After much anticipation, President Obama has finally delivered his speech on promised NSA reforms, and it was everything that initial reports suggested it would be.
The hour-long speech was peppered with numbered lists of vague promises for improved transparency, punctuated by repeated denials of any wrongdoing by the NSA and appeals to 9/11 as the justification for the programs.
The president attempted to draw a straight line comparison of Paul Revere and the NSA, going on to liken the NSA’s Internet data collection to the targeted ads of companies like Google. He repeatedly insisted “ordinary people” and “ordinary folks” have nothing to fear from his surveillance.
Declaring that “nothing suggests” the NSA had violated the law, Obama claimed everyone basically supports the idea of mass surveillance, and unveiled his five point plan for reforms.
The five points were mostly all the same thing, detail-free promises of increased transparency at some future date. President Obama also suggested that telephone metadata would be placed in the hands of someone else in the future.
Typical of the speech, though, there was no indication of who would hold the metadata, or when such changes would even happen, saying that they still need to determine how to do this, and that in the meantime, the metadata could be queried by the NSA whenever the courts say it’s okay, or whenever they think it’s really important.
Obama acted quite pleased with his substance-free reforms, saying they should “give the American people greater confidence,” and then went on to discuss foreign surveillance.
Here to, President Obama denied any wrongdoing, overtly lying by insisting the NSA had never been used for commercial advantage. Insisting it was vital to secure the “trust of leaders around the world,” Obama also announced that the US State Department is going to be appointing what amounts to a senior apologist for the NSA, who will be responsible for placating nations about all the spying he’s doing.