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Translating President Obama's NSA Reform Promises Into Plain English 171

sandbagger writes "The cynics at the Register have picked apart Barack Obama's NSA reform promises. As to be expected, there's some good, some deliberate vagueness, talk of 'ticking bomb scenarios' and the politician's favourite 'promises to commit to future reforms'. Basically, it's a fig-leaf to kick the can down the road so the next president has to deal with it. He's promising bulk data will go to a third party so the NSA can't see it. Okay, who is this magical third party?" They don't seem to me nearly cynical enough.
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Translating President Obama's NSA Reform Promises Into Plain English

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  • If you like it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:26PM (#46006439)

    "If you like your healthcare plan you can keep it, period".

    Why would you bother parsing what he said word by word. He lies, period. What he says means nothing.

    • Re:If you like it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by redemtionboy ( 890616 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:36PM (#46006509)

      "If you like your privacy, you can keep it"

      This is how power creeps. No one thinks they're evil. Each trust themselves to not abuse power. But even if this is going to a third party, it's still a violation of the 4th amendment. There are rules in place for a reason. This is asking to be abused.

      Even worse, they still haven't proven or show any evidence that this is necessary. It's one thing if you were preventing terrorist attacks left and right and could make a utility argument, but they aren't even doing that. It's disgusting.

      • Re:If you like it (Score:5, Interesting)

        by YumoolaJohn ( 3478173 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:47PM (#46006599)

        It's one thing if you were preventing terrorist attacks left and right and could make a utility argument

        No, it's not. Freedom is more important than safety. The people who are focused on the question of whether or not these programs stop terrorists are missing the point entirely.

        • by Livius ( 318358 )

          If people have freedom of expression, they can disagree how freedom and security should be prioritized.

          But when you get neither out of the system, then it is unambiguously a failure. (Unambiguously unless one side is arguing in bad faith.)

        • While I completely agree with you, it is not at all clear that the voting public in the US agrees. They may be quite happy to trade freedom for security, and much as I disagree with the majority opinion, I don't have a better idea than democracy for how things should be run.

          I can however continue to believe that the majority is mis-guided, and will some day come to deeply regret this choice.

          • Unfortunately, even if they someday regret it, their future generations will forget all about their suffering and make the exact same mistakes.

          • I don't have a better idea than democracy for how things should be run.


            I've been looking for a democratic country to move to, but I can't think of any...

          • " They may be quite happy to trade freedom for security, and much as I disagree with the majority opinion, I don't have a better idea than democracy for how things should be run."

            Well then I guess it is a good thing that the US is not a democracy. I don't know why people keep spreading that myth. Your mistake is thinking that the "people" have a right to do whatever they want as long as the majority agrees. The typical ignorant citizen has every right to throw their own freedoms out the window. Under no

        • Oh, I wasn't saying that I agreed with a utility argument. I'm just saying that it is a common one made, but it's one that doesn't even hold ground here as there is no evidence that it HAS prevented an attack. So there isn't even the utility ground to stand on. Destroying the arguments that your opponent presents is the most effective way to win a debate. If our options are to have a world with more freedom or a world with less freedom with no additional benefit to it, what do you think wins in that situati

      • Even worse, they still haven't proven or show any evidence that this is necessary.

        Oh it's an absolutely necessary part of their corporate espionage cash cow.

        • This 'data will be held by third parties' thing is just about changing who pays for data storage.

          Instead of giving tax money to the NSA to build large data warehouses, and hacking American companies to get the data, the American companies will be required to store ALL the data [data + metadata] indefinitely, at their own expense [which means consumers have to directly pay for it] and the NSA/FBI/DHS have to pay to access it [fee's will be approximately 98% profit].

          This way, the NSA can focus their budget on

          • I think it will be lackluster for them in the end run, corporate espionage data ages quickly. Do you think they will ever give it up? They have already infiltrated every security intended to keep it safe anyway so they will no doubt get it when they want it and will just 'off the books' grab what they want without having a search index. Lackluster meaning a less profitable model.

    • Re:If you like it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by homey of my owney ( 975234 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:37PM (#46006517)
      What is important here is the appearance of doing something... At least as far as ANY politician is concerned. The suckers buy into it.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It's more than that -- Obama is basically telling the American public, "you're all too stupid to know what's best for you, you can express your outrage by signing an online petition and then you go right back to your Facebook and Twitter who are in fact the "third parties" collecting all this data. You're a bitch-ass chump, common American, and I'm going to patronize you for being the fat moron you are, and you're not gonna do a goddamn thing about it."

        Then the common American hangs their head, chin cushion

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Richy_T ( 111409 )

      "If you like your unconstitutional spy agency, you can keep it"

      I think that's the one promise he could actually keep.

    • President cannot write laws. Any promise from the executive branch about the legislative is not credible. Not necessarily a lie, but a promise that cannot be kept. Lower taxes, lower crime, most of the promises of a gubernatorial or presidential candidate simply cannot be backed up.
      Does this make it a lie? Surely it is not ignorance.
      If the audience should know better, can it feel lied to?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Parent said:
      "What he says means nothing."

      I hope not! From the front page:
      "He's promising bulk data will go to a third party so the NSA can't see it. Okay, who is this magical third party?""
      I don't know, but I know it will be in India where we have no money but lots of free software (like Windows XP and Vista and 7; nobody here is bothering to crack Windows 8 because there is no esteem in accomplishing something that nobody appreciates: like Windows 8).

      But yes our U.S. allies can count on us Indian guys to s

    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )

      "If you like your healthcare plan you can keep it, period". Why would you bother parsing what he said word by word. He lies, period. What he says means nothing.

      Well in that case, there were some things that needed clarification. For one, the people without actual heatlhcare plans - the guys who payed their dealer in monthly installments weren't eligible to keep their plans. But the biggest issues was, the government doesn't actually control private enterprise, so they found a loophole where they could switch people off the plans they had before the cutoff (of the plans they could keep) to a brand new one with the same benefits. Then when the law came into effect

    • > "If you like your healthcare plan you can keep it, period".

      To be fair, it was the insurance companies that cancelled substandard policies rather than bring them up to minimum standards. Should he have realized this would happen and refrained from making that statement? Maybe so. He owned up to it publicly, which is more than I can recall ever happening in the previous regime.

      More on-topic, though, he's as much a part of the power structure as anyone else. I'm sure the NSA has made clear to him and the

    • Why would you bother parsing what he said word by word. He lies, period. What he says means nothing.

      I respectfully disagree.

      Obama is not the first president of the United States, and I hope that he is not the last one either.

      Similarly, Obama is not the first president of the United States who was caught lying.

      What I am saying is, we should learn from Obama's lies.

      We should learn a lesson on how the POTUS lies, what kind of lies POTUS utters, under which circumstance(s) and what kind of benefit the POTUS reaps with his/her lies.

      We should learn that because it would benefit us, the people, to better recogn

    • You blame him for the health insurance providers taking the opportunity to use him as a whipping boy and take out their aggravation that their golden goose isn't looking too healthy?

      In other news, Reagan said that trickle-down economics would work, and George W. showed up on an aircraft carrier claiming victory over a war that wasn't over yet, which we started because of falsified intel. Clinton said he didn't have sex with that woman, either.

    • How can anyone EVER believe ANYTHING the government says EVER AGAIN?!!
      How many tin foil hats out there are really JUSTIFIED?
      How long till the shit hits the fan?

  • He's promising bulk data will go to a third party so the NSA can't see it. Okay, who is this magical third party?"


    • Dear God, thats the worst thing he could do. I trust the NSA more with the data than spreading it around to corporations for "safe keeping." The problem is the data exists / has been collected in the first place. If anything, his suggestion is an insult.

      • Re:Everybody Knows (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Richy_T ( 111409 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:55PM (#46006653) Homepage

        Arguably corporations already have this data so all you need to do is have a law that mandates a retention policy. I still don't like it but it's definitely an improvement (of miniscule proportions)

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          One side effect of the speech is that the NSA declassified more documents yesterday []. Included is the original "metadata" orders from the FISA court. Not sure if this is a comprehensive list, but there is enough in there about domestic data collection.
          I was under the impression that this data is collected and retained forever, but it seems the order requires this data to be deleted after five years. It also says what metadata is collected, and I am not sure if any single corporate entity has this data. For
    • He's promising bulk data will go to a third party so the NSA can't see it. Okay, who is this magical third party?

      The NSA under a different name, I would expect.

      • It will be manages by a collaboration of Target, Evernote, and Adobe.

        Seriously, is there anyone who doesn't think this "third party", whoever it is, won't become a giant "Target" (pun intended) for data hackers? At least the NSA's data centers are on military bases, and they have half a clue about security, Snowden notwithstanding.

    • CGI? We can only hope because they will screw the project up so bad that it will never see the light of day.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Probably the same third party I have to deal with whenever I have a billing/tech support issue. Some contractor in India.

      Since they are already beyond the reach of meager US data protection and privacy laws, it will be trivial for the NSA/FBI/CIA to just buy back (for a modest fee) any metadata that they want. The telecoms//ISPs are already in the business of reselling our* metadata to third parties. Anyone who wants a dump of anything from your companies customer lists to any number that regularly calls i

  • by keyslemur ( 3505475 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:35PM (#46006507)
    Lol, no.
  • Plain enough. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:38PM (#46006529) Journal
    Will this POTUS stop surveillance of citizens?


  • Get a warrant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:41PM (#46006549)
    Quite simply there needs to be two things. One is get a warrant, and these warrants need go public in short order. Public with no redactions. My guess is that 99% of redactions are not to protect sources and whatnot but to avoid embarrassment.

    Also these warrants need to go before real judges. If they can't trust the judges then how can they trust anyone?
    • by Kohath ( 38547 )

      If they can't control the judges then how can they control everyone?

  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @02:42PM (#46006555) Journal

    "I don't want to do anything; I don't plan to much; I don't know how what little I am offering will get done or when" -- Pretty much sums it up.

    The interesting thing is, some of the statements Obama made directly contradict the congressional testimony. Is anyone getting charged with perjury this time? Or is CONgress just going to let being lied to go?

  • Mr. Teleprompter who is now costing me another house payment a month because my old plan was not good enough? His bullshit reforms with the NSA don't go nearly far enough and I have no faith that the current leaders (snicker) in congress will make meaningful reform something to debate in the upcoming elections. What his speech and plan amount to is a white wash of the situation and what has to happen is a constitutional amendment to finally put personal privacy rights first and foremost. This country wa

    • by Anonymous Coward

      To be clear, DHS and TSA was not created by Mr. Teleprompter. Mr. Teleprompter did not legislate money is free speech. Mr. Teleprompter does not argue "corporations are people". Founding the country with liberty is all right when government is the most powerful institution. It means nothing when the most powerful institutions are corporations that can spend infinite amounts of money to get the candidates that they want, which eventually has gotten them the judiciary they want.

    • You sounded angry. Having vented, do you feel better or no?

      • Not until these fucksticks in DC are all gone, then I'll feel much better. Until then I want stocks set up on the Washington Mall so these capricious folks can get a taste of rotten tomatoes and eggs.

  • by Groo Wanderer ( 180806 ) <> on Sunday January 19, 2014 @03:01PM (#46006711) Homepage

    "Okay, who is this magical third party?"

    There is only one entity that could be trusted with the security and sanctity of such a trove, the TSA of course.


  • He is a politician.

    Connect the dots.

    • by bussdriver ( 620565 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @03:24PM (#46006851)

      The main issue that a lot of people are going to have is:
      1) They denied everything until Snowden
      2) What they fix, they'll deny until the next leaker.

      Possibly) What Snowden didn't leak, they will continue to deny and have no need to fix it. Plus there is the "need to know" stuff, some of which POTUS doesn't even know.

  • In reality three words would suffice when it comes to translating any policitian's words on covert monitoring:

    'bridge for sale []'

  • Look, the tech will simply be done on a distributed basis. We will no doubt pay the CLECs/LECs to hold the computers and data and then be able to access it with a warrant. Basically, it will be the same, except that it will costs us 3x what it currently does.
  • by Dan667 ( 564390 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @04:35PM (#46007351)
    If people want to get the NSA reigned in they they should start now making this a big deal for the next election. It does two things. It will make sure the issue does not go away and force it to be an issue for Senate and House elections as well.
    • by NoKaOi ( 1415755 ) on Sunday January 19, 2014 @05:16PM (#46007597)

      It was an issue in the election that Obama won in 2008. The problem is that he lied his ass off and wasn't held accountable in 2012, not because Obama was doing a great job but because the other guy would have been 10x worse. I'm sure whoever runs in 2016 will either lie their ass off or figure out a way to make it a non-issue.

      Among other lies on the subject:
      "That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens. No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient," Obama said in 2007.
      "I take the Constitution very seriously," he said. "The biggest problems that we’re facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all. And that’s what I intend to reverse when I’m president of the United States of America."

      But either way, this won't be a huge issue in the next election. Ironically, it'll be the things Obama actually did right that the democrats get reamed for, like social services (since that costs money, albeit a teeny tiny fraction of what the wars are costing each year) that help a helluva lot of people,I didn't even know how much good they did until having a conversation with a relative who's a social worker, and healthcare reform (although implementation was half-assed, it is allowing a lot of people get insurance, and in the bigger picture it's a move in the right direction).

  • He should have just pulled out a six string and strummed along to Kris Kristofferson. "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose..."
  • What good is a lexical translator if the output doesn't compile? We've been incrementally compiling the language of ++BS (doubleplus bullshit) for quite a while, so let's just run what we've got now and see if there are any obvious errors.

    The FBI and NSA have now both been tasked with maintaining "national security": This means maintaining the political, and socio-economic status quo despite the will of the people. [] It's a fact they have a long history of acting to silence civil rights activism, anti-war activism, and other activist groups. They claimed to stop the practice, but the NSA has now admitted it still entertains the idea of discrediting "radicals", via exposing porn habits, etc. Under the state secret label of "national security" they FBI and NSA won't have to worry about pesky FOIA requests revealing their programs like they did in the past, and can delegate enforcement to the state police agency: DHS. It doesn't matter where the data is stored online, or how encrypted it is, the NSA can and will get at it via exploits. [], so Obama is free to promise the moon and stars. Not like oversight ever stopped them from blatant constitutional violations before.

    Here is a documentary / book presenting facts which can be easily verified in an attempt explain the practice of Disaster Capitalism. [] The gist is that through application of social, political and economic shock therapy you can bend the will of the people to your design and siphon a lot of wealth up into the upper echelon of private business. It's also a great way to force the privatization of public resources for corporate benefit. Anyone who objects or holds counter economic views is labelled a "radical extremist" of a "dangerous ideology" and rounded up in prison camps as examples of what happens if you disagree. The bogeyman of Communism or Marxism or Terrorism, etc. is thereby leveraged.

    Warning: Cognitive Dissonance Detected.
        Assumption of inherent benign governance illogical: More evidence for Null Hypothesis against this stance exists.

    This article examines the Pentagon's preparation to implement the round-up of those having "radical ideologies" in the wake of a Disaster Capitalism event, [] (essentially following the predicitons and warnings of the prior linked documentary) and explains how the PRISM system is apparently connected to it.

    Error: Expected Event "Future" not found.
        Democratic Republic execution model is not consistent with economic ruin and despotism.

    So, there we have it. It would be crazy to think anyone could benefit through economic ruin, so everything's probably OK. It seems our government is just run at the behest of rich corporations, and is wearing tinfoil hats in preparation of ensuring our continued acquiescence just in case they're ever able to strip more power from the people than is bearable. However, it's probably nothing to worry about unless they plan to let some "unforseen disaster" happen, like a Stock Market Crash, Pearl Harbour, 9/11, Energy Crisis, etc. or our ability to influence the government via the democratic vote has been hacked. []

    TL;DR: Obama's Promises are merely legitimization and fulfilment of The Nightmare Eisenhower Tried to Warn Us About. []

    • Imagine the United States as a unicorn--pure, innocent, all that whatnot. Now the corporations are hunters who are hunting the unicorn. The problem of course, is that in a one-on-one fight with a unicorn, they're going to get gored all to hell. So they set a trap, immobilize the unicorn, stab it up and collect all its magical blood, then run away before the unicorn explodes and sell the magical blood.

      Everybody knows that unicorns explode when they die, right? They do.

  • we can't trust our government.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm just waiting for another 9-11 type of attack, which I predict will happen again fairly soon possibly in couple of years if people keep pushing for their freedom too much... guess what'll happen shortly after that?

    "OMG save us government!!"... "WE NEED MORE SECURITY!!!"... "THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!"

    Rinse and fucking repeat. Americans are nothing but a predictable bunch.

  • so the third party will keep the bulk data and not NSA? Wow! That really is a stroke of penius.... err...I mean genius!!

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