The Surveillance State Lives

By:  Sheldon Richman
01/27/2014
       
The Surveillance State Lives

President Obama has some nerve. He opened his speech on NSA spying by likening his surveillance regime to Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty.

How insulting! They were helping people resist government tyranny, and the British spied on them to put down the coming rebellion.

In sizing up Obama’s “reforms” of the indiscriminate gathering of data on every American, remember this: Politicians will do everything they can get away with in pursuit of their own agenda. To them, liberty and privacy are unimportant, things to be gotten around with the minimum of public attention. Should the public get wind of some untoward thing the politicians are up to — as it did, thanks to Edward Snowden — they will put on a public-relations show to lull the people back to sleep, enabling the state once again to go about its unsavory business unobserved.

That is what’s happening here. As Glenn Greenwald aptly put it, Obama’s “defining value to the permanent power factions that run Washington” is that he “prettifies the ugly; he drapes the banner of change over systematic status quo perpetuation; he makes Americans feel better about policies they find repellent without the need to change any of them in meaningful ways. He’s not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it.”

Thus, the appropriate attitude toward the so-called reforms is deep skepticism. You want evidence? Obama expressed confidence “in the integrity of those who lead our intelligence community.” He has apparently forgotten that the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told a boldfaced lie to a Senate committee when he said “No, sir” to this question from Sen. Ron Wyden: “Does the [NSA] collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” (Clapper later explained that this was the “least untruthful” answer he could give.) Obama’s spokesman said the president “certainly believes that Director Clapper has been straight and direct in the answers he’s given.”

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