Saturday, January 18, 2014

National Security Administration Reforms speech by President Obama reveals more nonsensical lies , absurd excuses and justifications , lack of knowledge of what occurred as a defense of the abuses - Another Teleprompter jubilee of Obama BS ! ......

Reactions to the speech from President Obama.....

Justin Amash · 79,219 like this
23 hours ago · 
  • My statement in response to Pres. Obama's speech on #NSA reform:

    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated . . . ."

    The Founders proposed the Fourth Amendment to end once and for all suspicionless searches and seizures of Americans' personal property and information.

    We now know that for some years our government has collected private information about our communications—and in many cases, the communications themselves. The government does this despite the fact that it suspects us of no wrongdoing.

    Nothing the President said today will end the unconstitutional invasion of Americans' privacy.

    The President said he will not end the Patriot Act's Sec. 215 program that collects the records of every phone call every American makes. Instead, he said that the government will continue to search those records without a warrant—but just a little less vigorously.

    The President said that when the government issues a subpoena to an Internet service provider for an American's records, the government still can impose a permanent gag order on the ISP—but just when the government "demonstrates a real need for further secrecy."

    The President said that the era of secret law will continue, that the court decisions that have contorted Congress's limits on surveillance into broad authorizations will remain secret—but the intelligence officials who have executed mass surveillance and lied to Congress will, in their discretion, release some of the rulings as they see fit.

    Congress must do what the President apparently will not: end the unconstitutional violation of Americans' privacy, stop the suspicionless surveillance of our people, and close the era of secret law.A coalition of 125 House members from both sides of the aisle have signed on to the USA FREEDOM Act. Has your congressman done the same?

Rand Paul mocks Obama’s NSA comments: 'If you like your privacy, you can keep it'

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Rand Paul expressed doubts over President Obama's proposed surveillance reforms (Fox News Video)
Like a stand-up comedian with a political edge, Rand Paul deployed some witty one-liners after President Barack Obama’s comments on Friday about reforming the National Security Agency.
“What I think I heard is that if you like your privacy, you can keep it,” Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “But in the meantime, we’re going to keep collecting your phone records, your email, your text messages and, likely, your credit card information.”
In Friday's speech, Obama called for limited reforms on how the NSA collects information, promising that the United States would no longer eavesdrop on world leaders and would rein in the vast collection of Americans' phone data.
"The reforms I'm proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe," the president said.
Aside from the promise not to eavesdrop on world leaders, Obama largely left other proposed reforms up for discussion, effectively shifting the debate to congressional leaders.
Paul had another snappy response, when noting that Obama referenced American Revolution figure Paul Revere in his remarks.
“He mentioned Paul Revere. But Paul Revere was warning us about the British coming,” Paul said. “He wasn’t warning us that the Americans are coming.”
Later in the interview, Paul said he’s opposed to all massive data collection, by both the federal government and the private sector. Beyond civil liberty concerns, Paul said such massive surveillance just isn’t practical.
“Who are we going to hire, Eric Snowden’s contractor to hold all the information?” Paul said, laughing at his own joke.
Paul said Snowden “probably” broke the law in his leaking of classified information but said it is also the catalyst for the current debate over surveillance reform.
“I don’t think we’d be here, and I think there’d be absolutely no reform had there not been the releases by Snowden,” Paul said.
In a formal statement, Paul was more nuanced in his response:
"While I am encouraged the President is addressing the NSA spying program because of pressure from Congress and the American people, I am disappointed in the details. The Fourth Amendment requires an individualized warrant based on probable cause before the government can search phone records and e-mails.”
Since first being elected to the Senate in the 2010 midterm elections, Paul has experienced a rapid ascent within the Republican Party, in part due to the legacy of his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, arguably the leading figure of the libertarian movement.
However, Paul has managed to expand his reach to mainstream Republican circles and is considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate. Most recent polls show Paul trailing only behind New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, his political and ideological rival, in the race for the Republican nomination.
Regardless of whether he runs for president, Paul is likely to stay in the spotlight targeting the NSA issue. He told Blitzer that he doesn’t expect the debate to end soon.
“This is something that is going to have to be decided by the Supreme Court,” he said.

Freedom of the Press Foundation's Response to Obama's NSA Speech
January 17, 2014
President Obama addressed NSA reform in a forty minute speech this morning in which he proposed a few welcome reforms and many which could normalize some of the NSA's most dangerous practices. The ACLUElectronic Frontier Foundation, and journalist Glenn Greenwald have already issued responses well worth reading. We'd like to address a few points in more detail:
While the President's decision that any search of the mass phone records database will now require judicial review is an important one, he still insists the records of millions of Americans should be held by either the government or a private party. In doing so, the President is overlooking a critical point: The Fourth Amendment was written to protect Americans against unwarranted searches andseizures. The NSA and the US government are trying normalize an interpretation in which the 'seizure' part of the Fourth Amendment does not apply. The mere collection of innocent American's private information is a violation of their privacy, no matter if the information is ultimately held by the government or by a company through government mandate.
It's worth noting that while the President alluded to the use of surveillance in the American Revolution, he failed to mention the Revolution was sparked in large part by Britain's use of general warrants—i.e. mass surveillance—in the first place. Shifting the mass phone records database from government to private hands does nothing to alleviate those same concerns Americans have today—especially considering the long history telecoms have working hand-in-hand to facilitate illegal surveillance. As Senator Ron Wyden said today, "We must all remember that the very act of bulk collection of private data undermines Americans’ constitutional rights."
In the same vein, the Presidential directive released on mass data collection from overseas only purports to regulate the *use* of the bulk collection databases, it does nothing to curtail or stop the mass collection of millions of people's data in the first place. The use cases are also defined so broadly, it's hard to see how they change anything at all.
With National Security Letters, Obama vaguely promised to end perpetual gag orders, but failed to provide any specifics. Critically, NSLs will continue without judicial review, thereby continuing to threaten the privacy of tens of thousands of Americans, including many sources and journalists. The President also made no mention of one of the most serious Snowden revelations so far: how the NSA is undermining and sabotaging common encryption used across the Internet, thereby putting everyone's data at risk.
All of these issues—mass metadata surveillance, National Security Letters, and the breaking of encryption—affect every American and many people around the world, but they are all tools that threaten the foundations of journalism. If sources and journalists cannot speak to one another without being monitored then the public doesn't just lose its own privacy, but a lot of information about how its government operates behind closed doors is lost as well.
To be sure, there are significant reforms the President said he would support: requiring judicial review every time the NSA queries its massive database of American phone numbers, increased transparency for significant FISA court opinions, putting a privacy advocate in front of the secret court. But many of the changes suggested by Obama are cosmetic and some may even normalize and legalize many of the practices Americans find so abhorrent. Obama's recommendations should be seen as the floor—and not the ceiling—for the debate going forward. In the coming days and weeks, Congress has the ability to enact much stricter reforms which can really put to rest the fears of so many that the NSA is ultimately unaccountable.
We would be remiss if we didn't point out that this debate—which Obama today said "will make us stronger"—would not have been possible without Edward Snowden. In the most disingenuous part of his speech, President Obama said he was just about to initiate a comprehensive review of surveillance before the Edward Snowden disclosures started. This is plainly false. Many have been trying to bring transparency on the NSA for the first five years of his presidency, and uniformly, the administration has stonewalled those efforts.
Despite all this, the government is still charging him under the pernicious Espionage Act, which has him facing decades or life in prison with no opportunity to argue he is a whistleblower in any potential trial. Any NSA reform should be accompanied by the reform or repeal of the Espionage Act.
Note: both Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden are members of our board of directors.

Obama Speech On NSA Spying: “A Nothing Burger Served Hot And With A Sympathetic Smile”

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NSA REFORMArtwork by William Banazi
Artwork by Anthony Freda
President Obama did exactly what the American people predicted: made a pretty speech, but failed to rein in NSA spying.
CNN correctly notes:
Critics of U.S. intelligence practices barely waited for the speech to end before pouncing.
Representative Rush Holt says:
The President’s speech offered far less than meets the eye.

“His proposals continue to allow surveillance of Americans without requiring a Fourth Amendment determination of probable cause.  They continue to regard Americans as suspects first and citizens second.  They continue to allow the government to build backdoors into computer software and hardware.  They fail to strengthen protections for whistleblowers who uncover abusive spying.

“The President spoke about navigating ‘the balance between security and liberty.’  But this is a faulty and false choice.  As Barack Obama himself urged in his first inaugural address, we must ‘reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.’

“The Fourth Amendment and other civil liberty protections do not exist to impede police or intelligence agencies.  To the contrary, they exist to hold to hold government agents to a high standard – to ensure that they act on the basis of evidence, rather than wasting time and resources on wild goose chases.

“Even the modest improvements announced today are subject to reversal at a stroke of the President’s pen.  A standard of ‘trust my good intentions’ isn’t good enough.  Congress should reject these practices and repeal the laws that made the NSA’s abuses possible.”
Senator Rand Paul says:
President Obama’s announced solution to the NSA spying controversy is the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration ….

“The American people should not expect the fox to guard the hen house,” Paul said about Obama’s promise to appoint a special White House oversight director to keep a watchful eye over the security programs.
Leading constitutional and military law expert Jonathan Turley writes:
I just listened to the NSA speech by President Obama and as expected there is precious little in terms of real change. For civil libertarians, it is a nothing burger served hot and with a sympathetic smile. It is much of the same.


The programs will continue and the intelligence community will retain its authority with little outside independent limits. The speech had the feel of a car salesman coming back from “speaking with the manager” and saying that he is able to offer a deal that no one likes but he wants to offer because he likes the customer. Of course, this “deal” does not require our consent.

In the end, the changes are either undefined (like the privacy advocates) or basically “trust us were your government” (including a reminder that NSA people are your neighbors).

The Paul Revere reference at the beginning seemed to set the less than honest approach of the speech. Revere and the Sons of Liberty were watching public movement of an enemy at war. Likewise, Obama again references “court” review of the metadata as if it were a true court applying real probable cause. FISC has been widely ridiculed as a rubber-stamp for the government. The Court is given a standard that is hard for the government not to satisfy with even the most casual filings.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund notes:
Rather than dismantling the NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance programs, or even substantially restraining them, President Obama today has issued his endorsement of them. What are billed as ‘reforms’ are mere window dressing, cosmetic changes that leave this unconstitutional system intact and, in fact, provide presidential ratification.

Today’s speech full of minimization and outright denial regarding the now-documented massive scope of NSA spying on the population served as the presidential announcement of an intention to permanently implement a national surveillance grid and indiscriminate mass data collection. Every keystroke will still be captured, every phone call will still be logged.


Using tactics of misdirection, the president has tried to reframe the issue as who should house the massive collection of data on law-abiding people, rather than the real issue, which is that this massive indiscriminate collection and warehousing of data must stop. This speech will fail to stop the tide of opposition of people in the United States and around the world who reject living under a Surveillance State.
The Guardian reports:
Obama’s NSA speech: an affirmation that mass surveillance has a future


The Mozilla Foundation – the internet non-profit that makes, among other things, the Firefox browser – reacted to Obama’s speech in a way that pointed to the path not taken. “Overall, the strategy seems to be to leave current intelligence processes largely intact and improve oversight to a degree,” it said in a statement.

“We’d hoped for, and the internet deserves, more. Without a meaningful change of course, the internet will continue on its path toward a world of balkanization and distrust, a grave departure from its origins of openness and opportunity.”
Spencer Ackerman tweets:
The more you parse the details of what Obama's announced & what he's punted on, the better it looksfor NSA [and the worse it looks for the people.]
David Swanson comments:
Massive bulk collection of everybody’s data will continue unconstitutionally, but Obama has expressed a certain vague desire to end it, sort of, except for the parts that are needed, but not to do so right away.  The comparisons to the closure of the Guantanamo death camp began instantly.


Obama has not proposed to end abuses. He’s proposed to appoint two new bureaucrats plus John Podesta. Out of this speech we get reviews of policies, a commitment to tell the Director of National Intelligence to read court rulings that impact the crimes and abuses he’s engaged in, and a promise that the “Intelligence Community” will inspect itself. (Congress, the courts, and the people don’t come up in this list of reforms.) Usually this sort of imperial-presidential fluff wins praise from Obama’s followers. This time, I’m not hearing it.
ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romerosays:
The president’s decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans’ data remains highly troubling. The president outlined a process to study the issue further and appears open to alternatives. But the president should end – not mend – the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data. When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the Constitution. The president’s own review panel recommended that bulk data collection be ended, and the president should accept that recommendation in its entirety.”
Julian Assange argues:
[It's] embarrassing for a head of state to go on like that for 45 minutes and say almost nothing.
CNN’s Ashley Killough points out:
Retired Maj. Gen. James ‘Spider’ Marks says he doubts anything is going to “substantively change” in terms of using data collection to go after terrorism.
CNN’s Carl Lavin points out:
How important is 9/11 – I count
nine mentions:
  1. The horror of September 11th brought these issues to the fore.
  2. It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to
    go through after 9/11.
  3. We saw, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, our government engaged in enhanced
    interrogation techniques that contradicted our values.
  4. some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took
  5. they know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber-attack occurs, they will be asked,
    by Congress and the media, why they failed to connect the dots.
  6. a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our
    effort to get off the open ended war-footing that we have maintained since
  7. Those who are troubled by our existing programs are not interested in a repeat
    of 9/11,
  8. Why is this necessary? The program grew out of a desire to address a gap
    identified after 9/11.
  9. One of the 9/11 hijackers – Khalid al-Mihdhar – made a phone call from San
    Diego to a known al Qaeda safe-house in Yemen.
But Zeke Johnson tweets:
President repeats red-herring about 9/11 fail related to lack of surveillance. Problem was lack of sharing existing info btw CIA & FBI
And Dana Davidson comments:
CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen says the true story of 9/11 wasn’t a failure to have enough intelligence data. Read the story:Would NSA surveillance have stopped 9/11 plot?
Glenn Greenwald notes:
It’s really just basically a PR gesture, a way to calm the public and to make them think there’s reform when in reality there really won’t be. And I think that if the public, at this point, has heard enough about what the NSA does and how invasive it is, that they’re going to need more than just a pretty speech from President Obama to feel as though their concerns have been addressed.
“Store all citizens’ communications records” is a radical policy. But it’s been transformed to normal- only allowed debate is: who holds it?
The key question: will the NSA continue to monitor hundreds of millions of people without any suspicion? Under Obama’s proposals: yes.
In response to political scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the same well-worn tactic.


The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are “serious questions that have been raised”. They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic “reforms” so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.

This scam has been so frequently used that it is now easily recognizable. In the mid-1970s, the Senate uncovered surveillanceabuses that had been ongoing for decades, generating widespread public fury. In response, the US Congress enacted a new law (Fisa) which featured two primary “safeguards”: a requirement of judicial review for any domestic surveillance, and newly created committees to ensure legal compliance by the intelligence community.

But the new court was designed to ensure that all of the government’s requests were approved: it met in secret, only the government’s lawyers could attend, it was staffed with the most pro-government judges, and it was even housed in the executive branch. As planned, the court over the next 30 years virtually never said no to the government.

Identically, the most devoted and slavish loyalists of the National Security State were repeatedly installed as the committee’s heads, currently in the form of NSAcheerleaders Democrat Dianne Feinstein in the Senate and Republican Mike Rogers in the House. As the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza put it in a December 2013 article on the joke of Congressional oversight, the committees “more often treat … senior intelligence officials like matinee idols”.

As a result, the committees, ostensibly intended to serve an overseer function, have far more often acted as the NSA’s in-house PR firm. The heralded mid-1970s reforms did more to make Americans believe there was reform than actually providing any, thus shielding it from real reforms.

The same thing happened after the New York Times, in 2005, revealed that the NSA under Bush had been eavesdropping on Americans for years without the warrants required by criminal law. The US political class loudly claimed that they would resolve the problems that led to that scandal. Instead, they did the opposite: in 2008, a bipartisan Congress, with the support of then-Senator Barack Obama, enacted a new Fisa law that legalized the bulk of the once-illegal Bush program, including allowing warrantless eavesdropping on hundreds of millions of foreign nationals and large numbers of Americans as well.

This was also the same tactic used in the wake of the 2008 financial crises. Politicians dutifully read from the script that blamed unregulated Wall Street excesses and angrily vowed to reign them in. They then enacted legislation that left the bankers almost entirely unscathed, and which made the “too-big-to-fail” problem that spawned the crises worse than ever.

And now we have the spectacle of President Obama reciting paeans to the values of individual privacy and the pressing need for NSA safeguards.


By design, those proposals will do little more than maintain rigidly in place the very bulk surveillance systems that have sparked such controversy and anger.


Obama’s speech was so bereft of specifics  …. that they are more like slogans than serious proposals.

Ultimately, the radical essence of the NSA – a system of suspicion-less spying aimed at hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world – will fully endure even if all of Obama’s proposals are adopted. That’s because Obama never hid the real purpose of this process. It is, he and his officials repeatedly acknowledged, “to restore public confidence” in the NSA. In other words, the goal isn’t to truly reform the agency; it is deceive people into believing it has been so that they no longer fear it or are angry about it.


[Obama is] not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it.
Cesar Cordova parodies Obama’s speech:
“Changes in the NSA goes as follows. Tuesday will now be known as Taco Tuesdays at the cafeteria. That is all.”
SRsage107 replies with his own satire:
You misread. It clearly says “sweeping” changes. It just means they are going to “try” and keep more of their illegal surveillance swept under the rug.

Four Questionable Claims Obama Has Made on NSA Surveillance

In preparation for President Obama's speech on surveillance policy today, here are some of the misleading statements he has made about the NSA. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
Today President Obama plans to announce some reportedly limited reforms to National Security Agency surveillance programs.
Since the first disclosures based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Obama has offered his own defenses of the programs. But not all of the president’s claims have stood up to scrutiny. Here are some of the misleading assertions he has made.
1. There have been no abuses.
And I think it's important to note that in all the reviews of this program [Section 215] that have been done, in fact, there have not been actual instances where it's been alleged that the NSA in some ways acted inappropriately in the use of this data … There had not been evidence and there continues not to be evidence that the particular program had been abused in how it was used. -- Dec. 20, 2013
At press conferences in JuneAugust and December, Obama made assurances that two types of bulk surveillance had not been misused. In fact, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has reprimanded the NSA for abuses both in warrantless surveillance targeting people abroad, and in bulk domestic phone records collection.
In 2011, the FISA Court found that for three years, the NSA had been collecting tens of thousands of domestic emails and other communications in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The court ordered the NSA to do more to filter out those communications. In a footnote, Judge John D. Bates also chastised the NSA for repeatedly misleading the court about the extent of its surveillance. In 2009 – weeks after Obama took office – the court concluded the procedures designed to protect the privacy of American phone records had been “so frequently and systemically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall … regime has never functioned effectively.”
The NSA told the court those violations were unintentional and a result of technological limitations. But the NSA’s own inspector general has also documented some “willful” abuses: About a dozen NSA employees have used government surveillance to spy on their lovers and exes, a practice reportedly called “LOVEINT.”
2. At least 50 terrorist threats have been averted.
We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information not just in the United States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany. So lives have been saved. -- June 19, 2013
The record is far less clear. Obama’s own review group concluded that the sweeping phone records collection program has not prevented any terrorist attacks. At this point, the only suspect the NSA says it identified using the phone records collection program is a San Diego cab driver later convicted of sending $8,500 to a terrorist group in his homeland of Somalia.
The NSA’s targeting of people abroad appears to have been more effective around counter-terrorism, as even surveillance skeptics in Congress acknowledge. But it’s impossible to assess the role the NSA played in each case because the list of thwarted attacks is classified. And what we do know about the few cases that have become public raises even more questions:
3. The NSA does not do any domestic spying.
We put in some additional safeguards to make sure that there is federal court oversight as well as Congressional oversight that there is no spying on Americans. We don't have a domestic spying program. What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an e-mail address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat, and that information is useful. -- Aug. 7, 2013
In fact, plenty of Americans’ communications get swept up. The government, of course, has the phone records of most Americans.  And, as the FISA Court learned in 2011, the NSA was gathering tens of thousands of domestic emails and other communications.
Additionally, the NSA's minimization procedures, which are supposed to protect American privacy, allow the agency to keep and use purely domestic communications in some circumstances. If the NSA “inadvertently” vacuums up American communications that are encrypted, contain evidence of a crime, or relate to cybersecurity, the NSA can retain those communications.
The privacy standards suggest there is a “backdoor loophole” that allows the NSA to search for American communications. NSA critic Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has said, “Once Americans' communications are collected, a gap in the law that I call the 'back-door searches loophole' allows the government to potentially go through these communications and conduct warrantless searches for the phone calls or emails of law-abiding Americans.”It’s not clear whether the NSA has actually used this “backdoor.”
And while the NSA acknowledges that it intercepts communications between Americans and surveillance targets abroad, the agency also intercepts some domestic communications that mention information about foreigners who have been targeted. As a result, the NSA has sometimes searched communications from Americans who have not been suspected of wrongdoing – though an NSA official says the agency uses “very precise” searches to avoid those intercepts as much as possible.
4. Snowden failed to take advantage of whistleblower protections.
I signed an executive order well before Mr. Snowden leaked this information that provided whistleblower protection to the intelligence community – for the first time. So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that they needed to question government actions. -- Aug. 9, 2013
Obama’s presidential policy directive forbids agencies from retaliating against intelligence personnel who report waste, fraud and abuse. But the measure mentions only “employees,” not contractors. Whistleblower advocates say that means the order does not cover intelligence contractors.
“I often have contractors coming to me with whistleblower-type concerns and they are the least protected of them all,” attorney Mark Zaid told the Washington Post.
What’s more, the directive was not yet in effect at the time Snowden came forward.Since the leaks, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has said “the Executive Branch is evaluating the scope” of the protections.
Former NSA employee Thomas Drake argues that even if Snowden were a government employee who went through the proper legal channels, he still wouldn’t have been safe from retaliation. Drake says while he reported his concerns about a 2001 surveillance program to his NSA superiors, Congress, and the Department of Defense, he was told the program was legal. Drake was later indicted for providing information to the Baltimore Sun. After years of legal wrangling, Drake pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and got no prison time.

Obama: We Won’t Spy on Foreign Leaders, Unless We Do

Pledge to Stop Comes With Huge Caveat

by Jason Ditz, January 17, 2014
One of the much-vaunted reforms of President Obama’s NSA speech was to end surveillance on foreign leaders. The announcement was touted as a major shift across the media, but like most things which involve today’s speech, it misses the huge caveats which reveal that the change won’t be a change at all.
The exact pledge was “I have made clear to the intelligence community that – unless there is a compelling national security purpose – we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.”
The caveat, and it’s an easy one to spot because it’s got dashes surround it, essentially negates the whole of the promise, as the rest of Obama’s speech centered around the idea that literally no real abuses are happening, and that all the surveillance going on was for compelling reasons.
A whole second caveat was thrown in at the end, saying it only applies to “close friends and allies,” which would allow future presidents to pick and choose which excuse they have for spying, whether a foreign leader is not a really “close” friend, or whether there was a “compelling” need, or both.

Obama Unveils Vague NSA ‘Reforms,’ Denies Wrongdoing

Promises Changes to Metadata Storage at Some Point

by Jason Ditz, January 17, 2014
After much anticipation, President Obama has finally delivered his speech on promised NSA reforms, and it was everything that initial reports suggested it would be.
The hour-long speech was peppered with numbered lists of vague promises for improved transparency, punctuated by repeated denials of any wrongdoing by the NSA and appeals to 9/11 as the justification for the programs.
The president attempted to draw a straight line comparison of Paul Revere and the NSA, going on to liken the NSA’s Internet data collection to the targeted ads of companies like Google. He repeatedly insisted “ordinary people” and “ordinary folks” have nothing to fear from his surveillance.
Declaring that “nothing suggests” the NSA had violated the law, Obama claimed everyone basically supports the idea of mass surveillance, and unveiled his five point plan for reforms.
The five points were mostly all the same thing, detail-free promises of increased transparency at some future date. President Obama also suggested that telephone metadata would be placed in the hands of someone else in the future.
Typical of the speech, though, there was no indication of who would hold the metadata, or when such changes would even happen, saying that they still need to determine how to do this, and that in the meantime, the metadata could be queried by the NSA whenever the courts say it’s okay, or whenever they think it’s really important.
Obama acted quite pleased with his substance-free reforms, saying they should “give the American people greater confidence,” and then went on to discuss foreign surveillance.
Here to, President Obama denied any wrongdoing, overtly lying by insisting the NSA had never been used for commercial advantage. Insisting it was vital to secure the “trust of leaders around the world,” Obama also announced that the US State Department is going to be appointing what amounts to a senior apologist for the NSA, who will be responsible for placating nations about all the spying he’s doing.

Things Barack Obama Doesn’t Consider “Abuse”

Unauthorized suspected terroristsPresident Obama will shortly give a speech in which he’ll make cosmetic changes to the NSA dragnet, but will continue, in many ways, the accessing of personal data from Americans with no probable cause.
As part of his cosmetic effort, he will also say there has been no evidence of abuse in these programs. That means he does not consider any of the following abuse:
  • The NSA spied on the porn and phone sex habits of ideological opponents, including those with no significant ties to extremists, and including a US person.
  • According to the NSA in 2009, it had a program similar to Project Minaret — the tracking of anti-war opponents in the 1970s — in which it spied on people in the US in the guise of counterterrorism without approval. We still don’t have details of this abuse.
  • When the NSA got FISC approval for the Internet (2004) and phone (2006) dragnets, NSA did not turn off features of Bush’s illegal program that did not comply with the FISC authorization. These abuses continued until 2009 (one of them, the collection of Internet metadata that qualified as content, continued even after 2004 identification of those abuses).
  • Even after the FISC spent 9 months reining in some of this abuse, the NSA continued to ignore limits on disseminating US person data. Similarly, the NSA and FBI never complied with PATRIOT Act requirements to develop minimization procedures for the Section 215 program (in part, probably, because NSA’s role in the phone dragnet would violate any compliant minimization procedures).
  • The NSA has twice — in 2009 and 2011 — admitted to collecting US person content in the United States in bulk after having done so for years. It tried to claim (and still claims publicly in spite of legal rulings to the contrary) this US person content did not count as intentionally-collected US person content (FISC disagreed both times), and has succeeded in continuing some of it by refusing to count it, so it can claim it doesn’t know it is happening.
  • As recently as spring 2012, 9% of the NSA’s violations involved analysts breaking standard operating procedures they know. NSA doesn’t report these as willful violations, however, because they’ve deemed any rule-breaking in pursuit of “the mission” not to be willful violations.
  • In 2008, Congress passed a law allowing bulk collection of foreign-targeted content in the US, Section 702, to end the NSA’s practice of stealing Internet company data from telecom cables. Yet in spite of having a legal way to acquire such data, the NSA (through GCHQ) continues to steal data from some of the same companies, this time overseas, from their own cables. Arguably this is a violation of Section 702 of FISA.
  • NSA may intentionally collect US person content (including Internet metadata that legally qualifies as content) overseas (it won’t count this data, so we don’t know how systematic it is). If it does, it may be a violation of Section 703 of FISA.
Rather than discussing any of these violations, the NSA has waved around a few cases of LOVEINT (most, if not all, of which have not been prosecuted) as part of a successful ploy to distract from much more systemic abuses of its authority, affecting far more Americans.
But there has been abuse, even beyond practices (like back door searches) that gut the Fourth Amendment or (like NSA’s approach to encryption) that hurt Americans’ security.
President Obama will spend a lot of time saying there have been no abuses. He’s wrong.

Obama Aides: He Didn't Know Extent of NSA Surveillance

"I think it was disturbing to most people, and I think he found it disturbing.”

President Obama doesn’t merely claim ignorance of the IRS’ targeting of politically conservative groups or the Department of Justice’s targeting of journalists: according to The New York Times, Obama was also ignorant of the extent of NSA surveillance. According to the Times, “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.” David Plouffe, Obama’s advisor, said, “Things seem to have grown at the NSA. I think it was disturbing to most people, and I think he found it disturbing.”
President Obama has repeatedly claimed ignorance on scandals plaguing his administration.
In October, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said Obama didn’t know about failures of In May, Obama said he knew nothing about the IRS scandal: “I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG report before the IG report had been leaked through the press.” That same month, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama had no clue that the DOJ was targeting the Associated Press: “Other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the AP.”
In November 2012, Obama said he knew nothing about the scandal surrounding then-CIA Director David Petraeus. Carney denied in June 2012 that Obama knew anything about the Fast and Furious scandal: “[E]veryone knows the President did not know about this tactic until he heard about it through the media.” 

Obama: NSA Reforms Should Give Americans 'Greater Confidence'

But will they be enough to satisfy critics?

The new NSA Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah.(George Frey/Getty Images)
January 17, 2014
In a bid to calm growing privacy concerns about the government's spying powers, President Obama outlined a series of steps Friday aimed at ushering in "concrete and substantial" reforms to the National Security Agency.

"Americans recognized that we had to adapt to a world in which a bomb could be built in a basement and our electric grid could be shut down by operators an ocean away," the president said during a major policy speech at the Justice Department.
"And yet," he added, "in our rush to respond to very real and novel threats, the risks of government overreachthe possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of securitybecame more pronounced."
"The reforms I'm proposing today," Obama said toward the end of the speech, "should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe."

Obama will ask Attorney General Eric Holder and senior intelligence officials to forge a path forward that preserves the capabilities of the program without government retention of the data. The president is asking for a report outlining data-transfer options before March 28, when the collection program comes up for reauthorization.
Additionally, intelligence analysts will now be required to obtain approval from a secret court before querying information from the vast telephone database.
The metadata program, Obama said, "does not involve the content of phone calls, or the names of people making calls. Instead, it provides a record of phone numbers and the times and lengths of calls—metadata that can be queried if and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked to a terrorist organization."
Obama defended the bulk collection of metadata in part by raising the spectre of 9/11. "One of the 9/11 hijackersKhalid al-Mihdharmade a phone call from San Diego to a known al-Qaida safe house in Yemen," Obama said. "NSA saw that call, but could not see that it was coming from an individual already in the United States." The metadata program, the president said, was created to remedy that problem.
The NSA will also reduce from three to two the number of "hops," or degrees of separation, from a suspected target it can jump when analyzing communications data. In his speech, Obama said this change would be "effective immediately."
The White House also released a policy directive Friday morning, which recognizes that "signals-intelligence activities and the possibility that such activities may be improperly disclosed to the public pose multiple risks," including harming international relationships. The directive also orders that "privacy and civil liberties shall be integral considerations in the planning of U.S. signals-intelligence activities."
While the president recognized the surveillance program has grown in recent years, he also strongly defended those who work in the intelligence community, saying they do not abuse power. "After all," he said, "the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors and our friends."
"Those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties," Obama said.
Obama also called on Congress to create a panel of outside advocates to provide an "independent voice" in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Currently, the court only hears arguments from the government in favor of surveillance.
It's unclear how closely this outside panel would resemble the recommendation from the president's own NSA review group for a special advocate to argue in favor of stronger privacy protections before the secretive court.
Technology companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have been clamoring to reveal more information about the requests they receive from the NSA for user data. They argue that the secrecy surrounding the surveillance has heightened privacy fears and discouraged people from using their services.
Obama announced several steps aimed at improving transparency. He directed the Justice Department to loosen the gag orders that accompany so-called national security letters, which require companies to turn over customer information. The gag orders will no longer be indefinite, Obama said.
The government will also allow companies like Google to disclose more statistics about the government's surveillance of their users.
Obama ordered the Justice Department to conduct an annual review and declassify all Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions with "broad privacy implications."
The president also made a point of trying to placate foreign leaders:
The bottom line is that people around the worldregardless of their nationalityshould know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don't threaten our national security, and that we take their privacy concerns into account. This applies to foreign leaders as well. Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I have made clear to the intelligence community thatunless there is a compelling national security purposewe will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.
At the same time, the president said that U.S. intelligence agencies "will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments—as opposed to ordinary citizens—around the world.... We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective."
Obama's speech is the first to enumerate specific reforms to the NSA since Edward Snowden began leaking details about the agency's surveillance powers last June. The intelligence community has consistently defended its collection of phone records, which they contend is legally justified under Section 215 of the post-9/11 Patriot Act, as necessary to combat potential terror threats.
"Given the fact of an open investigation," Obama said, "I'm not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden's actions or motivations." But he did make clear his not-too-warm feelings:
I will say that our nation's defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation's secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it in their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will never be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy.
The president, for his part, emphasized his "healthy skepticism" toward surveillance programs, and noted that his administration has increased oversight and auditing. He later mentioned that he would "not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents, like Dr. King, who were spied on by their own government."
That sentiment, of course, stands in stark contrast to the massive spying program he has overseen. And times have changed:
"We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyberthreats," Obama said, "without some capability to penetrate digital communications."
The president also criticized unnamed countries for knocking the NSA's programs in light of the leaks:
We know that the intelligence services of other countriesincluding some who feign surprise over the Snowden disclosuresare constantly probing our government and private-sector networks, and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations, intercept our emails, or compromise our systems. Meanwhile, a number of countries, including some who have loudly criticized the NSA, privately acknowledge that America has special responsibilities as the world's only superpower; that our intelligence capabilities are critical to meeting these responsibilities; and that they themselves have relied on the information we obtain to protect their own people.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper applauded Obama's Friday approach in a statement as "measured and thoughtful" and "focused on striking the right balance."
Privacy advocates have long been clamoring for the government to relinquish control of telephone metadata and increase judicial review of the NSA's surveillance authority, a view the president's hand-picked review panel echoed last month. The panel also concluded that the program itself has not been responsible for preventing any terrorist attacks.
But many believe the government should end its current mass data-gathering techniques entirely, and consider phone company or third-party retention as merely a pivot that will incur a bevy of legal headaches from the technology industry and others.
Phone companies have given no indication that they are receptive to any mandate requiring them to maintain and oversee the massive trove of telephone metadata, which includes numbers, call times, and call durations but not the contents of conversations.
"This shifting of records would not solve the problemit would just shift it," said Elizabeth Goitein, codirector of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "In the case of telephone companies, it would turn them into agents of the surveillance community."
Obama's speech sets up a showdown in Congress over how tightly to limit the NSA's powers. Before the speech, several members of Congress championing NSA reform legislation indicated they plan to move ahead with legislation regardless of the reforms announced.
One of the members he'll have to convince is Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., a prominent member of the Intelligence Committee. The White House invited him to attend the event at the Justice Department.
"Because of the strength of our own democracy," Obama said at the end of his speech, "we should not shy away from high expectations." Now we'll see just what expectations Obama's proposals have lived up to, or failed.