back to article Obama prepares to crawl up NSA's ass with microscope

President Barack Obama has quietly put together an intelligence review group to look at how to make people more comfortable with the US's snooping. In a short statement, the White House said Obama had met with the panel, made up of intelligence officials including former CIA deputy director Michael Morrell and academics like …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prediction

    A total white wash. The NSA and all culpable will be exonerated and, but before the shit really hits the fan, some kid will fall down a well to distract folks.

    Obama is PRO-spying and invading privacy. He's just upset he got caught.

    1. jnemesh
      Thumb Down

      Re: Prediction

      Agreed! ANY investigation that involves Clapper, who is KNOWN to have lied to Congress, has ZERO credibility. The ONLY way I would buy into any of this is if Clapper was first charged with perjury and then thrown in jail. Then his SUCCESSOR could help clean up the mess he left behind. With Clapper still free and in charge, I have ZERO confidence that anything will change.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Claire Swire's dad

      Not sure I'll be taking his advice

      :/

    3. Ted Treen
      Big Brother

      Re: Prediction

      It's not even subtle:- it's just "Let's re-evaluate the marketing, and sell it to the masses as something good".

      The usual utter manure that seems to be the only thing that any politico anywhere can produce these days.

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Re: Prediction

        Yep the slang term for a commission like this in DC is a blue ribbon panel (come up with lots of ideas that never get implemented but are good for photo ops and political cover). I also agree the first the government needs to do is get rid of The Clap.

      2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Prediction @ Ted Treen

        You say "re-evaluate marketing" like that's a bad thing!

        Serriously, I am not expecting serious restrictions on the NSA to come from this.

        1. Ted Treen
          Big Brother

          Re: Prediction @ Ted Treen

          @Marketing Hack 29/8 at 05:55

          "You say "re-evaluate marketing" like that's a bad thing!"

          It is in this instance. Marketing is a tool/skillset which is invaluable in many circumstances: but when our ruling élite are caught red-handed indulging in nefarious unconstitutional and illegal activities, to suggest re-marketing the concept so Joe Public rolls over and plays dead is a total misuse of said tool, and arrogant cynicism of the highest degree,

      3. Ted Treen
        Big Brother

        Re: Me - 28/8/13 @ 18:12

        1 downvote?

        The spooks frequenting/checking up on these pages will always give themselves away...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Prediction

      Remove the mandatory requirement to lie about National Security letters. That is all that is required to put things back right. There is a raft of offences already related to damaging national security and/or interfering with investigations starting with contempt of court and all the way to grand treason. There is no real legal or intelligence gathering reason (besides mandatory whitewash) to have the National Security Letter secrecy clause. Also, as long as that clause exists, it does not matter what he does - he will always be considered a liar (same as anyone having anything to do with the entire sorry and smelly affair).

      1. Oninoshiko
        Stop

        Re: Prediction

        Remove the mandatory requirement to lie about National Security letters. That is all that is required to put things back right.

        False.

        At the vary least the FISA court would have to be abolished, and use the same legal system as everywhere else. Actually National Security Letters would have to be abolished all together. We have a system for collecting information on suspected criminals, it's called a warrant, and it has all the proper safeguards to make sure abuse it kept to a minimum that NSLs don't.

        Which is, of course, why warrants don't tend to get used to spy on girlfriends, while NSA resources are.

    5. joed

      Re: Prediction

      I would not be surprised if NSA had some files on Obama and basically was in position to blackmail him. If he just let them act outside of any legal controls without being coerced into this, he's total failure (this to give him some credit as president voted in by US citizens).

      So much for hope and change.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "President Barack Obama has quietly put together an intelligence review group to look at how to make people more comfortable with the US's snooping."

    Simple, when I have access to Mr. Obama's personal emails, phone calls and constant location (along with every member of congress, the senate and government employee) then I'll ease up my attitude.

    This will change nothing.

  3. fishman

    Get someone from that EFF

    If they add in someone from the EFF or similar, then maybe I'd believe them.

  4. Alan Esworthy

    I'll be polite

    This is a load of fœtid dingo's kidneys.

  5. DougS Silver badge

    Sounds like he's hiring marketers

    He doesn't want to fix the unconstitutional snooping, he wants to make people "more comfortable" with it.

    The USSR might still be around if they'd figured out a way to make people "more comfortable" with standing in lines for hours to get a few rolls of toilet paper.

    1. jon 68
      Thumb Down

      Re: Sounds like he's hiring marketers

      This is his modus operandi , he's convinced he's right, no matter what the topic, and the only two reasons people don't agree with him is because A-they just don't understand the topic, or B-they're racists.

      To address A, he uses marketing, he thinks it's just a matter of 'selling' his ideas to the public.

      To address B, he uses the media and those who have an irrational love of all things Obama.

      1. asdf Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Sounds like he's hiring marketers

        Re: jon 68

        Still pissed about your side getting its ass handed to it I see. Yeah he sucks but Walter Mondale Romney was the answer huh? A Mormon was going to save the day eh? How did that work out for ya? I have a hard time believing a right wing CEO type who had obvious control issues would have been much more friendly to our civil liberties.

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "Access all areas" of the NSA. I don't think so.

    My prediction.

    They will be fed assorted heavily redacted stuff showing a)The US is under constant 24/7/365 planned attacks b)Only complete monitoring of everyone all the time forever can save it c)We only spy on bad people, honest.

    The law professor is a token concession to the idea of an "outsider" having access.

    I like mushrooms. I don't like mushroom committees.

  7. RobHib
    Thumb Down

    It'll be business as usual

    "how the US "can employ its technical collection capabilities in a way that optimally protects our national security"

    This exercise will only placate US citizens. By US law, it doesn't and won't apply to the rest of the world. Spin-doctor and PR-Agency tactics will be employed overtime to settle down the rest of us, but you'd have to be a damn idiot to not assume that it'll be business as usual.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: It'll be business as usual

      The internal surveillance is what they're really in trouble over. All the other spying will be smoothed over in the international circle jerk called diplomacy.

      Other countries are free to build businesses comparable to US offerings and would be crazy not to do so, but international surveillance is something all countries do, it's just if you get caught you've got to offer up some concessions.

      1. RobHib
        Thumb Up

        @Don Jefe - Re: It'll be business as usual

        You're correct of course.

        What I'm concerned about, and I suspect it's so for most of us, is not that we're doing anything wrong but the fact that we're being watched--that we're under the constant threat of surveillance.

        Let me give a few examples: most people when they go to the toilet do so in private: they don't want others staring at them even though the whole world partakes in the practice. Here's a few more: it's not only humans, we once had a timid cat that used to stop eating completely when I stared at it no matter how hungry it was (I used to be nagged at for teasing it and told to stop).

        Last one: Google and other search engines have lowered my dependence on physical book libraries but the cost is that I now expect to be watched and my searches recorded, by Google and perhaps even NSA, GCHQ or whoever, albeit that my searches are boring and innocuous. That's very different to the traditional library where I could go and peruse any book on the shelves about any subject and no one would have a clue what I was looking at--nor would anyone have cared a damn, my library searches were essentially private and the look-up metadata vaporised the moment I put the book back on the shelf.

        Being a techie with wide interests, I can search for all sorts of diverse and way-out info. That said, I'm always mindful of what I plug into search engines and just very occasionally I find myself aborting the search where the specifics of the search are too technical and too close to subjects that flag attention.

        That I, as with many others these these days, find that I am self-censoring my searches truly pisses me off.

        Every time I think about it I'm reminded that the terrorists have actually won. We're now a surveillance state of which Orwell would be 'proud'.

  8. Don Jefe
    Meh

    "while respecting our commitment to privacy and civil liberties".

    WTF is that supposed to mean: Your "commitment to privacy and civil liberties"! That's the Presidents job you poorly wiped asshole. It's not the mission statement of a company; those things are the foundations on which the country is founded. I'll make it easy you scrotum scab: Stop Spying On Your Own Citizens. Crisis sorted.

    I like how they totally leave any mention of the Constitution out of their statements. Jackasses.

  9. sysconfig

    "...and reducing the risk of unauthorised disclosure"

    THAT is what he is really concerned about. It invalidates all the other points, which sound reasonable enough - at the face of it. And he's essentially admitting that none of this would have been required if they didn't screw up and got caught in the first place.

  10. Mephistro Silver badge
    Devil

    "...how to make people more comfortable with the US's snooping."

    Lots of reality shows on the TV and mandatory lobotomies for those who resist.

  11. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    I'm impressed!

    El Reg's commentators are very restrained in their comments today.

  12. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    "... reducing the risk of unauthorised disclosure"

    Means "not getting caught red-handed again".

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best way to get the heat off the NSA

    The best way to get the heat off the NSA would be for them to conveniently leak information about how some other countries, such as my home here in Canada, operate similar operation without having even the level of legal constraints that the US has.

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: Best way to get the heat off the NSA

      They already tried that with the Britain: Remember the 'mystery' article in The Independent about the covert listening station?

      Besides, I would be pretty much as OK as I can be with government surveillance by the Canadians. I actually have trust (or at least not fear) of them. I can't say the same about my own, US government.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Best way to get the heat off the NSA

        > Besides, I would be pretty much as OK as I can be with government surveillance by the Canadians.

        You trust Harper?

        What's that noi..

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Best way to get the heat off the NSA

          "You trust Harper?"

          The correct answer given by most US'ians is of course "who?"

          People are likely a bit more trusting of someone they don't know anything about.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Best way to get the heat off the NSA

      Be quiet Bob.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    President Barack Obama has quietly put together an intelligence review group to look at how to make people more comfortable with the US's snooping.

    Yes, classic political "solution" - let's fix the impression, not the root cause. Which will fix it for the hoi polloi, but not for those who have more than a room temperature IQ.

    This is actually not the only BS floating around on this topic. I heard somewhere that the German intelligence service or government got an agreement with the NSA not to be spied upon. To clarify: they got a promise from a setup doing something illegal that they would stop doing something illegal. Any opinions on the likelihood of a dishonest entity making a dishonest promise?

    Yup, thought so.

  15. Michael Habel Silver badge

    Why did I read this a NASA?? And not NSA?

    1. Don Jefe
      Joke

      Because, I'm sorry to say, they've gotten to you. Now that you've noticed their alterations you'll never be certain of what you previously read. You'll begin to second guess yourself and mistrust everyone. Check your Amazon account for Salinger books, you might not even realize you've bought them, but you have. You so have...

    2. breakfast
      Trollface

      It occurs to me that the world - and in particular America - would be a better place if whoever was writing the congressional budget cheques made the same mistake.

  16. ACx

    Don't forget to look out for apparent concessions that in reality amount to nothing substantial.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > President Barack Obama has quietly put together an intelligence review group to look at how to make people more comfortable with the US's snooping.

    The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one.

    The second one understanding what the actual problem is.

    It seems to me that Obama fails the second test, firstly because he thinks that it is a problem of marketing and secondly because he doesn't realise that large-scale surveillance of ordinary people is the problem.

  18. William Donelson
    Mushroom

    Title of this article could be more to the point

    Title of this article could be more to the point

  19. Gene Cash Silver badge

    "in a way that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy"

    We'll keep doing business as usual.

    "while respecting our commitment to privacy and civil liberties"

    i.e. none whatsoever.

    "recognising our need to maintain the public trust"

    Don't piss off the voters, all 10 of those old fogeys. We need to market this better.

    "and reducing the risk of unauthorised disclosure"

    We'll get legislation/policies in place so we can Guantanamo any more Snowdens or Mannings.

    Seriously though, it doesn't matter. Of all the people I've talked to here in the US, none of them give a shit about the NSA stuff, and the only one that has an actual opinion thinks Snowden should be swinging from a rope. Really. They have no problem with the NSA stuff.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Seriously though, it doesn't matter. Of all the people I've talked to here in the US, none of them give a shit about the NSA stuff, and the only one that has an actual opinion thinks Snowden should be swinging from a rope. Really. They have no problem with the NSA stuff.

      What do you expect? The USians think what they're told to think.

      Jesus, a good proportion of them still think they are the free-est, wealthiest country in the world.

      Wake up people!

    2. IglooDude

      You apparently have not talked to me.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > You apparently have not talked to me.

        And what do you think?

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      @Gene Cash

      "Seriously though, it doesn't matter. Of all the people I've talked to here in the US, none of them give a shit about the NSA stuff, and the only one that has an actual opinion thinks Snowden should be swinging from a rope. Really. They have no problem with the NSA stuff."

      All the while believing the are in the freeist country in the world.

      Wait till they try to organize and excercise that "freedom."

  20. David 45

    Waffle

    Even from my vast distance across the pond, this is so obviously a white-wash, it's not true. Obama must think the American folk are a bunch of mugs if he thinks they are going to fall for this clap-trap.

    1. Kingston Black
      Big Brother

      Re: Waffle

      "Obama must think the American folk are a bunch of mugs if he thinks they are going to fall for this clapper-crap" sounds more like it.

  21. Keven E.

    Feint and counterfeint - got any spare change?

    All the time they are doing this they are also meeting to decide what the "ground rules" (sic) will be to allow drones to fly over US soil... and not just military ones... corporate, law enforcement, delivery vehicles (need your drycleaning brought to the office?)

    It will, as is predicted by many, become man-vs-machines... right after it becomes man-vs-man controlled machines.

    It's becoming even more obvious how power corrupts under the guise of "but this is the definition of success". Unfortunately, this is only the maintenance of status quo. "Change" my arse.

  22. Keven E.

    Security as a consumer product

    Gene - Please talk to some people 1000 miles away in two land based directions. I have a problem with it. All the people I talk to have a problem with it. It's clearly not primarilly about protecting from an attack. If we actually had a democracy I'd be more than willing to offer service to defend it. It's about controlling the consumer and protecting them from being further educated with ideas and/or ideals that arent capitalist and support the status quo... as if *that's more democratic than religiousness, sexism or racism <sarcasm>. It's all about that special friend of the industry of military... the "spawn of satan" as it's known 'round these parts: marketing. So if we can all just remove all prejudice from a system, assign each of us a number, then we only have to worry about the relative value of the currency or resources from which we garner data... and here we are.

    When more than 50% of the population actually vote for something (not 50% of that miniscule number that turns out to vote) we'll start having something that begins to represent a democracy. Until then... "protection" (not security) will just go to the highest bidders.

  23. Anomalous Cowshed

    How to make people more comfortable with the US's snooping

    1. Classic [but surprisingly popular, if recent conversations with supposedly worldly people are anything to go by]:

    "It's for your own safety, in order to prevent terrorists from attacking America [or insert country name]."

    "We need to sacrifice things like privacy and freedom of the individual at some stage for the greater good of society."

    2. Confusion

    Don't worry, it's not snooping, it's actually Snoopy. It's nothing to worry about: it's all a joke, a misunderstanding - it's just a cuddly cartoon character!

    3. Cold fusion

    The NSA is helping the US government identify areas in which we can improve the social and healthcare services so as to help Americans be more [insert attribute that Americans feel proud about being]. We are listening to you. We know what you want and what you expect.

    4. Mafia-style

    We know where you live, what stuff you smoke, what taxes you haven't paid, when was the last time you drove while drunk, where your kids go to school, the names of your wife's lovers, and if you don't stop complaining about this "snooping" business, we're going to mess your life up.

  24. Chris G Silver badge

    If I was a Government conspirator

    I would suggest something drastic to take peoples minds of the subject a bit and to focus on something like the real issue; terrorism!

    So I might suggest declaring war on somebody or something along the lines of maybe flying a couple of planes into a high profile public building and blaming..... Oh just a minute didn't somebody already do that??

    1. Fr. Ted Crilly
      Black Helicopters

      Re: If I was a Government conspirator

      Christ talk about your true words spoken in (gulp) Jest...

      And which sandy Country is in headlines as we speak

  25. sisk Silver badge

    How to make people comfortable with your snooping

    Step 1: Follow all applicable laws, ignore none of them. In the event of a conflict, the highest law takes precedence, so the Constitution trumps all others.

    Step 2: We're sorry Mr. President, but we couldn't get any of the alphabet soup agencies to agree to step 1.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how the US "can employ its technical collection capabilities in a way that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while respecting our commitment to privacy and civil liberties

    Ooo, oo, oo I know this one... you create a system where you are only allowed to capture the data of people who you actually suspect of involvement in terrorism (or to be safe, "involvement in acts likely to endanger the national security of the US of A")... and to be sure it's operated correctly, you have a judicial process before data capturing is allowed... say by having a judge issue a warrant allowing the communications interception only once he/she is satisified that you have 'reasonable grounds' for your suspicions, and therefore should be investigating that person...

    Did I get it right?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Yes, you did get it right.

      And by Special Order 1287, you are hereby banned from taking any public office or speaking in public in any official capacity. You will now come quietly with us as we bring you to a reeducational facility where you will be reprogrammed to be a good citizen and appreciate total surveillance for your own good.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prove that it works?

    Call me stupid, but wouldn't one way of encouraging the populace to go along with such wide-scale monitoring would be to... prove that it works?

    If this bugging/spying works so well, perhaps the authorities can signal their confidence in it by relaxing airport security requirements? (Internal flights at least, even if johnny foreigner is still mistrusted).

  28. Herby Silver badge

    Maybe a better title would be...

    NSA prepares to crawl up Obama's ass with Microscope.

    Might even work, but from outward appearances, there isn't anything there of significance.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do I smell flowers?

    A chocolate starfish is still a chocolate starfish no matter how much cheap perfume or cologne you pour on it. Eau de shite will always be an issue.

    On a side note, an intelligence agency with a public image issue...amusing.

  30. codejunky Silver badge

    Pay attention

    See the hand moving.... hovering over the problem..... keep watching...... hey look! chemical weapons in syria! And hey presto when you look again at the hand the spying problem has vanished.

    Glad you liked the show... have a good night everyone and dont forget to visit the gift shop on the way out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: Pay attention

      Like it!

      Do you do kids' parties?

  31. Red Bren
    Joke

    Security through Absurdity

    The NSA are going to snoop on your email regardless of any legal niceties, so muddy the water a little bit. Just CC a random senator or congressman on every email you send. They're not going to read it, just treat it as spam, but the metadata will be still be collected and before long, every single US politician will be at the centre of a web of "interest".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Security through Absurdity

      Just CC a random senator or congressman on every email you send. They're not going to read it, just treat it as spam, but the metadata will be still be collected and before long, every single US politician will be at the centre of a web of "interest".

      Now that's an interesting idea... maybe that would be one best implemented by loads of 'foreign terrorists', as the NSA systems place no controls over the capture and analysis of all of our data.

      Where can we find a list of all of their email addresses... oooo can we have an email address for Obama as well? Given his stance on this, he definitely should get lots of foreign emails...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    director of national intelligence James Clapper

    Clapper? The name rings a bell.

  33. JaitcH

    ... crawl up NSA's ass with microscope

    Given the unwieldy size of a microscope shouldn't that be proctoscope?

  34. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Big Brother

    It's like someone saw "Enemy of the State" in 1998 and thought "I want that."

    And 15 years later they have it.

    The programme has been completely successful.

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