Obama’s Empty Surveillance Promises, Take 2

I wrote the other day that the promises that President Obama made last week about greater transparency were mostly hollow, especially the appointment of a commission to study the problem. Such commission are a political black hole. But it turns out that his “independent” commission won’t be independent at all:
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The Bipartisan Consensus On Surveillance

Glenn Greenwald reports on the behind-the-scene battle over an amendment that would have confined NSA data mining only to those who are actually under investigation rather than allowing them to collect massive amounts of data on all of us in the name of stopping terrorism. That amendment failed in the House, but the vote was pretty close — and the leadership of both parties united to make sure that no limits would be placed on the National Surveillance State.
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The Audacity of Obama

Before he took office, President Obama wrote a book called The Audacity of Hope. He might well have named it the audacity of Barack Obama. Take a look at this clip from All In with Chris Hayes about the search for Edward Snowden. Pay particular attention to what the president says around the 5:00 mark, that we are seeking the return of Snowden to face trial “to make sure that the rule of law is observed.”
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Ladies and Gentlemen, the Director of National Intelligence

James Clapper is the Director of National Intelligence and he’s been telling anyone who would listen that the NSA’s data mining program is perfectly fine and not at all a threat to your privacy. And just to show you that he’s an expert on threats, here’s one of his greatest hits from October 2003:
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Why Illegal Surveillance Matters

Chris Hayes has been doing an excellent job of examining the recent revelations about illegal government spying, including this segment explaining why history teaches that we should be very concerned about the abuses of government surveillance, especially when it’s done without serious checks and balances. He makes many of the same points I’ve made about this.
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Obama vs Obama

Someone put together this video contrasting candidate Obama’s hammering of the Bush administration for giving us the false choice of either fighting terrorism or upholding the Constitution with his defense of illegal surveillance on the grounds that we can’t have 100% security and 100% privacy as well (as if either of those things could possibly exist or were relevant to the situation at all).
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Friedersdorf: Stop Using Terrorism to Diminish Freedom, Privacy

Conor Friedersdorf expresses my own thoughts on the question of our obsessive focus on terrorism far better than I could. He points out that in the real world Americans have very little to fear from terrorists and far more to fear from other things that we would never use to justify such a massive growth in government surveillance.
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Terrible Arguments in Defense of Government Spying

Andrew Sullivan has, much to my disappointment, reacted to the recent revelations of government spying with a yawn. And his readers are emailing him some absolutely terrible arguments about why they are unconcerned about it, particularly this inane argument comparing private companies to the government. Here’s one of his readers:
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Warrantless Surveillance and Partisan Hypocrisy

A new Pew survey shows exactly what I would have predicted, that one’s views on illegal government surveillance often changes significantly depending on whether you support the party in the White House. Overall, 56% said they’re okay with the government tracking all our phone calls in order to stop terrorism.
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Friedersdorf on Meaningless Oversight

One of the arguments being made by the Obama administration in defense of the newly revealed surveillance programs is that it’s all okay because elected members of Congress were briefed on it and are okay with it. Conor Friedersdorf points out why that claim is pretty meaningless, as is the idea of congressional oversight in general when dealing with these secret programs:
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