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home : opinions : commentary April 29, 2016


7/3/2013 10:30:00 AM
Commentary- Beyond Orwell: What are the bounds of Obama's spying?
By: Nat Hentoff


No citizen is immune to the ceaseless dragnet surveillance by Barack Obama's administration.

Among the revelations of the president's boundless surveillance, which also includes reporters' phone records, is this report on how We The People thereby lose access to breaking news affecting our lives:

"Associated Press president Gary Pruitt ... slammed the Department of Justice for acting as 'judge, jury and executioner' in the seizure of the news organization's phone records and he said some of the wire service's longtime sources have clammed up in fear" ("AP boss: Sources won't talk anymore," Mackenzie Weinger, politico.com, June 19).

Pruitt, whose speech at the National Press Club was covered by Politico's Weinger, said "the chilling effect is not just at AP, it's happening at other news organizations as well. Journalists from other news organizations have personally told me it has intimidated sources from speaking to them.

"Now, the government may love this. I suspect they do. But beware the government that loves secrecy too much."

Meanwhile, more attention is being paid here to increasing anger among our European allies to the scope and depth of Obama's spying as revealed by Edward Snowden to Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian.

For example, Agence France-Presse recently reported: "The EU has warned President Barack Obama's administration of 'grave adverse consequences' to the rights of European citizens from a huge U.S. Internet surveillance programme, officials said" ("EU warns U.S. of 'grave consequences' from intel scandal," June 12).

The EU's justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, had written to Attorney General Eric Holder, AFP reported, requesting "'swift and concrete' answers about the spy scheme."

Basing her concerns on Snowden's exposures in The Guardian, she sharply challenged Holder (almost certainly to no avail), writing:

"Programmes such as PRISM and the laws on the basis of which such programmes are authorised could have grave adverse consequences for the fundamental rights of EU citizens."

Furthermore, AFP reported, Reding asked Holder "whether EU citizens ... targeted by the U.S. programmes ... would be able to find out whether their data has been accessed, and whether they would be treated similarly to U.S. nationals in such cases."

And dig this: In view of Holder's chronic non-transparency to such questions, AFP reported that "the EU official also warned that the European Parliament 'is likely to assess the overall transatlantic relationship also in the light of your responses.'"

But Obama characterizes these incidents of spying as just "modest encroachments on privacy."

We Americans know how scarily "modest" they are.

Our next president of whatever party is going to have a lot of explaining to do when dealing with European citizens' abhorrence of being secretly classified in such American databases as those of the National Security Agency and the FBI.

As for members of the media and advocates of civil liberties, more of them are trying to pierce Obama and Holder's spy operations by engaging in powerfully detailed lawsuits over constitutional abuses by the administration, as I'll detail next week.

On June 10, the Obama administration was targeted full-scale, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation: "A bipartisan coalition of 86 civil liberties organizations and Internet companies -- including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, reddit, Mozilla, FreedomWorks and the American Civil Liberties Union -- are demanding swift action from Congress in light of the recent revelations about unchecked domestic surveillance" ("86 Civil Liberties Groups and Internet Companies Demand an End to NSA Spying," Rainey Reitman, eff.org).

In their open letter to all members of Congress, these 86 angry patriotic organizations resounded: "This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens' right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures."

The cost of another president leading us as a nation under ever more surveillance will be a future 9/11 in which the terrorists will have won -- even before all the corpses they amass are counted.

Bear in mind that a majority of us re-elected Obama, our lead betrayer. Shall we continue betraying ourselves?

As for Edward Snowden, the man who helped cause this large-scale awakening of the media, he is afraid. Not of his fate, but that authorities "will come after my family, my friends, my partner," he said. "Anyone I have a relationship with ... I have to live with that for the rest of my life" ("Edward Snowden, NSA files source: 'If they want to get you, in time they will,'" Ewen MacAskill, guardian.co.uk, June 9).

Do you agree that this should be his reward for telling the truth?



(Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights. He is a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Cato Institute, where he is a senior fellow.)


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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013
Article comment by: Unanswered Questions

People are upset with Obama and rightly so. He's not really known for his intelligence. He looks good, makes good speeches (with a working teleprompter), makes promises he never intends to keep, at least the ones he makes to the American people. He does more to aid our enemies than our allies. Who is he really? You can't even get a straight answer on his county of birth, or his college transcripts, or why he has used so many aliases while attending college and filing taxes, even while in the oval office. How can we even be sure his election was not obtained fraudulently? Too many questions, too few legitimate and/or convincing answers to any of these things.

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013
Article comment by: It seems to me:

Gaia Gurl, wherefore, to be inconsistent is no care. We have but to continue at your side.

Your original question was "w[h]ere WERE they [the Cato Institute] when the Patriot Act and FISA was being PASSED?"

Nutso's answer, albeit buried: "Cato was warning that the Bill of Rights was being trashed" with all the effectiveness of Cassandra.


Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

Gaia Gurl: "Sorry..."

Yes, but that's OK. I'm glad you accept the facts.

Unfortunately, you're still not being clear. Interventionist corporate flunkies pushing the welfare state are not "CONSERVATIVES."

Obama and his pals are continuing the Cloward–Piven strategy ( http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/groupProfile.asp?grpid=7522 ), but I doubt they expect the outcome will be a socialist paradise for the lower classes.

I'll leave KNOWING what is GOING on to the KNOW-IT-ALLs .


Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Article comment by: @ Dear Lord

I think that one was Mary Jane, who swears she isn't related to MJ. But the confusion is understandable. It's occasionally difficult to tell them apart.

Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

Sorry NUTSO,

I forget that EVERYTHING needs to be SPELLED out in PRE SCHOOL form in order for the COTTONWOOD brain trust to UNDERSTAND.

During the SHRUB administration, HE SUPPORTED and lobbied for THE PATRIOT ACT and FISA. He then SIGNED them into LAW, which makes them valid and therefore PASSING the laws. He also had the option to VETO them. So much for SMALLER GOVERNMENT!

Did you NOT listen to your PRESIDENT when he made his speeches for eight years?

"WMD's, Mission Accomplished, WAR ON TERROR, War On Terror, war on terror, Bank bailouts, screw the poor, tax breaks and subsidies for the RICH and CORPORATIONS."

Like a BROKEN RECORD.

NUTSO, always GO for the obscure TECHNICALITY, semantics, minutia or grammar and SPELLING . . . when you got nothing BETTER to say!

Oh changing the subject is also a favorite of CONSERVATIVES.

I did not vote for OBAMA, I think he is even MORE conservative than SHRUB was.

When are you people gonna GET IT? They are puppets! America is ruled by CORPORATIONS and the MILITARY.

And YOU thought YOU knew what was GOING on!

LOL


Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Article comment by: dear lord

@mj

"What a shame that the only two positions consistently opined in this forum are either

The fascist/ corporations are people and white makes right views of Mussolini espoused by Jim Barber

or

The socialist/ communist, let's all get naked and dance with someone of the same sex, Timothy Leary-esque drivel of John Bond"

What's even more shameful are your poorly delivered, off topic, and frankly stupid posts that do little more than halt the flow of the discussion. SOMETIMES I even agree with you, but your attitude and reasoning are just awful.


Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

"SHRUB...passed the laws?"

Someone needs an education

Congress voted to extend the Patriot Act in 2006, and Congress voted for the 2008 FISA extensions that gave telecoms immunity from prosecution. Then-Senator Obama voted YEA in both instances, along with a majority of Democrats.

When the 2001 Patriot Act was overwhelmingly passed by Democrats and Republicans (who had to pass the bill to find out what was in it), Cato was warning that the Bill of Rights was being trashed:
http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/usa-patriot-act-we-deserve-better

And who wrote the core of the 2001 Patriot Act? Why, none other than our current VP, Joker Joe Biden, way back in 1995:
http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10024163-38.html?tag=newsLeadStoriesArea.0

Hypocrisy is non-partisan.


Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Article comment by: Pot, meet kettle or, m j

Just curious, m j, to know how you divine your news?

Any source could provide an accurate description of an event regardless the name of the source, right?

I think Fox has accidentally done it once or twice over the past 10 years.

You continually criticize the 'source' without refuting the information.

I know, I know, if you did that, you'd have to think and reason.


Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Article comment by: M J

Dear Ms Gaia Gurl
You stated, "KNOWING where the source of your information comes from is TELLING."
I agree.
Which is why I instantly discount any someone who will list salon.com, Huffington post (huffpo from now on), or MSNBC as their source of info.
Why?
Because I know that they do not have the ability to think or reason on their own.
bleeeeeeeeet go the liberal sheep
bleeeeeeeeet
bleeeeeeeeet
go the liberal sheep


Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Article comment by: M J

You liberals crack me up!
You actually believe barry when he says that he never heard of any of this... why.... heck.... he just heard it on TV the same time you did.

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa
you said "he passed the LAWS that allow Obama to do this."
sooooo poor poor barry ... booo hooo him can't do anything 'bout it.... I gotta tell ya... that statement of yours was rock bottom stupid.

bleeeeeeeeeeet go the liberal sheep
bleeeeeeeeeeet
bleeeeeeeeeeet
go the liberal sheep


Posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Article comment by: It is John Robert's Spyng, not Obama's

"...the FISA court, appointed solely by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts... He has appointed all the sitting judges, and 10 of 11 are Republicans, with no confirmation or even oversight by Congress. Both of Roberts’ roles are hugely influential, and disturbing.
...He appoints all FISA judges, drawn from the federal bench, and right now 10 of 12 were originally appointed by Republican presidents. Over the last 12 years, they approved 20,909 surveillance and property search warrants and rejected only 10 government requests. Between 2007 and 2012, they approved 532 “business record” warrants – like the one revealed by Snowden directing Verizon to hand over metadata on all U.S. calls. None of those requests were rejected, but the judges ordered “substantial modifications” to 428 of them. But secrecy dictates that we don’t know how they were modified.'

Oh,sweet uncontrolled paranoia, thy name is John Roberts and republicans, not Obama!

http://www.salon.com/2013/07/09/john_roberts_scary_secret_powers/


Posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

@ MJ

No it is NOT okay to spy on us . . . EVER. That is what judges, courts, search warrants and PROBABLE cause is all about.

KNOWING where the source of your information comes from is TELLING.

But only when you have the CAPABILITY to discern the information.

Just WHERE were you when SHRUB was doing this? He gave immunity to the telecoms, he passed the LAWS that allow Obama to do this.

BUT NOW, the Cato Institute thinks it's a bad idea, were WERE they when the Patriot Act and FISA was being PASSED?

Conservatives are such HYPOCRITES.



Posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Article comment by: M J

Dear Ms Gaia Girl
correct me iffin' i'ma wrong.... is it my understanding that because the writer of the article is on the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Cato Institute.... then that makes it OK in your world for barry to spy on everyone?

Let me take a wild guess at the next liberal move.......... book burnings... or perhaps something more mundane like...... re-education camps. Now THERE'S hope and change a liberal can believe in.


Posted: Monday, July 8, 2013
Article comment by: Slaters Slater

What ever became of the secret construction
in the desert near Luke AFB.


Posted: Monday, July 8, 2013
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

The Cato Institute has a budget of about $14 million a year, derived from 15,000 contributors. More than 70 percent of its funding comes from individuals, with about 10 percent each from corporations and foundations. According to one critical source, in the 17 years spanning 1985 to 2001, the Institute received $15,633,540 in 108 separate grants from eight different foundations:

Castle Rock Foundation (Formerly Coors Foundation)
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation
Earhart Foundation
JM Foundation
John M. Olin Foundation, Inc.
Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation
Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation
Scaife Foundations (Sarah Mellon Scaife, Carthage)
As Social Security reform has become a more prominent issue, the Knight Ridder newspapers reported that the Institute, a strong advocate of privatization, had received backing from "the American International Group, an insurance and financial services company whose business includes managing U.S. retirement plans."

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has served on the board of directors of Cato. ~Wikipedia

Oooo the KOCHSUCKERS Foundation gives to them . . . they love PROPAGANDA. Then there is also that STELLAR human being Rupert Murdock, who has made a living out of TELLING LIES.



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