My mistake. I thought Obama’s comments on Friday meant he was going to drop the insulting “let’s have a debate” deflection strategy he reverts to whenever he’s trying to duck criticism on a tough issue. Here’s ol’ reliable Jay Carney clinging to it amid hurricane-force political winds. The money quote:
“This is not the manner by which he had hoped to have the debate”
Oh? How and when did he hope to have it? Was he planning a big PRISM revelation speech for later this year? As I said in the last Snowden post, the maddening reality of trying to publicly debate the surveillance state is that secrecy condemns that debate to being ill-informed and stupid. We are, as Joshua Foust and Hayes Brown noted today, the proverbial blind men trying to have a debate about an elephant. Obama himself predicted a “majoritarian check” on massive government surveillance in 2001, but you can’t build a majority for your position when your opponent has all the information and you have next to none. Under normal circumstances, O can reveal as much or as little about PRISM as he chooses to favor his own arguments (as you’ve seen him do before with his advisors leaking favorable stuff about the “kill list” to the NYT). That’s the significance of Snowden’s doc dump — it equalizes the debate. A little.
After you’re done with Carney, enjoy this reminder from John Sexton that Obama’s a total fraud on this subject. Exit question: As I write this, a petition on the White House’s website calling on O to pardon Snowden has almost 25,000 signatures. Never mind the foolishness and futility of it; there’s no way Obama will bless massive disclosures of sensitive intelligence material by giving the guy who leaked them a get-out-of-jail-free. If he’s serious about welcoming the debate, though, shouldn’t he at least commute Snowden’s sentence for having started it? The intelligence community will bristle at leniency, but if Obama wants to do his Captain Transparency shtick, that’s the price he pays.