Good news: Obama says NSA spying is “transparent”
posted at 9:21 pm on June 17, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham
Well, I don’t know what more assurance I could need. From an interview with Charlie Rose that airs tonight on PBS:
Charlie Rose: Should this be transparent in some way?
Barack Obama: It is transparent. That’s why we set up the FISA court…. The whole point of my concern, before I was president — because some people say, “Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.” Dick Cheney sometimes says, “Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.” My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances? So, on this telephone program, you’ve got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And you’ve got Congress overseeing the program, not just the intelligence committee and not just the judiciary committee — but all of Congress had available to it before the last reauthorization exactly how this program works.
You keep using this word transparent. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Right before this exchange, Rose asks how often FISA actually turns down a request. The answer is almost never, bringing into question how much of a check or balance it can realistically be. Behold the dodge:
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.
Regardless of whether you like or dislike the NSA’s programs, can’t we all concede it and the secret FISA court of secret rulings that govern it are not “transparent?” It’d be a more honest argument for the president to say they can’t be transparent in order to work correctly, but that the FISA checks and balances are sufficient. To claim they’re “transparent” just sounds silly.
Obama’s just repeating speeches from 2008, paired with demonstrable proof that he’s not interested in acting out the beliefs in those speeches, and expecting us all to move on, satisfied that his guiding hand will prevent abuse. His assurances have held great power in the past, but exactly what would make us think they’re worth anything now? Sure, it’s politically advantageous for him to declare on Benghazi, NSA, IRS (not to mention ERA and State Department), “We have noted your concerns and there’s an investigation underway, now let’s get back to exactly what I’d like to talk about, and don’t I give an awesome speech?”
But that’s not good enough. Obama has allowed abuses to happen on his watch, his administration has floated somewhere between malice and utter incompetence letting them go on, and none of the institutional backstops or failsafes have worked to prevent them or punish those responsible.
According to news out of the State Department, the inspector general process has been actively prevented from doing its job policing agencies. But we’re all supposed to move on with the assurance that Eric Holder is investigating Eric Holder, the IGs will get everything straight, and Obama’s watching over all of it with a trustworthy moral compass. Um, those are the promises that got us here.
The State Department investigator who accused colleagues last week of using drugs, soliciting prostitutes, and having sex with minors says that Foggy Bottom is now engaged in an “intimidation” campaign to stop her.
Last week’s leaks by Aurelia Fedenisn, a former State Department inspector general investigator, shined a light on alleged wrongdoing by U.S. officials around the globe. But her attorney Cary Schulman tells The Cable that Fedenisn has paid a steep price: “They had law enforcement officers camp out in front of her house, harass her children and attempt to incriminate herself.”
Kerry Howard says she was bullied, harassed and forced to resign after she exposed US Consul General Donald Moore’s alleged security-threatening shenanigans in the Naples, Italy, office.
“It’s cover-up after cover-up. It’s absolutely hideous,” she told The Post. “When our diplomats disrespect the Italians by hiring and firing them because they have seen too much — or use them for ‘sex-ercise’ — we have to question why we have diplomats abroad at taxpayer expense.”
So that’s another whistleblower bullied by Hillary’s State goons for speaking up about misbehavior.
In addition, the underlying misconduct is about abusing people in the host country of a consulate. Our diplomatic corps is there to make us look good, right?
Transparent does have another meaning, I suppose.