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Obama on Surveillance: "We Can and Must Be More Transparent" 537

Posted by Soulskill
from the proof-is-in-the-pudding dept.
Today President Obama held a press conference to address the situation surrounding the NSA's surveillance activities. (Here is the full transcript.) He announced four actions the administration is undertaking to restore the public's confidence in the intelligence community. Obama plans to work with Congress to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to give greater weight to civil liberties, and to revisit section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which is the section that allowed bulk collection of phone records. (Of course, "will work with Congress" is a vague term, and Congress isn't known for getting things done lately. Thus, it remains to be seen if anything substantive happens.) Obama is ordering the Dept. of Justice to make public their legal rationale for data collection, and there will be a new NSA official dedicated to transparency efforts. There will also be a new website for citizens to learn about transparency in intelligence agencies. Lastly, a group of outside experts will be convened to review the government's surveillance capabilities. Their job will include figuring out how to maintain the public's trust and prevent abuse, and to consider how the intelligence community's actions will affect foreign policy. In addition to these initiatives, President Obama made his position very clear about several different aspects of this controversy. While acknowledging that "we have significant capabilities," he said, "America is not interested in spying on ordinary people." He added that the people who have raised concerns about privacy and government overreach in a lawful manner are "patriots." This is in stark contrast to his view of leakers like Edward Snowden: "I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot." (For his part, Snowden says the recent shut down of encrypted email services is 'inspiring.') When asked about how his opinion of the surveillance programs have changed, he said his perception of them has not evolved since the story broke worldwide. "What you're not seeing is people actually abusing these programs." Obama also endorsed finding technological solutions that will protect privacy regardless of what government agencies want to do.
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Obama on Surveillance: "We Can and Must Be More Transparent"

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:53PM (#44524413)

    Nuff said.

    • by killkillkill (884238) on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:08PM (#44524639)
      Seriously. I don't want them to be transparent and tell me how they are collecting my communications. I want them to NOT COLLECT my communications without a warrant that has been issued upon just cause.
    • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:36PM (#44525011) Homepage Journal
      This was clearly a case of "I'll say something that sounds reassuring, while waiting for this to blow over so we don't have to change anything."

      Having Congress look at it was a very funny joke, since they're in recess and useless anyway.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 09, 2013 @05:06PM (#44525437)

      I'm so fucking sick of this president. On every issue that has opposition he always takes the stance of "Oh you don't agree with me, I must not be explaining it well enough" NO SHITHEAD WE DISAGREE! We understand you just fine, we just don't want your stupid bullshit policies.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 09, 2013 @05:11PM (#44525503)

      Seriously. Posse Comitatus was intended to prevent secret intelligence from undermining democracy.

      We cannot know what we do not know. So long as there are secrets, we only have the credibility of the intelligence agency that they are respecting the honor systems placed on them. Their credibility is lost. They lied. They lied about lying. They lied when caught lying. They got caught lying every step of the way. They have permanently lost my trust, and these intelligence agencies will represent banana republic, Nazi SS, KGB level chilling effects on our democracy as long as they continue exist.

      An "Under new management" sign isn't good enough for a financial brand caught in the act of running a ponzi scheme. Why would "more transparency" be acceptable for an intelligence agency thumbing their nose at Posse Comitatus?

    • by citizenr (871508) on Friday August 09, 2013 @07:57PM (#44526999) Homepage

      He will do it just after shutting down Gitmo.

  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:53PM (#44524417) Homepage Journal

    Except that we all know he's actually talking about the PEOPLE being made more transparent, NOT the Government.

  • Experts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bolloney (2734387) on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:54PM (#44524421)
    "Lastly, a group of outside experts will be convened to review the government's surveillance capabilities. Their job will include figuring out how to maintain the public's trust... " So they're hiring a PR firm?
    • Re:Experts (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:57PM (#44524459) Homepage

      So they're hiring a PR firm?

      Likely, yes.

      I don't believe a single thing about this is going to change, they're just trying to manage the message and sell it to us.

      But given how many public statements about this have been contradicted within a week or two by other facts, I fully expect this to be more of the same -- "Honestly, we're not doing it. OK, maybe we're doing it, but we're doing it under strict control. OK, maybe we're doing other things that we don't want to admit to. Hey look, a pony".

    • Re:Experts (Score:5, Funny)

      by PPH (736903) on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:04PM (#44524585)
      I nominate Edward Snowden to head the group. He's about as far 'outside' as one can get right now.
  • Secret Courts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:54PM (#44524423)

    When the secret courts are open to public review and observation there might be more transparency and trust. Till then it's just smoke and mirror talk.

  • Hope and Change (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:55PM (#44524433) Homepage

    was replaced by Fear and Lies on January 20, 2009. Anyone who thinks anything Obama says (or does) will result in your privacy being respected and warrantless surveillance ended is delusional.

    • by Mitreya (579078)

      Anyone who thinks anything Obama says (or does) will result in your privacy being respected and warrantless surveillance ended is delusional.

      Ah, if only there were some other branches of the government that were tasked with supervising and controlling the executive branch. Too bad we don't have any.

      • Re:Hope and Change (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:24PM (#44524851) Homepage Journal

        Anyone who thinks anything Obama says (or does) will result in your privacy being respected and warrantless surveillance ended is delusional.

        Ah, if only there were some other branches of the government that were tasked with supervising and controlling the executive branch. Too bad we don't have any.

        Yea, well, perhaps if "Checks and Balances" hadn't been replaced with "Collusion and Mutual Back-Scratching..."

  • Results (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Major Ralph (2711189) on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:55PM (#44524437)
    My confidence in this actually accomplishing anything is zero.
    • We plan to change nothing about what we're doing, but how can we change people's perception of it so that they give us no hassle? Obviously a marketing problem! Invoke the science of persuasive and reassuring words! Obama has really messed up siding with the NSA. Goodbye any good feeling he might have generated abroad for America. It's all gone a bit sour, sorry.

    • Re:Results (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:23PM (#44524837)

      To an extent I agree with you... But it may have one very important consequence that Obama didn't intend. Snowden now has a glaring example of how his revelations caused changes in policy and government. Making it rather obvious that what he was doing was "whistle blowing" something there are protections for in law. Now, that doesn't mean the administration doesn't have zillions of lawyers that will find a way to put the guy in jail forever if they catch him but I think this change has at least taken the death penalty off the table. This is good news for Snowden.

      • Re:Results (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday August 09, 2013 @05:25PM (#44525681)

        Whistle blower laws are precisely written, they do not include anything and everything that you or I would call whistle blowing. One of the caveats in the laws is that they do not apply if it is illegal for you to release the information even if releasing that information is an act of whistle blowing. Whistle blower laws were written to prevent illegal reprisals for releasing confidential data, not to prevent legal prosecution for releasing classified data.

        Leaking documents classified Top Secret is unarguably illegal, in this case it was an act of civil disobedience to expose a greater evil. IMO he should be pardoned and welcomed home with opened arms, that's not going to happen but it's what I think is right. That doesn't mean whistle blower laws apply to his situation.

  • Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mitreya (579078) <(mitreya) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:55PM (#44524439)

    Their job will include figuring out how to maintain the public's trust and prevent abuse

    Isn't it a little late for that?
    Short of stopping indiscriminate surveillance, but that does not seem to be in the cards.

  • by arcite (661011) on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:57PM (#44524455)
    The Government watches the people, the people watch the government. Everyone's happy. A world with fewer secrets is a safer world.
  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:57PM (#44524467)

    If they're listening to US landlines without a warrant, then they are willfully violating the Constitution.

    I worry that Bush and Obama have knowingly permitted this.

    • You worry? It's a fact. Every president since Lincoln first allowed the tapping of telegraph wires (yes he really did) has knowingly permitted this.

  • by Blue Stone (582566) on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:57PM (#44524469) Homepage Journal

    "What you're not seeing is people actually abusing these programs." - Obama.

    You're not seeing the abuse, therefore it's not happening. Good one. Alternatively, the system IS the abuse, and we're all very well aware of it now, thanks to that courageous Mr. Snowden.

    By the way, it's not OK to spy on Americans, but it is fine to invade the privacy of everyone else on the planet? Hmm. As a non-American, I can't say I agree.

  • Too late (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Red Jesus (962106) on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:59PM (#44524491)

    I want my email [slashdot.org] back. Show me a plan that restores my Lavabit access and I'll take this effort seriously. This isn't a game.

  • Transparency (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:59PM (#44524493) Journal

    Transparency is not the issue. Constitutionality is.

  • by TrumpetPower! (190615) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Friday August 09, 2013 @03:59PM (#44524503) Homepage

    I'd have a lot more trust in Obama if he weren't the one responsible for ramping it up to the level it is today. (If not, remind me again where the buck stops?)

    Also, of course they're not interested in "ordinary" people. The instant they're interested in you, you're no longer ordinary.

    Imagine Snowden was some political candidate's nephew. And imagine that, instead of leaking details of the entire operation to the press, he leaked details of the other candidate's campaign strategies (or sexual exploits) back to his uncle. You know, like the Watergate breakins?

    If a junior flunky can do that sort of thing and get away with it, what makes you think it's not standard operating procedure?

    The NSA has the power to utterly control the entire political process with an iron grip -- and that's before we start to worry about political dissidents being extraordinarily renditioned.

    If Obama truly wanted to "address the situation," he'd completely dismantle the NSA. But, somehow, even if he truly wanted to, I rather doubt the NSA would let him....

    Cheers,

    &

  • by firewrought (36952) on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:00PM (#44524525)
    • Full investigation and prosecution of NSA officials.
    • Repeal of retroactive warrants, retroactive teleco immunity, secret NSL orders, and other extra-judicial bullshit.
    • Immediate legislation to broaden the definition of domestic surveillance and establish strict penalties for companies who cooperate with it.
    • Amnesty/whistleblower protection for Snowden. Oh, and his passport back.
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:01PM (#44524541)

    > "What you're not seeing is people actually abusing these programs."

    That's like saying, it is OK for the government to keep a loaded gun pointed at the head of every citizen because they haven't shot anyone.

  • Then Why Is It? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:01PM (#44524545) Homepage

    "America is not interested in spying on ordinary people."

    Then why is it? Why is it storing the metadata on every call and every HTTP request everyone makes? Is everyone not ordinary, or is America doing things in which it is not interested? I'm guessing it is option 3: You have redefined spying as "not spying" in your twisted little lawyer brain, to which I say, "Screw you, you forked-tongue traitor."

  • by TheDarkener (198348) on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:02PM (#44524561)

    When asked about how his opinion of the surveillance programs have changed, he said his perception of them have not evolved since the story broke worldwide. "What you're not seeing is people actually abusing these programs."

    So I guess bypassing the Fourth Amendment doesn't count as abuse.From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_and_seizure#United_States [wikipedia.org] :

    "A search occurs when an expectation of privacy that society is prepared to consider reasonable is infringed."

  • I'm not reassured. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:06PM (#44524619) Homepage

    This quote really bothers me:

    What you're not seeing is people actually abusing these programs.

    On the surface, it sounds like a fair point. To my knowledge, there haven't really been allegations of people digging into these records for specific unethical and abusive purposes. However:

    (a) I would question whether the collection and warehousing of this data is, in itself, and abuse.
    (b) It's pretty much impossible for us to know whether these programs are being abused, since there is no public oversight.
    (c) If there were reports of abuse, I'm not sure we'd know about it, since it's apparently illegal to talk about this program.

    All told, I don't feel particularly reassured. Even if there's no malicious abuse of the system, I would bet money that there's some casual abuse going on. As Obama is fond of saying, sunlight is the best disinfectant. If the NSA has done nothing wrong, then they have nothing to hide.

  • Bow! Yield! Kneel! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:07PM (#44524621) Journal

    > "What you're not seeing is peopleactually abusingthese programs."

    Given alarm bells don't go off if someone listens to content without a warrant, i.e. no physical mechanism to prevent, much less track this, how would he know?

    Any one of a hundred senators or other powerful people know people in the NSA and could have an otherwise seemingly honest agent actually spying for them -- on business dealings, or opposing candidates. This doesn't even begin to address the supposedly "lesser-protected" metadata on who calls whom, which would have been more than enough to figure out who all the founding fathers were and round them up.

    And even if every agent and powerful person were honest today, what about 10 or 50 years from now? I keep bringing this up, but a G. Gordon Liddy type wouldn't think twice about listening in on the opposition.

  • Good Timing (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:16PM (#44524753)

    "Now that it is politically imperative, we must do the thing, and the other things. We must have the courage, the tenacity, the morale fortitude, to do whatever it is that will make me popular again. This is not about right or wrong, but about the morale certainty that of what is the right thing to do, which is that course of action that I now advocate. And I will continue to advocate, using great speeches and the soaring power of words, whatever it is that will cause applause. In fact I will continue, tirelessly, night and day, to talk my out of this, and the other things. So pay very close attention, to my words. Nothing else, just what comes out of my mouth. Thank you, good night, god bless America, thank you all, and god bless America."

  • by poity (465672) on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:22PM (#44524823)

    Well, I guess this is as good a time as any to remind you guys that 5% popular vote for any Presidential candidate gives his/her party total ballot access, federal funds, and most importantly a legitimate voice that no media outlet can ignore without discrediting itself. Due to its popularity, the Libertarian party is the easiest to take across this hurdle, but an effort to organize a 5% vote for any 3rd party can work just as well. It doesn't even matter if you disagree with the party, anything that disrupts the celebrity-focused and soundbite-based political environment will be to your benefit.

    Remember that the winner takes all electoral college system makes your vote in a non-battleground state absolutely worthless. Your deep red/deep blue state is staying that color with or without you. Invest your vote instead into something worthwhile.

  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:32PM (#44524955) Homepage

    "What you're not seeing is people actually abusing these programs."

    So, aside from ignoring the fact that on a weekly if not daily basis there is a news report of these programs resulting in an abuse of liberty, we're just supposed to ignore the fact that the programs' very existence is an abuse?

    There is absolutely zero reason to believe anything Obama says; on the contrary, there is good evidence to support believing the opposite of what he says is true, based entirely on his own record of honesty.

  • This is tiresome (Score:4, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Friday August 09, 2013 @04:36PM (#44525007)
    First, they deny the NSA spying allegations. They half-admit the allegations while simultaneously going after the whistleblower full bore. Now, Obama starts speaking of transparency? Where was that transparency this whole time? It's lie after lie after lie.
  • Watergate. (Score:4, Informative)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOspAm.mac.com> on Friday August 09, 2013 @05:12PM (#44525519) Journal

    Tricky Dick Nixon was hounded into resignation over illegally wiretapping a handful of phone lines at the DNC headquarters back in 1972. The Bush and Obama administrations are each guilty of billions of counts of the same crime. Why the FUCK isn't anyone getting impeached?

    -jcr

    • Tricky Dick Nixon was hounded into resignation over illegally wiretapping a handful of phone lines at the DNC headquarters back in 1972. The Bush and Obama administrations are each guilty of billions of counts of the same crime. Why the FUCK isn't anyone getting impeached?

      Perhaps this quote from Joseph Stalin will provide illumination:

      "A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic."

  • Cowards (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TuckerBag (2644679) on Friday August 09, 2013 @05:12PM (#44525521)
    Why aren't Google, Apple et. al. doing the same as Lavabit and Silent Circle? They should shut down until they are happy that their customers are happy with what they are doing.
  • by thereitis (2355426) on Friday August 09, 2013 @05:40PM (#44525863) Journal
    To be taken seriously, he'd have to put Snowden in charge of this new transparency initiative. Obviously that's not going to happen.
  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Friday August 09, 2013 @06:29PM (#44526351) Homepage

    Obama on Surveillance: "We Can and Must Be More Transparent"

    ...now that we've been caught.

  • There will also be a new website for citizens to learn about transparency in intelligence agencies

    Whenver I visit one of the intelligence agency websites, my webcam light turns on and it won't turn off until I reboot my computer :(

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