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Obama Praises NSA But Promises To Rein It In 306

Posted by samzenpus
from the good-job-now-stop-it dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Josh Gerstein writes on Politico that President Barack Obama told Chris Matthews in an interview recorded for MSNBC's 'Hardball' that he'll be reining in some of the snooping conducted by the NSA, but he did not detail what new limits he plans to impose on the embattled spy organization. 'I'll be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA. And...to initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence,' said the President who insisted that the NSA's work shows respect for the rights of Americans, while conceding that its activities are often more intrusive when it comes to foreigners communicating overseas. 'The NSA actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people's emails, not listening to the contents of their phone calls. Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws.' During the program, Matthews raised the surveillance issue by noting a Washington Post report on NSA gathering of location data on billion of cell phones overseas. 'Young people, rightly, are sensitive to the needs to preserve their privacy and to retain internet freedom. And by the way, so am I,' responded the President. 'That's part of not just our First Amendment rights and expectations in this country, but it's particularly something that young people care about, because they spend so much time texting and-- you know, Instagramming.' With some at the NSA feeling hung out to dry by the president, Obama also went out of his way to praise the agency's personnel for their discretion. 'I want to everybody to be clear: the people at the NSA, generally, are looking out for the safety of the American people. They are not interested in reading your emails. They're not interested in reading your text messages. And that's not something that's done. And we've got a big system of checks and balances, including the courts and Congress, who have the capacity to prevent that from happening.'"
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Obama Praises NSA But Promises To Rein It In

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  • Next time.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:12AM (#45617737)
    Vote Ron Paul and squash the NSA, the Fed, and all these stupid agencies that seek to turn our world into 1984 (which some people seem to take it like it was a documentary).
  • Self-restraint (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erikkemperman (252014) on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:16AM (#45617757)

    Aka, tying the cat to the bacon. Clearly self-regulation is the way to go, after all it worked wonders for the financial sector.

  • by Vermonter (2683811) on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:18AM (#45617769)
    ...but one day they might decide they are, and there is nothing in place to stop them from doing that. Does President Obama really not understand why people are outraged? And no, you don't really have a system of checks and balances- you have the illusion that you do. What happens when people in the NSA does something wrong/unconstitutional? Do they get fired? Arrested? I didn't think so.
  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:18AM (#45617771)

    ...when he starts out by saying that the NSA spying on US Citizens is all reasonable and proper, since they don't actually read your emails or listen to your phone calls.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:23AM (#45617789)

    they all play it safe by making this country less free in order to ensure no terrorist attack of any kind is does not happen on their watch. Maybe we all are to blame since we the people do not want to pay for the price of freedom which is a little risk.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:30AM (#45617839)

    ...something both Demublicans and Repocrats may decry in public but can't resist using once in power.

    In that respect Obama is Bush III.

  • by korbulon (2792438) on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:34AM (#45617863)

    'Young people, rightly, are sensitive to the needs to preserve their privacy and to retain internet freedom. And by the way, so am I,' responded the President. 'That's part of not just our First Amendment rights and expectations in this country, but it's particularly something that young people care about..

    This is a former constitutional lawyer saying that privacy concerns are a First Amendment concern. WT-actual-F? This is clearly Fourth amendment territory, but oh well. I mean, this is the president after all: we don't need facts when we have authority.

    Also, the suggestion that this issue is all the more vital because young people care about it? What smarmy nonsense. It's a bloody constitutional crisis being characterized as an MTV award.

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:38AM (#45617895)
    AC is correct. This lies directly at the doorstep of the voter though, and is part of no grand deception. If the last few million citizens paying attention would be willing to vote for an honourable candidate, meanwhile ignoring his/her slaughter in the media, we wouldn't wind up with these polished anchorman-like leaders with opinions that change with each campaign stop. I can only assume we are very comfortable electing folks who are really skilled at telling us what we want to hear.
  • Strawman (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:38AM (#45617899)

    He is (of course) right that they're not spying "directly" on the American people, with an actual human being reading your emails, recording your online activities, and tracking your physical movements. But that's just a clever strawman. The goal is not to "watch" you (as your nosey neighbor does) -- the goal is to record you (as a computer would). The ultimate objective is to build a permanent profile on each and every citizen, so that IF and WHEN they have the political motive to prosecute you, all they have to do is press a few buttons, review your history, and select from any one of the thousands of laws available to prosecute you -- most of which are victimless crimes (crimes against the state), not crimes against other individuals.

  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:41AM (#45617923)

    Agreed. If they're not interested in reading out text messages, phone calls, etc. then WHY ARE THEY ARCHIVING THEM? Either he's lying, or the NSA is guilty of a huge waste of funds for something they don't need.

  • by Christopher Joseph (3455763) on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:49AM (#45617967)
    How belittling it is to couple one of our most essential rights with the phrase "texting and-- you know, Instagramming". No, Mr. Obama, that is not why we want our privacy. We want our privacy because it was guaranteed to us. Any reason other than that is more reason than you deserve. I want my privacy because I have a RIGHT to privacy. End of discussion. It's appalling to see how this presidency completely obliterated some of our most important constructs: separation of powers, federalism, inalienable rights, etc. Barack ran a campaign on transparency. His administration has been the least transparent in decades. The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistle blowers then all other administrations combined. He promised to close Guantanamo, claiming that "going around laws" was just as bad as breaking them. Yet, he defends dragnet surveillance because it was done "outside our borders". Self-restraint. You have to be kidding me. This is literally infuriating.
  • As a foreigner.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:50AM (#45617969)

    Let me just say that I'm not exactly wretched with guilt over not respecting the IP of US companies, seeing as my data apparently is fair game to the US.

  • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Friday December 06, 2013 @08:58AM (#45618007) Journal
    It's both. We have already seen stories about media self-censoring due to the surveillance. In addition, there's a chilling effect on association when people know they are always being watched.
  • by Trailer Trash (60756) on Friday December 06, 2013 @09:04AM (#45618051) Homepage

    'Young people, rightly, are sensitive to the needs to preserve their privacy and to retain internet freedom. And by the way, so am I,' responded the President. 'That's part of not just our First Amendment rights and expectations in this country, but it's particularly something that young people care about..

    This is a former constitutional lawyer saying that privacy concerns are a First Amendment concern. WT-actual-F? This is clearly Fourth amendment territory, but oh well. I mean, this is the president after all: we don't need facts when we have authority.

    Also, the suggestion that this issue is all the more vital because young people care about it? What smarmy nonsense. It's a bloody constitutional crisis being characterized as an MTV award.

    I came here to say the same thing. His obvious misunderstanding of the Constitution in this and other contexts kind of makes me question the whole "constitutional scholar" label.

  • by Black LED (1957016) on Friday December 06, 2013 @09:14AM (#45618111)
    Just being a non-US citizen doesn't make a person a foreign power. Spying on the governments of other countries, fine. Spying on the citizens of other countries is just as bad as spying on US citizens.
  • Re:Next time.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JackieBrown (987087) <dbroome@gmail.com> on Friday December 06, 2013 @09:22AM (#45618189)

    You can Google that phrase for anybody and get tons of hits. I think the poster was asking if you had any examples that you researched and felt had credibility.

    Not sure why you had to make the Tea Party dig.

  • Re:Self-restraint (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JackieBrown (987087) <dbroome@gmail.com> on Friday December 06, 2013 @09:26AM (#45618217)

    The problem is that Congress is basically powerless now (and you can argue whose fault that is.) They can make any recommendation they want from their oversight hearings, but it carries no weight when the president doesn't care and selectively enforces what he wants.

    It seems that simply saying "I take full accountability" counts as some kind of action nowadays.

  • Pretty Offensive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gerald Williams (3433353) on Friday December 06, 2013 @09:26AM (#45618229)
    'Young people, rightly, are sensitive to the needs to preserve their privacy and to retain internet freedom. And by the way, so am I,' responded the President. 'That's part of not just our First Amendment rights and expectations in this country, but it's particularly something that young people care about, because they spend so much time texting and-- you know, Instagramming.' The fact that the President thinks our desire for privacy and network neutrality is predicated on the ability to text and 'Instagram' other people is a little offensive, and just shows that he doesn't get it.
  • by yakovlev (210738) on Friday December 06, 2013 @09:31AM (#45618277) Homepage

    'The NSA actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people's emails, not listening to the contents of their phone calls. Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws.'

    I read this as a VERY carefully worded line that rather than saying "the NSA is actually pretty reasonable" really says "if you think what we're doing in the US is bad, you should see what we're doing overseas." It practically comes out and says that they're doing all of those things "outside" the US borders. He also implies that all of the metadata collection that is done domestically is just fine.

    Based on this, I would suspect that some program that the NSA agrees costs more that the intelligence gathered is worth is going to be cut, but overall nothing is going to change.

  • Re:Hey Obama! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Squiggle (8721) on Friday December 06, 2013 @09:38AM (#45618355)

    "Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws."

    and how is that working out for your foreign relations?

    This. I find it appalling that this is seen as acceptable. The surveillance power that is now possible is not equivalent to anything we've seen before and changes the nature of the "lawless" foreign surveillance. Surveillance of foreigners used to mean having them spy on you when visiting their country plus some high value target monitoring in their own countries, but the cost and risk of surveillance enforced the selective nature of it. To treat every foreigner like an enemy is madness. For the most part non-US citizens felt that the US was an ally or at least harmless. Now the day-to-day decisions of all those people will take into account that the US is actively working against them. It won't be long before that is ingrained into the culture, tools and business practices of the rest of the world. Imagine the US being thought of as a worldwide Stasi: the day-to-day the common sentiment amongst the rest of the world will be "%*$k the US".

  • Re:Self-restraint (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xiver (13712) on Friday December 06, 2013 @09:39AM (#45618359)
    When the executive branch of government refuses to enforce the law, the legislative branch's only real recourse is impeachment. Is that what you are advocating?
  • by FudRucker (866063) on Friday December 06, 2013 @09:50AM (#45618453)
    dont expect the truth from that snake
  • by RoccamOccam (953524) on Friday December 06, 2013 @10:13AM (#45618635)
    Does the NSA get around the restrictions on spying on US citizens by allowing/encouraging Great Britain (for example) to spy on us (and vice versa) and then sharing the data? If so, has that behavior been documented?
  • by Sir_Eptishous (873977) on Friday December 06, 2013 @10:31AM (#45618813) Homepage
    You have to understand his target market. The majority of Americans don't know who the founding fathers were and don't care.

    They can't find Viet Nam on a world map let alone Iraq. They don't know what the three brances of the federal government are...

    But Goddamned if they don't know about Instagramming, lolcats, Jersey Shore, Justin Bieber, endless shrimp Thursdays at Red Lobster and buying t-shirts at Wal-Mart and wearing them until they are dirty and buying another pack instead of washing them.

    This is the America he is talking to, not you or I.

    We are living in the modern Roman Empire.
    Bread and Circuses and all that.
  • Re:Self-restraint (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gr8Apes (679165) on Friday December 06, 2013 @10:38AM (#45618885)
    The legislative branch could start by jailing Alexander and Clapper for contempt of Congress. No trial needed. They lied to Congress, it's on video recorded for the world to see. Then they can just start going down the list. The real problem there is there are a few Congress people that are on the NSA's side, and are in the committees that are supposed to have oversight. So they'll claim they knew, even when they didn't, neutering the rest of Congress. And everything keeps going the way it is.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2013 @10:45AM (#45618947)

    Dear peasants,

    We in the government totally respect your silly, whimsical desire to foolish little things like rights and your privacy, even when we are blatantly violating your rights and privacy. It's as important to us as it is to you. In fact we respect your rights and privacy so much that we plan to violate them even more in the immediate future. Hey, no need to thank me, it's my job.

    Also, I completely agree with you that the NSA should be shut down and most of its workforce thrown in jail. That's why, just for you, I've given them a pat on the head, an increased budget and told them to carry on doing all the stuff you don't like and more. Because I'm such a nice guy and I'm completely on your side.

    Oh BTW down is up, black is white and slavery is freedom.

    Peace out,

    The Prez

  • Re:Next time.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tyler Durden (136036) on Friday December 06, 2013 @10:55AM (#45619017)

    Well sure, but then you'd also do away with any existing protections from disproportionate power of the wealthy and corporations. So you'd be trading something out of a George Orwell novel to the modern equivalent of a work by Charles Dickens.

    There has to be a middle ground

  • by alispguru (72689) <bane AT gst DOT com> on Friday December 06, 2013 @11:04AM (#45619099) Journal

    Obama, like all high-level politicians in the US, gave up his personal privacy as the entry fee for his chosen profession.

    The difference between him and the rest of us is:

    * He chose his privacy level. We can't.

    * He has the power to make the government back off when they find something questionable. We don't.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2013 @11:22AM (#45619305)

    "I'll be proposing more _self_ restraint." In other words, there will be no restraints. Restraint means there are rules on bad behavior that can't be broken without consequence. Self-restraint means there are no rules imposed on you by a third party, and it's up to you to decide whether the behavior is bad. The problem with self-restraint is that most government officials are deeply schooled in situation ethics, so whether behavior is acceptable is totally up to personal interpretation, personal goals, and personal motivation.

    The promises "to initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence." In other words, as we have heard before, he believes it is a PR problem, and he has announced that his reforms, rather than changing things actually, will be mainly designed to change public perception of what they are already doing. At least he's being honest about it.

    "The NSA actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people's emails, not listening to the contents of their phone calls." The NSA already said they pull in so much data it isn't possible for them to separate domestic from foreign traffic. It is on the order of petabytes. When he says they are not listening to phone calls, reading emails, etc., bear in mind they are recording and storing those very things. They just don't have a live person sitting in a chair listening to them right this moment. The only reason they supposedly aren't is because of the "self-restraint" he just mentioned. However, they can store that data as long as they like, until they discover a novel legal theory that says they can listen to it. With regard to the Snowden documents, the GCHQ has said they are "out there" and don't seem comforted by the self-restraint of the journalists that are filtering through them.

    "Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws." False. It is constrained by treaties, which are like laws but enforced with nukes.

  • by poetmatt (793785) on Friday December 06, 2013 @11:26AM (#45619353) Journal

    Oh no, he knows why we're outraged. He's just not going to do a fucking single thing about it aside from promising unicorns and rainbows, which is what this speech was. He basically said they do none of the things that we've already seen evidence of them doing, and that we're okay because transparency and self regulation.

    That aside, citizens aren't outraged enough to speak up/take action, so yeah - we keep sailing down shit creek.

  • Re:Chilling (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06, 2013 @11:30AM (#45619403)

    You really should change a few of your founding documents to keep them up to date?:

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all *AMERICAN* men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights *WHEN LOCATED INSIDE THE USA++*, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    ++ SOME RESTRICTIONS APPLY

    With the original text, I'm not sure congress even has the right to create any such spying apparatus for any purpose.

  • by BemoanAndMoan (1008829) on Friday December 06, 2013 @11:37AM (#45619465)

    Just being a non-US citizen doesn't make a person a foreign power. Spying on the governments of other countries, fine. Spying on the citizens of other countries is just as bad as spying on US citizens.

    I have no problem with it.

    So just to be clear, Mr. ordinary self-interested citizen of the USA, as long as your criminal Stasi organizations and the douche politicians that enable them are only spying on the ordinary, law-abiding people outside your borders, you're good to go?

    I can't help but think you'd be pissing furious if you found out the GCHQ had recorded all of your conversations for the last few years, and would be first to whine about the illegality of it all. And at how hard I'll laugh when it turns out to be true.

  • by TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) on Friday December 06, 2013 @11:37AM (#45619471)

    Unfortunately, my mod points expired yesterday. The chilling effect on assembly is perhaps the primary concern with regards to the collection of metadata because the fourth amendment doesn't address whether or not the government can stalk you. It only says that the government can't search your persons, houses, papers, and effects without cause. The government stalking you does have a real chilling effect on who you choose to assemble with out of fear of government repercussion.

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday December 06, 2013 @11:52AM (#45619613)

    its also our police force, as well, that is out of control. and the TSA and (and and and). the list is seemingly endless: all the government groups that can fuck you over and basically, if they get caught, its a 2 week paid vacation and slap on the wrist.

    the nsa is just one group that is out of control. we have many and there is NO accountability or transparency.

  • by MrNemesis (587188) on Friday December 06, 2013 @12:08PM (#45619755) Homepage Journal

    As a history teacher, I'm sure your friend sadly understands how most people don't appreciate the freedoms they have until they've been lost, and then the cycle repeats itself. Most people of the current generation haven't this seen first, second or even third hand and don't understand what typically happens when those in power exceed their authority. Hell, most people don't even understand that everyone has something to hide, they just think that if their head is down low enough no-one will care. And then, sooner or late, cue Niemoller.

  • Re:Next time.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by notanalien_justgreen (2596219) on Friday December 06, 2013 @01:51PM (#45620739)

    They sure did a horrible job against the Boston Bombers. Especially considering the Russian's TOLD US to watch out for them.

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