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back to article Obama proposes four-point plan to investigate US data spooks

In a Friday press conference, President Obama laid out a plan to review the USA PATRIOT Act, secret intelligence courts, and activities of the NSA. The revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had nothing to do with the review, Obama insisted, saying that as a senator he had supported more transparency and had spoken of …

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That makes two

Two actions by the US Gov't now that give a Suspiciously Specific Denial on their motivations, but it's clear they have been moved into action because of Snowden. At least some changes are coming ... even if it does go slow at the moment.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That makes two

lol, what changes? Fuck all changes. Lying president comes out and lies. Do I see any changes? No.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That makes two

Next you'll tell me He's stopped ordering illegal drone attacks in foreign countries and closed illegal prison camps.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That makes two

Yeah. Right.

Re-watch that press conference - I just saw excerpts from it 1/2 hour ago.

Note that the president does not say that anything will change, just that more oversight to prevent leaks and confirm proper operations, will happen. NOTHING ever stated about the fundamental policies themselves being changed or better ended - we know that is a LIE because Congress just re-funded the NSA programs last week.

The hypocrisy of the new broadcast I was just watching was so disgustingly appalling that I was laughing out loud, in the public space where I was watching it. The news channel (CNN) even had congresspeople to interview stating 'Yes, we will do something!'. ALL THE WHILE these back-stabbers just passed the legislation all over again last week! And behind the American public's back, too: the 3 people with whom I was watching the broadcast had NO idea that Congress re-funded the NSA until I informed them (with information from European news sources, because the American news didn't cover one squat drop of it)!!

Nothing is changing, they are simply putting on a nice show. Both sides. Well done, the public has learned to accept the doublespeak without issue or a single scrap of independent thought.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: That makes two

What Obama said is a lot of smoke and mirrors. The real problem is not that the government is spying on just about everyone, but does the government have the right to keep the American people from knowing what it is doing? These top secret classifications were designed to keep our enemies from discovering troop movements, battle plans, and weapons designs, etc. These classifications of things like keeping the people in America from knowing what our government is doing to them is nothing but wrong! I wonder who our government considers to be the enemy, the Talaban, or the citizens of the United States

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Meh

Nothing to hide? Then you have nothing to fear!

Won't stop them from kicking the door in though will it?

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Re: That makes two

"What Obama said is a lot of smoke and mirrors."

Or, in other words, "He's a politician".

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Re: "The real problem is not that the government is spying on just about everyone"

That seems like a pretty real problem to me.

That said, you are right on one point : the real problem is indeed not that the US gov is spying on everyone, it is that it is spying on everyone behind secret courts and gagging orders instead of doing so within the blinding light of democracy and justice, with oversight and due process every step of the way.

Which means that the US has just placed the final nail in the coffin that was built the day a previous US President openly stated that the Geneva Convention did not concern the US government when it came to retribution against people suspected of terrorism.

Today the US of A has removed itself from its lofty position as beacon of Freedom and Justice, and has placed itself at the same as a certain Cuban dictator, or any tinpot South American leader for that manner.

The only difference is that I still believe that Americans can reestablish actual Justice and Liberty for all within their own country. It will, however, involve quite a lot of pulling fingers out of arses.

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Re: That makes two

Half right. He DID close the black CIA prisons. And outlawed torture.

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Snowden ... should have gone through lawful channels

Yeah. So he could have been told to STFU and mind his own business. Right-o.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Snowden ... should have gone through lawful channels

Well, first off

"The revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had nothing to do with the review, Obama insisted"

Yeah, right. BWAHAHAHAHAHA - funny. But total BS.

However, I must admit I am wondering what exact process Snowden really should have followed. I always hear statements about "proper channels" and I worked in enough places to know that such channels exist, but I personally have never really felt I could trust those (never had the need/desire to use them - I clearly have never worked in exciting places).

"Dear boss, you're doing something bad"

"Dear employee, those people in black suits will take you to a nice quiet place where you can explain it all. Nice to have known you".

So, my challenge is that the credibility of such an alternative route must be proven beyond reasonable doubt before you can expect a whistleblower not to use the traditional mechanism of press disclosure..

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Re: Snowden ... should have gone through lawful channels

I worked in the US Government for quite a few years, and there always were whistleblower contacts, although I never had occasion to consult them. My approach, however, would have involved contact through a private attorney of my choosing, and initially without identification. That would have insured that my complaint was examined at least superficially and viewed as reasonable by a disinterested party, and that the proper procedures were followed to protect everyone concerned. And I would have been unsurprised at job consequences if the matter were pursued; in any functioning organization, there are many subtle ways to convey disapproval of disruptive acts despite the existence of whistleblower protections.

That was in a DoD agency, but not associated with the National Security establishment, and I was employed directly rather than through a contractor. There may be less legal (and job) protection for employees like Mr. Snowden, although his goals appear not to have included either. An approach to selected Senators and Representatives through a reasonably respected attorney with experience in civil liberties and privacy law, and perhaps a bit of National Security establishment or congressional staff service, could have been a good start and could have been done without taking any criminal action. I expect the Electronic Frontier Foundation or the Electronic Privacy Information Center could have provided suitable references.

And if that didn't work out, the public release option would be available as a backup.

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a sitting duck

I suppose this is as far as Obama can go, I wish he could go a bit further.

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Holmes

He's lying - he's flapping his lips.

Seeing how far he has gone in the last 6 years, I hope he doesn't go "further" on anything. The next step might well be FEMA trailers which will then be "investigated".

Also

> Accuses Russia of falling into "cold war thinking"

> Nixes a meeting with Russia because of some "factor"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: He's lying - he's flapping his lips.

Obama fully supports this shit (PRISM/Patriot act/etc) and if you think any different you are one blind stupid son of stupid dog.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: He's lying - he's flapping his lips.

> Accuses Russia of falling into "cold war thinking"

It makes you think when Putin's Russia needs to give political asylum to an American because of a civil liberties matter.

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Anonymous Coward

"The revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had nothing to do with the review, Obama insisted, saying that as a senator he had supported more transparency and had spoken of the need for greater oversight before."

So he talked about but since taking office has done nothing about it? When the story broke, what was his response? Yep, he agreed with what was taking place. So now as the backlash has continued to grow, he had decided to change course but with the advert of that he was for making changes all along. Typical politician; you can't believe a word they say as their actions are the only true guide.

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Black Helicopters

"When the story broke, what was his response? Yep, he agreed with what was taking place."

Actually, what happened was accusation and speculation that was roundly denied. Then came the first batch of revelations, forcing those involved to backtrack, saying that while they did X, they never did Y. Next round of revelations and again, we have "we did Y but never Z". Next round . . .

We have assurances that the US didn't monitor its own citizens but then that is proved not only false in the spirit of it but also the literal interpretation. Where the US indeed wasn't directly spying on Americans, it was co-opting other governments such as the all-too-eager UK and Australia to spy for them.

Quite simply, the government and those government agencies involved will hide and deny everything they can until being found out.

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Right...

As Senator, Obama first said he was against FISA and would vote against it. Yea! Then the vote came up, and naturally... What a hypocrite! I wouldn't believe him if he said that "water is wet"!

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Contractor

As stated, the Whistleblower provisions and protections do not apply to contractors, they aren't even made aware of them as Federal employees are. It's patently untrue that there is a formal process Snowden could have followed.

Even if the Snowden had been eligible for the protections, he would still have been guilty of mishandling and sharing sensitive documents in order to have presented the evidence he had. Sharing confidential/secret information with those not-authorized is specifically forbidden in the Whistleblower statutes.

Fuck you Kiss my ass Mr. President, Snowden is a Patriot and without him you'd still be up there smiling away, doing jack shit, while our Liberties were squeezed out of us, one law at a time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Contractor

And he and his successors will be doing jack shit going forward, all they'll do is make it harder for the truth of their actions to come out.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Contractor

"And he and his successors will be doing jack shit going forward, all they'll do is make it harder for the truth of their actions to come out."

Not true at all. If the American people wised up, they would make huge changes at election time. If the voters stayed away from the typical political parties, things could change.

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Re: Contractor

It isn't as simple as staying away from the main parties; where I live there were exactly zero candidates from any party that wasn't Republican or Democrat. State and local laws actively work to prevent other parties from getting on the ballots, non-standard parties don't get the Federal or State financial support dollars and networks don't invite them to debates.

The entire system is terribly rigged and with spending/donation limits removed and the equal time provisions being so tweaked as to be meaningless it isn't going to get better anytime soon.

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Re: Contractor

"If the American people wised up, they would make huge changes at election time. If the voters stayed away from the typical political parties, things could change."

This will not happen for several reasons, not least the deck stacking in favor of the established parties. Lax political spending limits probably are fairly unimportant, as there are enough people with gobs of money and strange political thoughts to fund any plausible third party if it could get a bit of traction. The last single-issue party that made it, however, was the Republican in the 1850s, driven by an issue more important than the NSA data vacuum.

The real problem is that first, most people are satisfied enough that they don't vote no matter how easy the authorities make it. Presidential election turnout has not exceeded 65% for more than a century - even during the lowest point of the Great Depression- and typically is far lower in other Congressional election years. In addition, most people know whether they are D or R by their fifth birthday and are unlikely to change later, though a clear supermajority of them have no real clue even as adults what that means in terms of policy choices. And as has been noted many times, the real behavioral differences between the parties are nearly noexistent on many matters, including national defense. If the administration can make a plausible case that the NSA supports national defense it is likely to carry the day.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Contractor

"Kiss my ass Mr. President, Snowden is a Patriot and without him you'd still be up there smiling away, doing jack shit, while our Liberties were squeezed out of us, one law at a time."

I'm sure he's still up there smiling away doing jack shit, because the majority of people (unlike El Reg readers) don't give a shit, sadly. (Or are stupid enough to trust in spin-doctored speeches and statements)

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just a reminder

> Snowden is a Patriot and without him you'd still be up there smiling away, doing jack shit, while our Liberties were squeezed out of us, one law at a time.

But... he's still up there smiling away and doing jack shit.

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WTF?

"Restraint"?

We've heard of it...

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Coincidence of course

Good heavens......Quelle surprise! "Of course, I planned this all along" is what he might have said. Looking at this debacle from across the pond, it would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. Just who does Obama think he's kidding? He's been found out and now it's obvious there's going to be some sort of attempt at damage limitation, otherwise he and his cronies who support all this snooping may well find themselves out of office at the next election. It's a joke.

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"No we don't do these things"

"There's no such program"

"We wouldn't be able to do such things even if we wanted to"

"OK we do some of that, but not as much as Snowden says"

"Snowden's making it up, he's a liar"

"OK we do that, but not to Americans so its OK"

"OK, we do it to Americans too, but with proper oversight"

"OK, the people supposedly overseeing the programs don't know the whole story"

"I want to make clear that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people."

"I'm satisfied that the intelligence agencies were obeying the law at all times"

Now, why don't I believe you. Especially as a non-American I'm apparently not an "ordinary person"

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"Especially as a non-American I'm apparently not an "ordinary person""

I would go so far as to say that the collective responses to this (both from the government side and, to some extent, the critics' side) implies that you (and I etc) are not any sort of person. And that scares me more than the actual spying.

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Anonymous Coward

It is more complicated than that

Two options here:

1. He is lying.

2. He was being lied to and he is replying based on the briefings which are being given to him.

Option 2 implies an outright criminal behaviour on behalf of the 3 letter agencies.

If we step back and put things into perspective, the director of NSA has lied to congress in every single brief he has delivered (even under oath) in the last few years, including briefs given after the Snowden scandal broke out. For example "obeying the law at all times" has already come out as false with the DEA and fabricated evidence trails.

IMHO the truth is somewhere in between and closer to 2. I have had people in my family work for "The Firm" and they would have made fine Jesuits from the days when that order was handing Indians measles blankets while smiling all the way. The literally follow the idea that anything is allowed "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam", same as the Jesuits used to. Anything is fair game, anything is allowed and if you question them they just brush you off with a patronising remark. So lying to POTUS, SCOTUS, Congress, etc under oath is all fair game - it is "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam".

In any case, he knows very well what happens if he step on them too hard. Even without someone parking Kennedy's limo on the Oval Office lawn. So do not expect too much from him.

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Devil

Re: "Especially as a non-American I'm apparently not an "ordinary person""

That is not collective response - that is the sum of all precedent and interpretation by the US legal system of the 14th amendment of the USA consitutition. It is enshrined in US law and it is something you should always give a thought when dealing with USA legal system.

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Whatev's

Is there anyone left on the planet that really believes anything the federal government says?

Snowden: thank you. A number of us have known for years what the government was capable of. Thank you for making sure the rest of the people are final getting clued in. Not that I really have "hope" that things will "change", but it sure feels nice when people who thought I was full of crap are finally taking notice.

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Anonymous Coward

He has the right, as an American citizen, to come back to the land of his birth and make a case with a lawyer at his side, Obama said

Ummmmm do you think they should have told President Obama that they'd revoked Mr Snowden's passport, and with it his rights as an American citizen to travel anywhere... even to America?

So no he doesn't have the right to return to America and stand with a lawyer at his side... not that having such a right would be worth fuck all.

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Snowden does have the right to come back to the U.S. and show up at customs at the airport and be let in, even without a U.S. passport. Only in his case he's going to get tackled by an FBI SWAT team as soon as he tells the Immigration and Customs who he is....

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Stop

How likely is it that Snowden would be refused an entry permit to the US?

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Anonymous Coward

Snowden does have the right to come back to the U.S. and show up at customs at the airport and be let in, even without a U.S. passport.

Ummm in case you haven't noticed, we potential terrorists who make up the rest of the worlds population have our own laws which apply in our countries. Most countries have laws about only being able to travel across borders with valid paperwork.

Transport companies which operate out of our countries enforce those laws because if they don't, they pay for it. So how do you propose he is going to be allowed to board a US bound aircraft?

Your government removed his right and ability to travel, so claiming he can return to the US and arm himself with a lawyer is.... ill-informed at best.

I suppose President Obama could have beeen talking about him returning to the US on his Russian passport... as a Russian citizen? What do you reckon?

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All he has to do is walk into the embassy or a consulate. I have no doubt that the paperwork - and a valid ticket - would be issued quickly. He also would be arrested, however, so should be accompanied by a lawyer, and would be wise to make arrangements through a third party he trusts and insist on his attorney travelling with him. My money says there would be no problem with that and that the officials would take under a minute to agree, and only a little longer to agree to fund travel and per diem for the attorney.

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Snowden has a one way travel pass to the U.S. from any other country. It was covered a few weeks ago. It was also covered that as soon as he arrives he'll be taken in to custody.

So yes he can travel back here. But I don't think he's dumb enough to throw himself on the gentle mercies of our legal system when those at the top have already publicly convicted him.

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Juries convict. Prosecutors, the agents of the government, do not.

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True, but there are all manner of dirty tricks they can use to get the jury to convict.

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Happy

hahahahahha

Thanks, I wasn't smiling much today, until now.

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Gav
Go

See less of the world! Fly US Airforce!

It's amazing how much less of the world you can travel when you're handcuffed to a federal agent in the back of an American air force plane.

With our VIP membership you don't have the check your luggage in, queue at the depart gate, or worry about customs! You step out of your runway side limo and straight into your own personal flight! Down sides are you don't get much opportunity to peruse the duty-free, and you always end up with the middle seat. And flights are one way only; direct to US home base airports only.

To get these special privileges you just have to join our US Government VIP Flyer Scheme, and leave your rights behind. Join now!

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See what you did?

"But Snowden's leaks had caused a perception the US was "out there willy-nilly sucking in information on everybody"

Let me fix that... But Snowden's leaks told everyone the US was "out there sucking in information on everybody".

No one thinks it was "willy-nilly", and it was not "a perception" and the attempts to minimize what your doing with weasel words is not fooling anyone (maybe the tea baggers). And it's not just Obama, or Bush.

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Trollface

Re: See what you did?

I need coffee. I initially skimmed the article, and missed a few words, so "the US was 'out there willy-nilly sucking in information on everybody,'" was read as "the US was 'out there willy-sucking on everybody,'" Not sure re-reading improved it.

Also, how can BO expect people to believe the rubbish he is speaking. President you say? Of America. Oh. Carry on.

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FAIL

Re: See what you did?

@Tom 35

WTF does that mean? 'maybe the tea baggers'... surface dwellers & democrats elected Obama twice, even with all the contradictions and weasel words intact. Benghazi, IRS targeting, drones, Gitmo, etc and he's still there-> courtesy of folks like you with your 'tea bagger' comments.

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Re: See what you did?

Obama may be in because of blind Democrats but if so it's do different to Bush getting in through blind Republicans.

Both groups are EQUALLY responsible for the state of the US because they ensure that neither party has any incentive to change legislation like this.

A significant number of people would vote for a republican candidate that said "I will increase the monitoring of US citizens and push to overturn Roe-v-Wade" - as there are people who would vote for a Democrat candidate who said: "I will authorize drone strikes against US civilian targets and push to legalise gay marriage".

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Facepalm

The NSA has naught but garbage

Ah, let's stop and think for a moment. The NSA has been hoovering up the web. What's on the web? The secrets of intergalactic flight? Plans for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space machinery? The location of the Ark of the Covenant, and how to build a working copy? Telepathy?

No. It's cats and pictures of what you ate. It's terrabytes of garbage. And no, none of it keeps the good ol' US of A safe because all of the terrorists are using drops and passing info around on pieces of paper and buying stuff with cash. And the real truth of the matter is that the NSA can waste just as much money with only 10% of its staff.

The world isn't kept safe by entrapping mouthy idiots and massively indexing garbage.

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Headmaster

Re: The NSA has naught but garbage

> It's terrabytes of garbage.

Terabytes. The word is terabytes.

‘Tera is derived from Ancient Greek τέρας (teras), meaning “monster”. ’

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tera-

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