying to reel in the CIA via limits and investigative actions, and both paid dearly. Ike saw his upcoming 1960 summit sabotaged by the Gary Powers U-2 incident, engineered by CIA head Richard Bissell, while JFK saw a coup and assassination (of the Diems) in Vietnam after the CIA pulled the plug on the Commodity Import Aid Program - assuring a coup. Of course, by then (Nov. 2, 1963) Kennedy was already in the sights of the CIA and its allies, given he'd "exceeded his mandate to wield power".
Obama now has the chance to negate all those perceptions by a stout defense of the fourth amendment and citizens' rights, based on how many of his commission's 46 recommendations are accepted.   This is not merely a matter of respecting citizens' rights in the present but acting in a precautionary manner to preserve them in the future.

As Richard A. Clarke, a member of Obama's commission and former White House counter terrorism adviser put it:
"We’re not really concerned about you, Barack, but God forbid some other guy’s in the office five years from now and there’s another 9/11,’ ”
This is germane and important. Just because Obama isn't tempted to 'go the whole hog' and use the in- place NSA files, programs to round up citizens under quaint "sedition" laws, or as domestic terrorists (say for protesting fracking wells) doesn't mean a future Reepig Prez wouldn't do it, say like a Ted Cruz, or a Chris Christiie (who's already shown his vindictive side by shutting down 3 lanes of 4 on the George Washington Bridge for a Dem-governed township (Fort Lee)  in NJ - despite the fact only Rachel Maddow has been able to figure out he's a lying slimeball).

Anyway, we await Obama's speech on the NSA issues, and hope like hell he isn't too timid in laying them out, and isn't tempted to split too many differences - translating into cosmetic changes only.

See also:


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