NYT: Obama was surprised by the extent of NSA surveillance in Snowden’s leaks

posted at 2:01 pm on January 16, 2014 by Allahpundit

What it was, precisely, that surprised him is unclear. The Times mentions tapping Angela Merkel’s phone as one surprise, but how many others were there and at what level of detail? It’s one thing for the president not to know the particulars of individual investigations as they’re happening; it’s another thing for him not to know, say, that PRISM exists. Which is it? Remember, this is a guy with a funny knack for remaining blissfully ignorant of his underlings’ worst screw-ups and excesses. Did he not know what the NSA was up to because they were hiding it from him or because he’d made clear that he didn’t want to know?

At the same time, aides said Mr. Obama was surprised to learn after leaks by Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, just how far the surveillance had gone. “Things seem to have grown at the N.S.A.,” Mr. Plouffe said, citing specifically the tapping of foreign leaders’ telephones. “I think it was disturbing to most people, and I think he found it disturbing.”

Yet it is hard to express indignation at actions of the government after five years of running it, and some involved in surveillance note that it was Mr. Obama who pushed national security agencies to be aggressive in hunting terrorists. “For some, his outrage does ring a little bit hollow,” said a former counterterrorism official….

[A]fter he won the election, surveillance issues were off his agenda; instead, he focused on banning interrogation techniques he deemed torture and trying, futilely, to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. “There wasn’t really any serious discussion of what N.S.A. was up to,” said a former intelligence official, who like others did not want to be named describing internal conversations.

He also allegedly derided Snowden to his confidants as an, ahem, “self-important narcissist.” I’m intrigued, though, that it was the tapping of Merkel’s phone that apparently set him off, as that’s way down the list of NSA practices that Americans are troubled by. The public will give the White House a break on traditional spycraft abroad, even if it involves something as delicate as listening into a key ally’s conversations. It’s the massive data dragnet at home that’s worrisome. Interesting that O sees it the opposite way, but not surprising: The chilly relations with Merkel lately are more likely to make his job harder than NSA abuses that barely register when Americans are asked what their top priorities on policy.

Take advantage of the slow news day and read the entire NYT piece, as it’s a chronicle of how quickly O’s civil libertarian rhetoric circa 2007 changed once it became his job to protect the country from terrorism. That’s a predictable response from any mainstream politician: If you’re the guy who’ll be blamed the next time hijackers successfully aim a plane at a skyscraper, you’ll think twice before laying down a weapon that might conceivably prevent that. Obama’s metamorphosis on NSA surveillance might not have been as cynical as Hillary copping to opposing the surge in Iraq for electoral reasons, but it’s a potent reminder before 2016 that where you stand depends on where you sit. Even President Rand Paul wouldn’t be immune, although he’s probably less susceptible than anyone else.

The Times piece also shows fairly conclusively that Snowden fans are right when they say that NSA reforms never would have landed on Obama’s agenda if not for the leaks. O likes to blather that domestic surveillance is a “debate we need to have” or whatever, but he clearly had no interest in debating it. The GOP wasn’t hassling him over it, it was a useful counterterror tool at his disposal (if not in terms of actual results than in terms of hard proof that he was doing everything he could to prevent terrorism) — if it ain’t broke, O apparently thought, why fix it? Turns out a lot of people do think it’s broke, even if fixing it isn’t a top priority, and a lot of those people are in his base. That’s why he’s giving a speech tomorrow about NSA reforms; as with his big speech about drones last year, the point is less to propose meaningful reforms than to simply gesture to liberals that he’s capital-c Concerned about this and intends to do something about it. Judging from the tea leaves, most of the changes he’s planning to propose are cosmetic, like letting telecom companies hold users’ data instead of the government but not requiring a warrant for the NSA to access those user databases. The gesture of reform is what’s important here, not the reform itself.

Oh, and per WaPo, after he’s done proposing a few changes himself, he’s going to punt this over to Congress and let them clean it up. That’s perfectly appropriate but highly unusual for a guy who’s spent the past few years arguing that he can do all sorts of things as an executive, including suspending key parts of laws enacted by Congress, without congressional approval. (The whole thrust of the White House’s message this week, in fact, is that O will act where Congress won’t.) The last time he decided to boot a matter over to the legislature that he probably could have dealt with himself was his proposed attack on Syria in August — coincidentally, another policy matter that he’d badly bungled and was suddenly desperate to share blame for. Oh well. Harry Reid’s and John Boehner’s problem now.


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Thank you Mr. Snowden.

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:04 PM

“You lie”…the truest thing ever said about obama.

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:04 PM

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!

Horseshite!

PolAgnostic on January 16, 2014 at 2:04 PM

He hates offending foreigners.
Not so much the common American plebians.

freedomfirst on January 16, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Obama was surprised by the extent of NSA surveillance in Snowden’s leaks

And nobody was madder than he.

Happy Nomad on January 16, 2014 at 2:05 PM

You’re kidding?

No really?

A guy who has ADD can’t pay attention at his daily briefs and has ever decision dumbed down to A,B,C, or D and checks a box didn’t know what an agency UNDER HIS CONTROL was doing?

You chose wisely 52% you chose wisely…

harlekwin15 on January 16, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Dog Eater was also angry, I mean like crazy angry; bike-helmet throwing, foot stomping, get the kids out of the room cuz I’ma gonna go OFF angry.

Bishop on January 16, 2014 at 2:05 PM

Of course he was surprised. Whenever something looks slightly negative, Obozo is “surprised” or “didn’t know”, and the knee pad wearing MSM swarms out to defend him with a series of “not his fault” blather.

Webrider on January 16, 2014 at 2:09 PM

He also allegedly derided Snowden to his confidants as an, ahem, “self-important narcissist.”

I wonder where he heard those words before.

Happy Nomad on January 16, 2014 at 2:09 PM

= The Limbaugh Theory

jake-the-goose on January 16, 2014 at 2:09 PM

“You lie”…the truest thing ever said about obama.

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:04 PM

“You lie, boy!”

Get it right.

Lanceman on January 16, 2014 at 2:09 PM

He hates offending foreigners.
Not so much the common American plebians.

freedomfirst on January 16, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Nah, he only hates to be exposed about it. Snowden brought him to size…why he should Never return as long as obama’s goons rule.

It’s ironic that Snowden is safer in Russia, today.

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:10 PM

Obama must want Snowden to keep leaking stuff damaging to U.S. foreign relations. Otherwise, they would be doing such a ham-handed job of bringing him in from the cold.

Christien on January 16, 2014 at 2:11 PM

When i think of Ozero…i get a picture of Gomer Pile, workin as hard as he ever has, in his pajamas and slippers still, mouth open in stunned amazement . .. “…well gooolllllllllyyyy sarg!”.

countmein on January 16, 2014 at 2:11 PM

Nope, Lanceman

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:12 PM

= The Limbaugh Theory

jake-the-goose on January 16, 2014 at 2:09 PM

Theorem. A theorem has been proven. A theory hasn’t.

Lanceman on January 16, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Remember, this is a guy with a funny knack for remaining blissfully ignorant of his underlings’ worst screw-ups and excesses.

And he gets no flack from the LSM for being ignorant on all things…it’s just so darn cute!/

Yet they have run almost a weeks worth of shows on Christy and Bridgegate since he didn’t know what his people were doing. And the media wonders why no one listens to them…

Patriot Vet on January 16, 2014 at 2:13 PM

he should Never return as long as obama’s goons rule.

It’s ironic that Snowden is safer in Russia, today.

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:10 PM

A very poignant statement, there.

Lanceman on January 16, 2014 at 2:13 PM

Does this country have anyone in charge?

I mean really……

Electrongod on January 16, 2014 at 2:14 PM

The only surprise is that there is anyone on earth who still thinks our Manchurian President knows or cares about anything beyond getting elected & enjoying the perks of the office. Most.Clueless.President.Evah.

KS Rex on January 16, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Based on the Performance of the Best and Brightest of Democrats currently in the Oval Office…

I NOW understand why the Media Ragged on Bush for not reading the Newspapers.

jaydee_007 on January 16, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Does this country have anyone in charge?

I mean really……

Electrongod on January 16, 2014 at 2:14 PM

I love oaf’s conundrum:

He’s either a liar, or

Incompetent, or

Both

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Look, he’s the president, not a website designer.

And besides, George bush and stuff…..

KMC1 on January 16, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Does this country have anyone in charge?

I mean really……

Electrongod on January 16, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Back in the day, according to getalife, the adults are in charge.

Lanceman on January 16, 2014 at 2:17 PM

Surprised like he didn’t know Beghazi was a terrorist attack within minutes of it starting?

OH WAIT!

jawkneemusic on January 16, 2014 at 2:21 PM

It’s ironic that Snowden is safer in Russia, today.

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:10 PM

So true.

What makes it notably so is how Russia is backsliding. The 90s were anomolous. I recall how sinister the USSR seemed almost until the wall fell.

freedomfirst on January 16, 2014 at 2:21 PM

Does this country have anyone in charge?

I mean really……

Electrongod on January 16, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Of course he the knew the extent of the spying. The NYT’s is lying….again.

jawkneemusic on January 16, 2014 at 2:22 PM

I love oaf’s conundrum:

He’s either a liar, or

Incompetent, or

Both

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:15 PM

I vote “both” and then some.

hawkeye54 on January 16, 2014 at 2:23 PM

“Ah reads about it in dah paper jis like y’all prolly did.”

rottenrobbie on January 16, 2014 at 2:28 PM

Remember, this is a guy with a funny knack for remaining blissfully ignorant of his underlings’ worst screw-ups and excesses.

while being simultaneously a self appointed master at things he knows absolutely nothing about –AND–AND– appears to alight upon the painfully obvious with a profound sense of new discovery…. (h/t George Will)

ted c on January 16, 2014 at 2:28 PM

He also allegedly derided Snowden to his confidants as an, ahem, “self-important narcissist.”

It takes one to know one, hehehe :)

jimver on January 16, 2014 at 2:28 PM

What it was, precisely, that surprised him is unclear. The Times mentions tapping Angela Merkel’s phone as one surprise,

There were stories when he first got elected that, because he wanted to keep using his Blackberry, all sorts of security had to be installed on it. Shouldn’t that have alerted him to the idea that world leaders get spied upon all the time (besides security people sitting him down and outright telling him that fact of life?)

Of course we are going to, ahem, “monitor” the German chancellor’s phone calls. Maybe not the president of Andorra because, who care, but Germany, yeah, we do want to know what you’re thinking. Not least because we’ve got a few hundred thousand of our young men lying in graves over there thanks to Germany.

rbj on January 16, 2014 at 2:28 PM

and some involved in surveillance note that it was Mr. Obama who pushed national security agencies to be aggressive in hunting terrorists.

When Hussein says ” terrorists” he means White Patriotic American taxpayers,
you know his enemies

burrata on January 16, 2014 at 2:30 PM

I’m still laughing over Obama calling Snowden a ‘narcissist’.

What’s that old saying? Something like: The pot calling the kettle black?

I know… no need to say it… I’m a ‘raaaaaacist’. lol!

thatsafactjack on January 16, 2014 at 2:32 PM

Does this country have anyone in charge?

I mean really……

Electrongod on January 16, 2014 at 2:14 PM

Valerie Jarrett, but she spent some time with Michelle, at Oprah’s house in HI.

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:33 PM

I know… no need to say it… I’m a ‘raaaaaacist’. lol!

thatsafactjack on January 16, 2014 at 2:32 PM

Racist, you :)

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:34 PM

Limbaugh Theorem. He’s trying it again

Sekhmet on January 16, 2014 at 2:34 PM

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:34 PM

lol! Good afternoon, my friend. :)

Thank you for that tune you left for me last evening. It was very beautiful. :)

I’m truly astonished that Obama, of all people on this planet, would call someone else a narcissist. Must be that Snowden is getting too much attention and Obama is jealous. lol!

thatsafactjack on January 16, 2014 at 2:37 PM

Can’t believed that no one has cued Captain Louis Renault yet: #Shocked

LegendHasIt on January 16, 2014 at 2:37 PM

Notice how on a day when the oaf is a total fool, in front of the world, the trolls are in hiding…

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:38 PM

LegendHasIt on January 16, 2014 at 2:37 PM

No one’s as good as you for finding the shortest, most perfect, clips.

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Valerie Jarrett, but she spent some time with Michelle, at Oprah’s house in HI.

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:33 PM

Hussein doesn’t know that yet ,
he’ll find that out in tomorrow’s newspapers,
and then he’ll be sooo surprosed :O

burrata on January 16, 2014 at 2:40 PM

AP, I love the fact that you tagged this with “narcissist”.

Chris of Rights on January 16, 2014 at 2:40 PM

No one’s as good as you for finding the shortest, most perfect, clips.
Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Misspent youth. (completely wasted old age to blame also).

LegendHasIt on January 16, 2014 at 2:42 PM

thatsafactjack on January 16, 2014 at 2:37 PM

Lots more in this thread (now gone from the HA headlines) about the irony/hilarity of it.

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:42 PM

I don’t think we’ve ever had a president where the conundrum of whether

He’s either a liar, or

Incompetent, or

Both

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:15 PM

has popped up so frequently.

As for the “chilly relations” with Merkel, does the president have warm relationships with any world leaders?? None I can think of except maybe Denmark’s prime minister.

And finally, Snowden’s a “self-important narcissist.” ??? Hahahahahahahahahaha.

scalleywag on January 16, 2014 at 2:47 PM

Ah, but the strawberries!

Christien on January 16, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Chauncey Gardener for President

Man, did we call that one right or what…..

BobMbx on January 16, 2014 at 2:49 PM

For being the smartest man to ever lived, Obama sure is clueless about everything. Of course, King Barky the Liar could be lying.

jukin3 on January 16, 2014 at 2:52 PM

BobMbx, heh

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:55 PM

If we’re to believe that Obama is surprised by everything we’re told he had no knowledge of, he would lose a game of peekaboo with a two-year-old.

malclave on January 16, 2014 at 2:56 PM

Lets see:

We can’t use electronic intercepts OR human assest to monitor whats going on around the world…so what the HELL do we use?

Mimes?

Clairvoyance?

Hollywood Script writers?

The “Gentlemen don’t read other Gentleman’s mail” mindset is madness.

Not to use whatever means you have available to you is a good way to wind up as history…ancient history.

BlaxPac on January 16, 2014 at 2:59 PM

The thugs who rule you

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:42 PM

lol! I’m in very good company. I don’t feel so bad about being astonished by the colossal gall coming out of Obama. You’d think by now I’d be astonishment proof when it comes to the degree of gall, hubris, and outright smarmy doings of this President.

thatsafactjack on January 16, 2014 at 3:03 PM

BlaxPac on January 16, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Human assest–that’s a good one! The most ass human.

Christien on January 16, 2014 at 3:05 PM

While reading the NYT today Obama found out that he was surprised by the extent of the NSA surveillance in the Snowden leaks.

It surprised him to learn this.

He is awaiting the article that will tell him what exactly surprised him.

It will be a surprise.

hit and run on January 16, 2014 at 3:10 PM

Not to use whatever means you have available to you is a good way to wind up as history…ancient history.

BlaxPac on January 16, 2014 at 2:59 PM

East Germany was a such a pleasant place too, before it got all free and stuff.

Shorter Blax: “Spying on your neighbors is patriotic”

BobMbx on January 16, 2014 at 3:11 PM

And yet no one in the NSA (not even Snowden) can find Obama’s college grades, courses, entrance exams, applications, passports,etc,etc,etc,….or do they have them and they are blackmailing Obama?

albill on January 16, 2014 at 3:12 PM

Schadenfreude on January 16, 2014 at 2:55 PM

You could probably cut any random 30 seconds of that movie and it would apply to the REB.

BobMbx on January 16, 2014 at 3:14 PM

He sure does bring a unique management style to the presidency, doesn’t he?

DaveDief on January 16, 2014 at 3:16 PM

The Lives of Others

Christien on January 16, 2014 at 3:22 PM

You know, I’m starting to believe the president when he is shocked by discovering these revelations “in the papers.”

Now, first, I don’t actually believe he reads the papers, but has people alert him when an issue is going to make him look bad.

Secondly, I believe that he has never examined what the government actually does, either before seeking office and since his election (to any post.)

He has always operated on how he believes the world should and does work and has never concerned himself with “details.”

As such, he is completely incurious as to how the government actually functions. Further, I believe, though he may have been “briefed” on all this in the past, he probably checked out VERY early on in the briefing and started thinking about something that interests him. Likely, himself.

I don’t believe he’s an evil genius. I think he’s a puppet. A figure-head.

Now, he’s a puppet that is a self-deluded narcissist and THINKS he’s the smartest man in the room. But he’s an empty shell.

makattak on January 16, 2014 at 3:25 PM

“What they’ve got photos of me and Reggie??????”

-O’bozo

WryTrvllr on January 16, 2014 at 3:26 PM

East Germany was a such a pleasant place too, before it got all free and stuff.

Shorter Blax: “Spying on your neighbors is patriotic”

BobMbx on January 16, 2014 at 3:11 PM

Sorry: My post/point is aimed at Intel collection in general…Like it or not, I would be surprised if agencies are NOT looking at other countries..ie:spying.

We do it, our friends do it…sure as hell our enemies do it…I mean, what do you think the Chinese & Russians are doing with the information Snowden gave them? Writing Op-Ed’s in The NY Times?

BlaxPac on January 16, 2014 at 3:28 PM

Has there ever been a man more flaccid than this man?

vityas on January 16, 2014 at 3:51 PM

Obama just isn’t all that smart, nor is he of an inquisitive mind. His knowledge is all neo-Marxist crapola. He has a short attention span and loves to watch television.

This should not be news to anyone with a working brain and normal attention span. Unfortunately, those comprise a small minority of the American electorate now, after over 20 years of hectoring every apathetic moron to register and vote even if they can’t name the three branches of government, much less any current issue before Congress.

Universal franchise is idiotic. It is not working. It only serves to elect Democrats.

Voters should all a) “have some skin in the game” by being taxpayers, no parasites allowed, and b) be able to pass a simple civics test of randomly generated easy questions on our system.

Adjoran on January 16, 2014 at 4:00 PM

NSA surveillance programs leaked
1h
====
NSA collects millions of text messages daily in ‘untargeted’ global sweep – @guardian
read more on theguardian.com
============================

http://www.breakingnews.com/

canopfor on January 16, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Next NYT expose: Obama surprised by the sun rising.

Obama is so clueless as to what is happening, him and the NSA “surprise” is no surprise at all.

sadatoni on January 16, 2014 at 4:44 PM

Yep

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBp464uBH9A

roflmmfao

donabernathy on January 16, 2014 at 5:48 PM

Is this the first time Obama learned something from a source other than a newspaper?

OxyCon on January 16, 2014 at 11:52 PM

The outrage in these comments is universal. The only problem? The majority of voters will vote for Obama, because he promises the freeloaders what ever they want.

The local newspaper in NC constantly runs editorials how if the Republicans are put in power, everyone will freeze, starve or die because the freebies like unlimited unemployment and free medical will end. The Republicans are alleged to be the party of “take away benefits”.

Yes, along the way there might be a few problems (a mushroom cloud coming your way), but as Hillary says “so what”.

rpupton on January 17, 2014 at 12:07 PM