Obama's NSA Speech: Nothing Will Change
This past week, the Federal government threw a one-two punch that will effectively destroy the Internet as we know it. Demonstrating, once again, his talent for obfuscation and misdirection, President Obama made a speech about reforming the NSA and controlling surveillance that actually officially recognized, sanctioned and even expanded the NSA's domestic spying and cyber-warfare.
While pundits and activists quickly pointed to the President's "weakness" in not implementing real changes in the spying policies, there was nothing weak about Barack Obama's speech. True enough, this wasn't the conciliatory speech some people wanted or even expected; he didn't apologize for the atrocious mangling of our civil rights he's overseen. But he wasn't hiding from the outrage. Rather, he told us in no uncertain terms that he sees a need to spy on us, has what he claims are the laws in place to let him do it and has the will to continue and expand upon it. It was a chilling moment: a bully telling us "how it's gonna be".
At the same time, the federal courts last handed down a decision which also, if upheld on appeal, obliterates the Internet as we know it: throwing out net neutrality rules and actually declaring the Federal Communications Commission legally incapable of regulating the Internet's vitally important high speed broadband service.
The President's speech is the more infuriating, the court decision the more dangerous but, taken together, they present a horrifying vision of a government whose homicidal activities are accompanied by its destruction of democratic protection. The same government that is fighting some kind of war in every part of the world is fighting an unrestrained war on our freedom and liberty here at home. I'll have something to say about net neutrality later this week but first...our President and his war on our rights.
Barack Obama has a communications style that is, by now, well-known: he hypes a speech as a "major address", speaks for 45 minutes or so and contextualizes everything historically (frequently alluding to major events in U.S. history as influencing his decisions). In this speech, he started with: "At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of the 'The Sons of Liberty' was established in Boston. The group's members included Paul Revere, and at night they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America's early Patriots." That first sentence should tip us off to what's coming: this man can connect the NSA's attacks on our freedom with Paul Revere's ride.
He then shifts, in virtually every speech, into his main argument, which is to re-position an ongoing debate. Here we are in the middle of the speech: "...just as ardent civil libertarians recognize the need for robust intelligence capabilities, those with responsibilities for our national security readily acknowledge the potential for abuse as intelligence capabilities advance, and more and more private information is digitized."