The actual details of the NSA’s expansive surveillance programs are infuriating enough on their own. Civil libertarians and ordinary Americans are and should be angry at the NSA’s disrespect for the law, the Fourth Amendment, and privacy rights in general.
It’s interesting to juxtapose this anger and frustration felt throughout the population with the anger and frustration now being felt by the intelligence community. They are really angry. They hate having their secrets exposed. They hate increased scrutiny. They hate that the journalists to whom Edward Snowden leaked continue to publish details they want desperately to be kept secret.
But the intelligence community is angry for another reason, too. And while it pains me to say it…I think I agree with them
In addition to the lawlessness and tyranny of the NSA’s spying activities, it makes my blood boil that President Obama is trying to wiggle out of all responsibility for this. I never thought I’d share a contention with DNI James Clapper or Gen. Keith Alexander. But I share this one.
From the beginning of the Snowden disclosures, officials at the NSA have been unsatisfied with the extent of President Obama’s defense of these spying programs. They have felt they’ve been left out to dry as far as the public defense of these programs.
In the latest example, NSA is attracting nation-wide and world-wide criticism for its spying on allied countries and their leaders, namely Germany, France, Spain, Mexico, and others. The White House came out and said they didn’t even know this was going on. In this LA Times article, unnamed U.S. intelligence officials are calling bullshit.
The White House and State Department signed off on surveillance targeting phone conversations of friendly foreign leaders, current and former U.S. intelligence officials said Monday, pushing back against assertions that President Obama and his aides were unaware of the high-level eavesdropping.
Professional staff members at the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies are angry, these officials say, believing the president has cast them adrift as he tries to distance himself from the disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that have strained ties with close allies.
Not only is Obama vaguely denying full knowledge of the spying on allied foreign leaders and populations, but he is refusing to defend the validity of some of the more high-profile activities, like the tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone. On that issue, the White House has said such surveillance will not continue, which implicitly repudiates its validity in the first place.
Obama isn’t the only one wiggling out of political culpability. Even some of the NSA’s most ardent supporters in Congress, like Senator Dianne Feinstein, are leaving the NSA out to dry. LA Times:
“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies — including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany — let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” said Sen.Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers,” she said in a statement.
Feinstein said the Intelligence Committee had not been told of “certain surveillance activities” for more than a decade, and she said she would initiate a major review of the NSA operation.
“We’re really screwed now,” one NSA official told The Cable. “You know things are bad when the few friends you’ve got disappear without a trace in the dead of night and leave no forwarding address.”
As much as I enjoy seeing the leadership at the NSA squirm, I’m offended that Obama isn’t catching more direct flack over this in the public mind. He is dodging scrutiny the same way he always has: ruthless politicking for the sake of his own stature and reputation.
Obama is even less trustworthy than the NSA, it seems.