Kerry: Obama Didn’t ‘Personally’ Order Surveillance

Administration Tries to Duck Responsibility

The Obama Administration continues with its effort to duck responsibility for the growing NSA surveillance scandal today, with Secretary of State John Kerry telling the BBC that it was unfair to blame Obama because he didn’t “personally” order all that surveillance.

This narrative of the feckless president bumbling unawares into major scandals is in keeping with past White House comments, which insisted Obama didn’t even know about a lot of what the NSA does.

Yet the NSA is part of the executive branch, and directly under the president purview. Even if he delegated a lot of the decision-making for the agency to underlings, he’s clearly responsible for it.

Indeed, while this argument is gaining currency in the administration as a catchall responsible to various government misdeeds, it’s not even clear that a president who lets major violations of privacy go on under his putative watch is any better than a president who orders those violations directly.

Even if President Obama in fact didn’t know about the NSA’s actions until he read about them in the Guardian, he didn’t seem particularly bothered by them, and has defended the NSA publicly at every opportunity.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of