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A Privacy Advocate’s Response to President Obama

A Privacy Advocate’s Response to President Obama



44th President of the United States, Barack Obama



On August 9, the President held a news conference addressing – among other things – the privacy concerns surrounding the NSA spying scandal. (Full transcript available here: Remarks by the President in a Press Conference)

Our President seemed slightly unnerved with the fact that American’s no longer trust the government and disappointed that we had the audacity to raise our voices against the violation of our civil liberties and privacy with the disclosures brought to light by Edward Snowden. (The whistle blower – not hacker. The whistle Blower – not traitor. The whistle Blower – not hacker.)

That aside, I’d like to respond, briefly, to President Obama’s comments.

First, I will work with Congress to pursue appropriate reforms to Section 215 of the Patriot Act — the program that collects telephone records.

Very briefly Mr. President, yes, we American’s all know how Congress works. Or should I say, “doesn’t work.” I’m sure you’ll be very successful with that goal.

And so I can remain brief, there were multiple examples in the entire speech that said, “work with Congress.” And to every mention I repeat, we American’s understand how Congress doesn’t work so we can expect absolutely nothing to come from this.

Along with speaking about more transparency and other idealistic fantasies of the NSA (or any government office for that matter), President Obama included the need for an advocate and stated,

The NSA is taking steps to put in place a full-time civil liberties and privacy officer, and released information that details its mission, authorities, and oversight.

And I ask President Obama just where this civil liberties and privacy officer is going to come from? From the rank and file within the NSA itself? Or are you going to reward some more Goldman Sachs executives and let them play musical chairs in that position too?

Despite the fact that our government apparently thinks we’re all still asleep or too drugged up on antidepressants to remember anything, we do remember what you did with the position created and filled by Elizabeth Warren during the banking scandal. And we also remember how Congress graciously welcomed her oversight by not funding the office and literally tying her hands from taking any action.

So why should we believe that your civil liberties and privacy officer would be of any help to us?

Next, our illustrious President stated,

Fourth, we’re forming a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies.

To this I respond with yet another question, “Is this the same group of outside experts like Google, Microsoft, AOL, and the like who sold us up a river when the government came knocking in the first place?” Is that where we’re getting our expertise? From the same corporations that put profit over privacy day in and day out?

If so, then yes Mr. President, I feel really relieved at all your steps to transparency and building trust from the American people. Can’t wait to see how that works out for you.


Photo Source: White House*
*Photos of our President should not be subject to licensing restrictions.