Editor’s Note – The NSA speech was today! The big reveal, long awaited from the President on his plans for the future of the NSA. He had 17 days in Hawaii to mull it over, and today, we heard what he is going to do – “kick the ball down the road”! But wait, he did make an assignment to handle it though last Friday – you guessed it, political hack extraordinaire, John Podesta.
The newly appointed…errr, named “Counselor” to the President, John Podesta, the man named to head up many of Obama’s political ambitions and long time counselor to his previous boss, Bill Clinton as well, was chosen to head the NSA review. Here is a reminder/primer on Podesta:
President Barack Obama on 10th December named John Podesta as counselor to the president. Podesta has reportedly agreed to help the President in his time of troubles for a year. The White House announced that Podesta would advise the President on a range of issues, but specifically mentioned climate and energy.
Podesta was a co-chair of the Obama-Biden transition team in 2009 and has been an unofficial but highly influential outside adviser to the Obama Administration for the past five years. In 2003, he founded and became president of the Center for American Progress, the leftist think tank and advocacy organization that provided much of the ammunition to oppose the policies of the George W. Bush Administration.
Yes, you heard that correctly, a “political counselor,” his transition head and fromer Clinton advisor on politics, is going to counsel the President on what he should do to handle the massive issue with the NSA; the deepest issue over your liberty and privacy EVER. So now, our security apparatus is in the hands of a political “operative.” Here is the report:
President Barack Obama announced Friday that John Podesta, his new “counselor” and the political operative responsible for creating the institutional left in Washington, will be the appointed “to lead a comprehensive review of big data and privacy” in the aftermath of revelations about the National Security Agency’s electronic spying programs. When he joined the White House last month, Podesta’s focus was said to be “climate change.”
So the man named to handle “Climate Change” issues is qualified for the “NSA” issues as well? He is going to “counsel” the president on what the changes to the NSA should be; yes, we are shaking our heads as well. Do you see a new campaign of whistle stops, or a cogent look at such a primal and basic issue regarding our liberty?
The Breitbart report goes on to say:
The president’s speech contained little news. It was a classic Obama set-piece, designed to demonstrate that he understands both sides of a complex argument, while delegating responsibility to third parties and taking steps that reinforce the interests and goals of the hard left. In this instance, Obama left final decisions about where to store NSA data to Congress, while making sure that Podesta is in charge of the consultative process as a whole.
Of course, it’s another case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” and politicize everything! We all know that is the case in light of the former Secretary of Defense Gate’s new book, “Duty” where it was exposed in stark clarity that in the Obama Administration, politics trumps policy.
Of course, the right had its opinions on today’s “dog and pony show,” but here is something from a Democrat as well (From UT Documents):
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12), a former member of the Intelligence Committee who has introduced legislation that would repeal the PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act, released the following statement on the President’s remarks today about reforming the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs:“The President’s speech offered far less than meets the eye.“His proposals continue to allow surveillance of Americans without requiring a Fourth Amendment determination of probable cause. They continue to regard Americans as suspects first and citizens second. They continue to allow the government to build backdoors into computer software and hardware. They fail to strengthen protections for whistleblowers who uncover abusive spying.“The President spoke about navigating ‘the balance between security and liberty.’ But this is a faulty and false choice. As Barack Obama himself urged in his first inaugural address, we must ‘reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.’“The Fourth Amendment and other civil liberty protections do not exist to impede police or intelligence agencies. To the contrary, they exist to hold to hold government agents to a high standard – to ensure that they act on the basis of evidence, rather than wasting time and resources on wild goose chases.“Even the modest improvements announced today are subject to reversal at a stroke of the President’s pen. A standard of ‘trust my good intentions’ isn’t good enough. Congress should reject these practices and repeal the laws that made the NSA’s abuses possible.”
Hmmm, national security versus total loss of liberty, privacy and human rights…God help the Republic! He did however worry about what foreign nations would think, especially over industrial spying, read what he is doing regarding Brazil. Meanwhile all your texts belong to the NSA, despite the President telling us it was only meta data. Also, read more on signals intelligence issues here.
It’s up to you to decide, but let’s make sure we see all the angles before we decide. We hope we were able to point out a couple here, and also in the story below. Yes, it is from RT.com, but often, a viewpoint from overseas helps us focus and see through the fog:
Obama announces NSA programs overhaul
President Barack Obama announced as expected on Friday a major overhaul to some of the National Security Agency’s most disputed surveillance operations seven months after they was first exposed, reining in the metadata collection program among others.
Effective immediately, the president said, NSA officials must obtain court permission in order to access the government’s archive of telephone metadata — a trove of intelligence that has been regularly collected by the government through a program that its proponents say is a legally sound and crucial counterterrorism tool justified under Section 215 of the United States Patriot Act.
Evidence of that program was exposed last June through classified documents disclosed to the media by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and spurred an immediate and ongoing international discussion that cumulated with the president’s endorsement of reform during a Friday morning speech inside the Justice Department building in downtown Washington, DC.
“I believe we need a new approach,” Mr. Obama said. “I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata collection program as it currently exists, and establishes a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata.”
Exactly who will be in charge of holding onto the phone records pertaining to millions of Americans has yet to be decided, however, and Mr. Obama says he’s tasked United States Attorney General Eric Holder, the intelligence community and Congress with finding a solution.
Among the first of top-secret documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden since June is evidence that revealed the US government has regularly compelled the nation’s telecommunication companies for so-called metadata, in turn receiving on routine basis the primitive details about each and every phone call dialed. But while Mr. Obama and his administration has largely defended the program up to and during Friday’s speech, critics have condemned that program and others like it exposed by Mr. Snowden and have accused the government of violating the civil liberties and rights to privacy of not just Americans, but millions around the globe.
The president said during his address that he wouldn’t “dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or his motivations,” citing the ongoing investigation into the leaks, but insisted that when individuals who oppose government policy take it upon themselves to publically disclose classified information as the former contractor did, then the US government “will not be able to keep our people safe or conduct foreign policy.” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an ally of Snowden, told CNN that the leaker will respond to the new NSA reforms next week.
Other documents disclosed by Mr. Snowden since June have revealed NSA programs that target the communications of foreign persons, including average citizens and allied leaders alike. As expected, Obama announced his intent to reform some of those operations during Friday’s address as well.
Revelations that the NSA had tapped the personal phones of foreign leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel caused outrage around the world last year, but on Friday’s speech Mr. Obama said that the US is the “world’s only superpower” and must continue to conduct operations allies are not able to accomplish on their own.
“We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective,” the president said, “but heads of state and governments with whom we work closely . . . should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners.”
The US government “will continue to gather information about the intentions” of foreign governments, the president said. On the contrary, though, he also promised the NSA “will not monitor the communications of heads of state” atop the ranks of allied partners unless there are compelling national security purposes at stake. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) will be subjected to new reform as well, he said, allowing the government to intercept the communications of overseas targets with important information without putting as many Americans and foreign persons incidentally targeted under the looking glass.
More of the president’s new plans involve activity at home, however, including reformations meant to address concerns with how the government collects an array of intelligence gathering operations that may at times turn up the details pertaining to US persons.
Some of the issues touched upon by Mr. Obama during Friday’s address are included in a presidential policy directive published earlier that morning:
In announcing changes to metadata program carried out through Sec. 215, Mr. Obama said, “I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future.” His administration will begin immediately working towards transferring possession of those records away from the NSA, the president added, while at the same time significantly cutting down the number of persons whose information is collected.
“Effective immediately,” he added, “we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist association.” Until now the US government has given itself the authority to investigate the conduct of people separated by three steps, or “hops,” from a targeted number. Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union claimed that a person with 40 contacts in their mobile phone address book could be connected to roughly 2.5 million others using the “three hops” rule.
Last month, a five-person review group handpicked by Pres. Obama after the dawn of the Snowden leaks released their findings with regards to how they believe the federal government should reform the NSA’s programs. Although the president heeded only a fraction of those, according to promises made during Friday’s address, he did also endorse significant changes to other surveillance programs that have struck a chord among civil libertarians.
National Security Letters, or NSLs, for instance, can be sent by federal agents to private businesses in order to compel them to provide specific information about certain customers without that targeted person ever being told they are under investigation. “We can and should be more transparent as to how the government uses this authority,” the president said from the DoJ headquarters, and in an effort to do as much he has directed Attorney General Holder to amend how NSLs are currently used.
Mr. Obama also announced that he’s asked Congress to establish a panel of advocate from outside of government to provide an independent voice before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC, which authorizes in secret wiretaps and similar spy operations under what critics call little-to-no oversight.