I saw the President’s statement, his latest, I think, defending the NSA program, Prism, and the government’s gathering of mass information on everyone in the country, stammering a bit and looking somewhat glassy-eyed but, then, he would, wouldn’t he, since we’re looking at the complete disaster now, the end of any real pretense.
Obama babbles about having a ‘conversation’ which according to him will involve ‘balancing’ two competing interests, one being your freedom, your birthright, your Constitution, and the other being your ‘security.’ We have to find that balance, Obama says, but he does not really mean ‘we.’ He means he and his friends, the army and the important people. The rest of us can go pound salt.
It is, like everything else in this man’s catastrophic presidency, a lie. Freedom and your rights under the 4th Amendment are not a counterweight to your security, where some mythical ‘balance’ need be found by the gang in charge, where you’ll have to give up some freedom, just a little bit, we’ll be really, really careful, in order to keep you safe.
Trust us, you dumb fucks.
Tonight, the President’s latest comic relief will appear on Charlie Rose, a perfect forum for pretentious claptrap. One of his mouthpieces, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, turned up on CBS’s Face The Nation yesterday, saying “I think that the American people can feel confident that we have those three branches looking,” in reference to the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, meaning that there’s plenty of ‘oversight’ by the ‘authorities.’
What McDonough was actually getting at was:
"The president is not saying, 'Trust me.' The president is saying, 'I want every member of Congress, on whose authority we are running this program, to be briefed on it, to come to the administration with questions and to also be accountable for it.'" So, what the President is saying is ‘Trust Diane Feinstein. and a secret court.’
In fact, as Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has been trying desperately to warn people about for at least six months, the army and the FBI are spying on everyone and 'oversight' amounts to 'you folks go right ahead.' The intelligence committees of the House and Senate have received ‘briefings’ on programs which cannot be verified; the rest of the Congress has not been told anything of substance, not even that their own phones are certainly tapped.
Congress, says Obama, authorized these programs, even if they have no idea what they are, and they’re legal because a secret court you’ll never know about says they’re legal. Where did we get these secret judges and secret proceedings? From Joseph Stalin; he’s not using them anymore.
The purported ‘legality’ of the campaign of massive surveillance is another classic case of lies and misdirection. The Democrats’ minority whip in the House, Steny Hoyer, actually explained to the press six days ago that the same massive surveillance which was illegal when George Bush did it is now legal! That’s right, it’s legal because we say it is.
A secondary but critical strategy used by Obama and his hacks is to ignore the Prism operation and focus on a quite different spy program which seizes what is called ‘metadata,’ that information which may be gleaned from capturing every e-mail and telephone call without also picking up, or at least sorting through, content. The use of ‘metadata’ is claimed to be a lot less intrusive since in theory no one is listening to your calls or reading your mail. Obama and his defenders purposely conflate the two programs as a means of confusing the public. But even metadata collection is a very dangerous program because it allows the agency to create a three-dimensional profile of every person. Vice President Joe Biden understood this when he was asked about a similar attempt under Bush in 2006:
"I don't have to listen to your phone calls to know what you're doing. If I know every single phone call you made, I'm able to determine every single person you talked to. I can get a pattern about your life that is very, very intrusive. . . . If it's true that 200 million Americans' phone calls were monitored - in terms of not listening to what they said, but to whom they spoke and who spoke to them - I don't know, the Congress should investigative this. It doesn’t pass the Fourth Amendment test"
Obama himself, on Rose, from a PBS advance transcript:
"What I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls, and the NSA cannot target your e-mails … and have not."
Let’s see, how can I put this? He’s lying. Maybe I should use euphemism, that’s what Obama often does. Kidnapping and torture is ‘extraordinary rendition.’ A death list is a ‘disposition matrix.’ But, no, this column is not a presidential press release.
One revealing exchange:
Rose: So I hear you saying, I have no problem with what NSA has been doing.
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.
Rose: But has FISA court turned down any request?
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.
Rose: Should this be transparent in some way?
Obama: It is transparent. That’s why we set up the FISA court.
To give Rose his due, he appears at least to be trying, but how can you hold the President to account when he refuses to answer a straight question?
The answers Obama didn’t give, the truth, is this:
The FBI has to go to the FISA court to get a warrant, but of course that doesn’t respond to your question. First, NSA, not the FBI, is running Prism, and they’re not relying on warrants because we don’t think they need any. Second, the Prism operation captures everything, all the words and music, your e-mails, your web searches, your social site conversations, and stores them as data for later retrieval. Third, NSA employees, some of whom are private contractors, can listen to any conversation they want to and you’ll never know about it. Fourth, no, Charlie, FISA has never turned down a request. I didn’t want to tell you that because it sounds bad. Instead I danced away with that vague reference to “the number of requests are (sic) surprisingly small,” which of course tells you nothing. What’s ‘surprisingly’ mean? Five hundred? Five hundred million? You’ll never know. Fifth, remember the last time I got vague with numbers? I said the number of civilian casualties from my remote control drone attacks have been ‘surprisingly small.’ The actual number is about 30,000 dead innocents, but we think that’s surprisingly small under the circumstances. Sixth, we set up the FISA court to avoid transparency. If we had to take our requests for warrants to a real court, then people could find out about it. With FISA, even the targets never know unless they get lucky.
Later on in the interview, Obama claims that the massive surveillance program has “interrupted” terrorist plots inside the U.S., citing specifically the case of Najibullah Zazi, who was arrested four years ago and charged with planning to hit the New York subway system with bombs. Interesting that Obama would use this example as support for the proposition that American should surrender our most basic freedom, the guarantees of the 4th Amendment since, first, Zazi was captured not because of the spy operations of the NSA or FBI but as a result of ordinary, good police work, the kind that does not require destruction of the Constitution.
It’s also interesting that the Zazi case is the only one the government can cite, not very surprising since it’s been well-documented that 14 of the known 22 ‘terrorist’ plots which the government has managed to short-circuit since 2001 were actually instigated by the FBI itself.
Any competent reading of the 4th Amendment should make clear that the government has no possible legal authority for conducting massive surveillance of its citizens. Any such program is against the law and should result in prison terms for those engaging in it, those who created it, and those who went along with it. That is not hyperbole. It is simply a fair application of American law.
But thus far, nobody has had standing, according to the courts, to bring the matter to a hearing. Why? Because, said the courts, no one was permitted to use classified information to show that they, themselves, were among a class of people harmed by the practice. Even if the proof existed, it was classified secret and, as such, could not be used in court. So several lawsuits seeking relief from the massive spying we know was going on got tossed from this technical deficit. Now, however, the government cannot defend its felonies by saying people do not know because we do know, we know that we’re all being tapped, our mail is being captured and stored, and we know it thanks to the guts of a real patriot, one Edward Snowden.
My security as an American, my country’s security lies in its adherence to its fundamental laws, its Bill of Rights. My security is endangered, is damaged, only if those rights are compromised. And right now we have a President, a Congress, and a mass media falling all over one another in the race to do exactly that.
The greatest threat to American security is not some ‘terrorist,’ mythical or not. If someone blows up a public gathering, it is a crime, an ugly crime which requires real law enforcement and criminal penalties. If someone blows up the public’s rights under the Constitution, it is a crime much graver because the rights taken away will not be given back. The President apparently does not know this.
All across the internet now there are arguments, plenty of commentary, rumors, charges, false stories, planted stories, the bleating of fools. A single man stood against the espionage establishment, giving up a cushy life, maybe any life at all, to do the right thing, and he’s catching hell from all sides.
It’s a real question in my mind, watching this circus, reading these comments, noting the insane, pompous excretions from columnists such as Toobin in the New Yorker and Brooks and Thomas J. Friedman in the New York Times, and those creeps at CNN and the useless wankers Mitchell, Maddow, Matthews, and O’Donnell on MSNBC: are Americans too stupid and careless to deserve democracy?
Judging by the posted remarks on numerous web sites, plenty of Americans think it’s just ducky if the government spies on them since they’re ‘not doing anything wrong.’ It’s as though the entire history, the struggle for liberty, the sacrifices, the courage of real people have come to naught because the public cares more about its television shows and what they can buy at the mall than about liberty or the lies of their President.
Those who say that spying doesn’t bother them are fools, of course, but in some cases they simply have no idea what it means, and they are not going to learn about it on any of the television networks. It’s a classic conceit of the ‘liberals’ that MSNBC and its talking heads are ‘good guys’ and trustworthy, so much smarter than those blockheads at Fox. The truth, however, is that there is no more truth on MSNBC than on Fox, just a different, slightly more sophisticated variety of lie. Why do you think Obama is taking his road show to PBS tonight?
Trust us, you dumb fucks.
Joseph Goebbels noted that it was the ideal situation to have what are ostensibly differing news sources operating within a single closed system. That’s what we’ve got in America, and we don’t even know it. There are people out there who think Obama would be a much better President if only the Republicans wouldn’t keep blocking everything he’s trying to do. Seriously.
Edward Snowden is vilified by both major parties, mostly by Democrats since they are the assholes in power. Were Bush still in office, the sharpest arrows would no doubt be coming from the other guys.
It’s a real lesson in reality, for those with the guts to learn from it. From Obama to the Congressional leaders to the ‘liberals’ writing in the ‘liberal’ magazines and newspapers to the ‘liberals’ pontificating on ‘liberal’ radio and television networks, there is a near-unanimity: Snowden is a “traitor” (Diane Feinstein) who ought to be “prosecuted” (Al Franken), and hit with the full authority of the law. Never mind that he has exposed a most alarming, systemic violation of law, the utter destruction of the Constitution by the U.S. army, in conspiracy with a president and a handful of legislative ‘leaders,’ it is the whistle blower who must be found and punished.
That’s what the story is in the United States now. The person who exposes the crime is to be punished; the perps go free. Do you know about Thomas Drake? Like Snowden, he was an insider who saw massive violations of the law. Unlike Snowden, he brought these crimes to the attention of his superiors. They went after him. They charged him with breaking every law they could dream up. They ruined his life. They finally couldn’t jail him but that was only by fluke.
You may want to read Drake’s excellent recounting of his own experience and his observations on what Snowden is facing, in the Guardian UK, June 12 edition, online. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/12/snowden-surveillance-subverting-constitution
Drake came across something inside the NSA in 2001, called ‘Stellar Wind,” which was plainly illegal. He talked to some NSA legal people. They told him that since the NSA was doing it, it was therefore legal. Oddly, this is the same rationale used a week ago by Diane Feinstein, the senior Senator from California and Steny Hoyer, that pathetic joke from Maryland.
Stellar Wind was blanket electronic surveillance. The only legal difference between that and Prism is that the NSA now uses the fiction that a ‘warrant’ has been issued, albeit by a secret court, and albeit for the mail and other personal data on hundreds of millions of people.
Any sane reading of the 4th Amendment makes obvious the impossibility of a legal mass surveillance, since the army, nor Obama, nor any of the rest of those criminals in power can meet its terms. How can a seeker of any warrant ‘describe with particularity’ the persons to be searched and the things to be seized? Where is the probable cause? Does the government believe that there is probable cause to believe that hundreds of millions of Americans are engaged in criminal or ‘terrorist’ activity?
I’m watching this parade, the politicians and talking heads, and columnists, and I’m thinking the whole thing is over. We have allowed, through our sloth, our inattention, our cupidity, however and by whatever terms one wishes to use, the ascendancy of an evil class in America. The idea that a free society can exist when its military captures all the communications of its citizens is beyond rational exposition. And yet we have Harry Reid telling Americans to “calm down.”
The disinformation brigade is out in force, too, agents of the government or just plain crazy, to suggest that Snowden is a ‘disturbed’ person, or a government ‘agent’ whose work is designed to scare us more than we already are. Truth is a hard act these days. Maybe it’s always been so.
On YouTube you can find the videos contrasting what Obama said while campaigning and what he says now about government spying on its people. In 2008, he said, "This administration also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide." I’ve never seen a civil libertarian turn so quickly into a mouthpiece for a police state. Makes me wonder who he really is, where he really comes from, what he really believed back when he was suckering me and millions like me into believing just one more time in this bankrupt system.
Trust us, you dumb fucks.