Duncan Black: We Claim All The Powers: Noted for August 10, 2013
Justin Fox: Why Retirement Risks Are Best Shared: Noted for August 10, 2013

Obama: Please Be Nice to Me as I Fail to Deal with This Awful Mess I Created!


"Surreal." "Kafkaesque." The best you can say is "pathetic." The kicker is that without a single finger lifted on the part of congress Obama could have implemented four years ago procedures for his administration that match those that he now wants congress to undertake. He could have:

  • had the government's presentations to FISA include arguments from an advocatus diaboli
  • created a task force
  • established internal executive-branch safeguards against abuse of §215
  • released his own administration's justifications
  • required the NSA to explain what it was doing.

He did none of those things, which he now says that he dearly wants to do.

Obama concedes that Snowden's leaks triggered a passionate and welcome debate. But he claims that Snowden is no patriot because "we would have gotten to the same place" eventually.


This does not pass the bullshit test.

R.M.: American Surveillance: The Snowden Effect

THERE was something surreal, in a Kafkaesque sort of way, about Barack Obama's press conference…. [Obama] announced reforms that seem both obvious and overdue. Then he criticised the man whose actions set those reforms in motion.

The president's proposals include… [w]hen in doubt, create a task force… chang[ing] the proceedings of the secret court… the president [now] wants to see an opposing viewpoint represented… work[ing] with Congress to create safeguards against abuse of Section 215 of the Patriot Act… releas[ing] the legal rationale for its snooping… NSA… do[ing] a better job of explaining what it does, though thanks to Edward Snowden, Americans have a pretty good idea.

All of this comes after Mr Snowden leaked details of the NSA's surveillance programmes…. Mr Obama conceded that those leaks triggered a passionate and welcome debate about American snooping. But the president said Mr Snowden is no patriot. "I actually think we would have gotten to the same place [without Mr Snowden's leaks]," Mr Obama added, "and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security".

How that would have happened, without the intervention of Mr Snowden, is unclear…. When senators asked for details about the breadth of NSA surveillance, they were stonewalled by the administration. When the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, was asked if the NSA collected "any type of data at all" on a large number of Americans, he simply lied.

Mr Obama laments that the debate over these issues did not follow "an orderly and lawful process", but the administration… blocked such a course. For nearly five years it [was] comfortable with the secret judicial system… prized the power to spy on Americans… kept information from Congress…. Snowden['s]… actions may not have been orderly or lawful, but they were crucial to producing the reforms announced by Mr Obama.