Obama NSA Speech Defends Spying, Insults China, Russia

Barack Obama’s NSA speech may satisfy some, but countries like China and Russia will probably be angered by how they’re portrayed in relation to the NSA spying debacle.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, journalist Glenn Greenwald broke the story about Edward Snowden with an exclusive interview. And he believes President Obama is lying about his involvement in the NSA scandal:

“I think he was informed, but chose to tell the public things that he knew to be false. This has really been the nub of the story from the very beginning … Top NSA officials lied to the Congress about what the NSA does in regard to Americans’ communications, and President Obama has repeatedly misled the public by claiming that the NSA does not invade the content of our communications, when in fact in all sorts of ways, even without warrants, the NSA is frequently monitoring the communication of American citizens. That is a major part of this scandal, and article after article has proven that..”

Worse, the Supreme Court refused to even see a lawsuit over the NSA phone spying. Even Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy claims the Obama administration hasn’t been transparent about the NSA spying, and claims he got most of his information from reading media reports on the issue. Obama’s supposedly independent NSA review board was criticized since it was being operated by a branch of the NSA itself.

Ironically enough, The Inquisitr wrote at the time that this was “like if President Obama asked Attorney General Eric Holder to personally investigate whether or not an ongoing investigation of his violated the law.” And, sure enough, that’s exactly what Barack Obama is proposing now:

“Going forward, I am directing the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Attorney General, to annually review – for the purpose of declassification – any future opinions of the Court with broad privacy implications, and to report to me and Congress on these efforts…. I am asking the Attorney General and DNI to institute reforms that place additional restrictions on government’s ability to retain, search, and use in criminal cases, communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702.”

Although Obama claims he was against warrantless wiretaps as a senator, and that “some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took office,” changes to the NSA spying programs under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 2008 were approved by Obama and empowered the NSA to do more things than was previously allowed under President Bush’s special authorization.

To give you an idea of how much NSA spying has grown under the Obama administration, the agency estimates that 1.6 percent of all internet data is scanned by NSA computers, which is about 50 percent more than Google does in a day. NSA spying includes recording and storing phone records and monitoring 75 percent of all internet traffic in the United States. Worse, the new NSA spying program includes efforts to break encryption technologies used by individuals, corporations, and governments all over the world. But President Obama’s NSA speech claims we shouldn’t be worried:

“[T]his program does not involve the content of phone calls, or the names of people making calls. Instead, it provides a record of phone numbers and the times and lengths of calls – meta-data that can be queried if and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked to a terrorist organization…. The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists, so we can see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible…. What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale – not only because I felt that they made us more secure; but also because nothing in that initial review, and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.”

So while the NSA phone spying will still continue, the good news is that it will be limited somewhat:

“Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of three. And I have directed the Attorney General to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that during this transition period, the database can be queried only after a judicial finding, or in a true emergency.”

But there’s also discussion of shifting the responsibility of storing all the phone data away from the NSA to third parties, which seems to raise more questions than answers.


The NSA PRISM spying program uses unwilling corporate proxies like Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft to gain access to their raw data. NSA PRISM can access everyone’s e-mails, video chats, and messages sent through social media. The PRISM program has been fully authorized by the Obama administration, with the supposed purpose being to sift through every US citizen’s data to find any information on terrorists operating within the homeland.

And Barack Obama feels these technologies should be applauded:

“Today, new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track who a terrorist is in contact with, and follow the trail of his travel or funding. New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly between federal agencies, and state and local law enforcement. Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded, and our capacity to repel cyber-attacks has been strengthened.”

Toward the end of the NSA speech, Obama says he “made it clear” that the United States will no longer spy on the conversations of the 35 world leaders we’ve previously spied on. Of course, he added the caveat that if there’s a “compelling national security purpose” the NSA may resume spying on “the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies.” The President also claims these same countries have “loudly criticized the NSA” but behind closed doors are privately acknowledging that “America has special responsibilities as the world’s only superpower; that our intelligence capabilities are critical to meeting these responsibilities; and that they themselves have relied on the information we obtain to protect their own people.”

Still, that didn’t prevent Obama from insulting both China and Russia near the end when there was no need to do so:

“It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard, and the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating. No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs, or Russia to take the privacy concerns of citizens into account.”

What do you think about President Barack Obama’s NSA speech? Are you still concerned about the PRISM and phone record spying? Or perhaps you think it’s just more of the same…

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