Does This Provide Insight into Obama’s Relative Silence?

The US Ambassador to Britain, Matthew Barzun, went on the Beeb and declined to criticize Edward Snowden.

Asked if he shared the UK security services’ concerns about the threat to national security from the leaks, he said he wanted to focus on the “importance of having this debate about what the trade-offs are between security and privacy, between transparency and secrecy, and to do so in a way that protects whistleblowers – which is different, by the way, from wholesale releasing of information, hundreds of thousands of documents”.

This is a remarkable statement from someone at the heart of what must be touchy relations between the NSA and GCHQ and the US and Brits more generally (if complaints about prior US leaks serve as predictor).

Moreover, it might vocalize some of the reluctance on President Obama’s part to aggressively defend the NSA’s violation of laws authorizing surveillance.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe Obama welcomes any real debate. The conduct James Clapper’s Committee to Make Us Love the Dragnet makes that all too clear. Rather, I suspect Obama believes he can win the debate, and convince us all that we need an even bigger dragnet. (Which might explain the inclusion of Cass Sunstein on the Committee to Make Us Love the Dragnet.)

I suspect Obama, having been convinced by partial briefings the dragnet is great for America, also believes he can persuade the rest of us (who aren’t stuck in his partial briefing bubble) to love it too.

Certainly, his Ambassador to Britain seems to have been permitted to adopt the same stance.

13 replies
  1. bloodypitchfork says:

    quote:”Rather, I suspect Obama believes he can win the debate, and convince us all that we need an even bigger dragnet.”unquote

    And if he can’t, I’m sure the FBI/CIA have a contingency plan to convince us. Say, something along the lines of Boston or worse.

  2. orionATL says:

    “… I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy…”

    …One afternoon in January, Drake met with me, giving his first public interview about this case. He is tall, with thinning sandy hair framing a domed forehead, and he has the erect bearing of a member of the Air Force, where he served before joining the N.S.A., in 2001. Obsessive, dramatic, and emotional, he has an unwavering belief in his own rectitude. Sitting at a Formica table at the Tastee Diner, in Bethesda, Drake—who is a registered Republican—groaned and thrust his head into his hands. “I actually had hopes for Obama,” he said. He had not only expected the President to roll back the prosecutions launched by the Bush Administration; he had thought that Bush Administration officials would be investigated for overstepping the law in the “war on terror.”

    “But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country…”

    from jane mayer’s new yorker story about nsa whistleblower thomas drake, “the secret sharer”:


  3. peasantparty says:

    Obama has to protect himself by protecting the Bush family and Cheney. He has to protect himself and his family from the movers and shakers that helped place him in the pool to become President.

    “Don’t look back.” “Prosecution is off the table.”

    Big Biz and Big Oil depend on the President to Protect this Country
    from knowing and understanding. The President has to protect the country and himself from the threat of the real Terrorists out to rape, pillage, and murder the country.

    (Ah, shit!) There goes that crazy Peasant again. ;-)

  4. Dredd says:

    Neither Obama nor the next five presidents can win that debate.

    Removing our freedom from military NSA spying on innocent Americans is not debatable.

  5. Frank33 says:

    And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.

    The President must abide by certain rules. Recall, the President was going to take credit for thwarting the False Flag Undie Bomber #2 attack. But AP thwarted that Op so AP was attacked by the NSA. AP was not abiding by the rules of classified information.

    He is a President in name only. We have Republican Wars and Secrets, Republican Health Insurance, and Republican Austerity. And the military industrial espionage complex gives us the most corrupt Generals as our Military Dictators, Petraeus, Kelly, Allen, Alexander, and Hayden. They rule over us in the name of the Oil Companies and Saudi Arabia.

  6. What Constitution? says:

    Obama is in the place the Constitution puts the President, and he is acting like the Constitution predicts a human President will act if nobody stops a human President: aggregating power. It’s undeniably “easier” for the President to preside over an NSA apparatus that is unchecked and absolute, and it will be that way until it is not. That’s how we got here — Senator Obama campaigned against absolutist abuses; President Obama sees things, well, a bit differently from that chair.

    He’s undoubtedly not all that sanguine about what is being disclosed. But he’s not likely unilaterally going to deconstruct it without being pushed. He’s getting some pushback now, but it’s probably safe to say that we will be fortunate if he stands back far enough and long enough to see whether it will gain a real foothold — without any question Obama is looking at what his “legacy” will be, and nobody wants to be on the wrong side of history. Thus, it’s in Obama’s perceived best interests to sound “notes of caution” and make nice-nice noises about “respect for Americans’ constitutional rights”, but not necessarily to the point of, say, holding anyone actually accountable… unless and until Congress steps up to demonstrate an actual commitment to respecting those rights. I’m not suggesting this is part of an “eleventy dimensional plan” that Obama hopes will result in corrections to our NSA structure. I’m saying Obama’s historical pattern of “normalization of the malevolency” of the Bush Administration is being presented for testing here.

    Go Wyden! Wake up, DiFi. And remember what Jeh Johnson said about reassessing our course after a decade of unbridled War on Terra — we don’t have to be doing what we’re doing the way we’re doing it, we’re doing it this way because very few seriously have considered whether it makes sense.

  7. C says:

    I think that there are two Obamas the one that cares and the one that delegates, or just backs off. On the Shutdown and the ACA you saw the one that cared the one that actually does things. This is also the case for the pursuit of Al Awlaki and Bin Laden.

    Now consider his “zeal” in prosecuting Wall Street fraud, illegal foreclosures, or in protecting whistleblowers where he says nice things but then simply retreats to let his staff or other parts of the government do the opposite.

    I think that this falls into the latter category. Obama knows that he has to talk about a debate and press freedoms and Civil Liberties but he just doesn’t care, he privately agrees with what the NSA et al. is doing, or he is just too weak to take them on. In any event the end result is the same, soothing words signifying nothing.

  8. prostratedragon says:

    peasantparty may have a point about why that hotseat is so hot, and why the incumbent was thrust forward to sit in it. But in the end I wonder whether Obama has had to violate many of his true core beliefs, given how many Sunstein types were handy to him from the start.

    emptywheel: COMMULD?! I like it.

  9. milkshaken says:

    I don’t think he likes the spy agencies establishment anymore because they undermined his self-righteousness, his reputation for the history books – more than Guantanamo, drone assassinations and Afghan war disaster combined…No more swooning from liberals at home and abroad. Now he is just an eloquent and handsome imperialist in chief, a big brother wannabe, a malware king and a Putin-like persecutor of journalists under the Espionage Act. Despite all powers at his disposal he is losing the public opinion fight to Greenwald & Co. So he now switched into a reputation salvage mode.

  10. Penny's Puyi says:

    Wouldn’t surprise me if Obama, the credential-free empty suit plucked from obscurity to be the permanent state’s puppet ruler, thinks he can have his debate with nary a mention of the legal authorities. Now anyone in government, any lowly paper-pusher, any dogcatcher, knows enough to cite the authorities, but still, somehow it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Obama imagines that no one will bring up ICCPR Article 17, supreme law of the land equivalent to federal statute, with which domestic law at all levels of government must be brought into compliance, or General Comment 16 of the Human Rights Committee, which governs interpretation of the law. This is not toilet-paper law like FISA that lets you ignore innumerable felonies, but real law enacted by the world. But Obama hopes to trade in slogans for morons like security and tradeoffs and keeping you safe. That’s why Penny Pritsker installed him, to make shit up and break the law.

  11. dustbunny44 says:

    First, before Americans can consider “accepting” the dragnet, we must have transparency. We can’t accept a program when they’re lying to us about the scope of the program. We can’t accept it if it’s illegal for anyone to talk about it. We can’t accept it if we don’t know what it is.
    Like the debt ceiling, there can be no negotiation: transparency first, then we’ll talk about if we accept it nor not.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Obama welcomes debate on any topic about as much as Jamie Dimon welcomes another SEC investigation.

Comments are closed.