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Spies Like Us*

« June 2013 »

Memo to Barack Obama: DO YOU THINK WE'RE... OH. RIGHT.

On Friday, President Obama gave a lengthy answer to a reporter's question about the NSA's PRISM program that collects data on every phone call made in America. As is the standard operating procedure with such things, he was full of shit. Let's explore the shitpile in detail. ACTUAL QUOTES TIME!

"When it comes to telephone calls: Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That's not what this program's about."

Two things. First, we know you're not listening to phone calls with this program. Despite the jokes on Twitter, we're aware of what this is about. Also, when you say that's not what THIS program is about, how long is it going to be before we learn about the program that IS listening? Because if we'd asked you two months ago, you probably would have told us there wasn't a program for collecting phone numbers.

They are not looking at people's names, and they're not looking at content. But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may find potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism. If they want to actually listen to a phone call, they have to go back to a federal judge."

I don't know if Barack Obama is familiar with this thing called "the internet", but I'm pretty sure that if you have someone's phone number, you've got a shot at having their name. I bet the NSA has more complete records and fewer popup ads than a reverse phone book site, too.

And since I'm feeling extra paranoid for SOME REASON, let's parse that out farther. "If they want to actually listen to a phone call". Not "if they want to use this information to listen to a future call". If they've decided it's legal to gather all the information as long as they ask nicely to look at it, they could do the same thing with recordings of phone conversations. If not now, when technology makes it feasible in the near future.

"What you have is two programs that were originally authorized by Congress, have been repeatedly authorized... Congress is continuously briefed, there are whole layers of safeguards involved. We've also set up an audit process... after the fact, making absolutely certain that all the safeguards are being properly observed."

In other words, a bunch of secret people are secretly looking at the secret thing to make sure the secret thing is OK, so we don't need to worry about it. We just need to trust in the secret process and the secret best intentions of the secret people running that secret process. Transparency does not mean telling us you're being totally transparent over there where we can't see you.

"We'll have to discuss and debate how we're keeping this balance. Because there are some tradeoffs involved. I welcome that debate."

No, you fucking well don't. If you welcomed that debate, you would have declassified this information years ago so we could have had it then. If you welcome that debate, you can pardon the guy who made that debate possible - Edward Snowden, who leaked details on the programs to the Guardian. Instead, you're investigating him. That's not welcoming the debate.

Maybe this debate could have been a part of, oh, I don't know. The reauthorization of the Patriot Act you signed? Remember that?

" If in fact there are abuses taking place, those members of Congress could raise those issues very aggressively. They're empowered to do so."

Really? Because I know of three members of Congress - Jeff Merkley, Mark Udall, and Ron Wyden, who've known about this for years, thought it was abusive for years, and were in fact not empowered to raise these issues because they were CLASSIFIED.

And, of course, if that empowerment only comes with a Congressional majority, or a Senate supermajority, or both? Well, then, I think we all know how fucking "empowered" that is.

"In the abstract you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a program run amok, but when you actually look at the details, I think we've struck the right balance."

Except, again, we couldn't look at the details. We couldn't make that call. At least, not without that call being logged and stored by the NSA on the off chance they need it later. While striking the "right balance", of course.

*They really, really like us.

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