Obama's Epic Fib About the NSA

Whether the president likes it or not, the debate is on.

It's not easy to pick the year's most transparent lie from the self-styled “most transparent administration in history.” There are so many to choose from—such a richness of embarrassment.

For its “Lie of the Year,” PolitiFact went with President Obama's “if you like your health plan, you can keep it”; the Washington Post Fact-Checker put the same statement at the top of its “biggest Pinocchios of 2013” list. It's a choice that has a lot to recommend it, but Obama's been singing that refrain since at least 2009.

For my money, the biggest presidential lie of the year came on June 7, the week after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed the agency's secret collection of call records data on millions of Americans. “I welcome this debate,” Obama proclaimed—even as his administration was hunting down the whistleblower who started it and preparing to hit him with 30 years of Espionage Act charges.

Of course, if the president actually wanted this debate, he didn't need to wait for an NSA contractor to risk his freedom by kicking it off. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., had been warning for years about a “Secret Patriot Act”; Obama could have ended the secrecy himself at any time by publicly revealing that it interprets section 215 of that act broadly enough to authorize bulk collection of all Americans' phone records (and likely much more).

Since June, just how little President Obama “welcomes” this debate has been evident in his petulant, defensive demeanor when questioned—and the actions his administration has taken to squelch it.

At his final take-your-medicine press conference of 2013 on Friday, the president grudgingly took several questions on NSA spying. His answers, and evasions, left a lot to be desired. Still, after six months, he's almost done welcoming the debate, and may be ready for it to start: “I'm going to make a pretty definitive statement about all of this in January.” Meanwhile, just after the press conference was over, Obama's Justice Department once again invoked the "state secrets" privilege to shield NSA surveillance programs.

A week ago Monday, in federal district court in Washington, Judge Richard J. Leon ruled that the metadata program was almost certainly unconstitutional. “Surely such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy' that the Founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment,” he wrote. The “author of our Constitution,” James Madison, “would be aghast.”

Judge Leon seemed rather aghast himself: his opinion features more exclamation marks than you typically see from a federal judge. On the government’s contradictory assertions that the program is “comprehensive” but plaintiffs can’t show their data was collected: “Candor of this type defies common sense and does not exactly inspire confidence!” On the “burdens” of removing plaintiffs’ information: “[T]he public has no interest in saving the government from the burdens of complying with the Constitution!”

Importantly, Judge Leon noted that there was “no indication” that metadata searches “were immediately useful or that they prevented an impending attack.” Though the administration claimed that the programs in question have prevented over 50 terrorist incidents, “no proof of that has been put before me” even though “the government could have requested permission to present additional, potentially classified evidence in camera.”

Two days after Judge Leon’s ruling, the president’s own Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies released its report, which was similarly skeptical about the security benefits of dragnet data collection: “Our review suggests that the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215 telephony meta-data was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional section 215 orders.”

Whether the president likes it or not, the debate is on.

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  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I hate that photo of O. It gives me an animal urge to smash his face. Like, pound his face into paste.

  • UnCivilServant||

    His face gives me that urge. That photo just reminds me that there's good reason for it.

  • Miley||

    my best friend's half-sister got paid $13253 a week ago. she is making money on the computer and moved in a $315200 house. All she did was get blessed and apply the information explained on this web page

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  • UnCivilServant||

    I am aghast that a federal judge would go over his quota of punctuation marks. Exclaimations cost more than full stops, good sir.

  • Doctor Whom||

    Exclamations in the defense of liberty are no vice.

    (dodges beer bottles)

    Thank you. I'll be here all week. Be sure to try the spicy wings.

  • Sevo||

    "I'll be here all week."

    Put it ON! Put it ON!

  • ||

    Obama "welcomes" a debate on this issue. Also, people who want to ban all private ownership of firearms just want to have a "conversation" about guns.

  • SusanM||

    That's his most disgusting feature. Any disagreement is called a "discussion" - one he's not going to listen to but graciously grants hoi polloi (ha!) to pretend he's not gonna do what he wants anyway.

  • Free Society||

    You're characterizing the left as if every idea that comes from that side of the 'political spectrum' is full of logical contradictions and fallacies.

    When in reality all the left really wants is for the government to stay out of vaginas while paying the costs of things that go into vaginas. Fact.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    ...while paying the costs of things that go into vaginas.

    And butts.

  • VicRattlehead||

    Are you a troll? or do you really believe the statists are interested in anything more than the total and absolute dominance of all areas of life.
    you seem to be under the impression Reason is on the "political right" just for clarity this is a statist (D and R) vs libertarian debate. but as an anything with a (D) next to the name supporter its not likely you understand anything further than the MSM has instructed you to understand but in Amerikistan that should serve you double plus good comrade

  • DJK||

    My experience with FS suggests that (s)he seems to have pretty libertarian , anti-statist tendencies. This was revealed heavily during the immunization debate. I disagree with some of FS's positions, but there's no denying that they're very defensible from the standpoint of the NAP.

  • ||

    "I welcome you to the back of the shed so we can have a conversation."

    -Obama

  • RickCaird||

    Obama "welcomes" a lot of debates that he actually will not have. Obama seems to think that as soon as he claims he "welcomes the debate", the debate is over, never to be mentioned again.

  • ||

    The most transparently dishonest and incompetent administration in history.

    They're even incompetent at lying.

  • wareagle||

    you are only concerned about lying well if you believe someone will call bullsht. Who's doing that with Obama outside of a few media outposts?

    The sad reality is that this administration is floundering, Obama is being held accountable for the first time in his life, and he has no clue what to do beyond uttering more words.

  • Sevo||

    ..."such a richness of embarrassment."...

    A telling phrase, right there.

  • ACarmack||

    The NSA is out of control. Here is a list of leaders and even charities that they have spied on
    http://dhnnews.com/a-list-of-t.....spying-on/

  • Don'tTreadOnMe||

    "Though the administration claimed that the programs in question have prevented over 50 terrorist incidents, “no proof of that has been put before me” ... "

    Your Honor, to me it doesn't matter if NSA spying on US citizens stops ONE terrorist attack. It still isn't okay to violate the constitution. We who choose (want) to live in a free society as envisioned and fought for by our forbears are willing to accept the risks that go along with that freedom. The NSA or whomever else may spy on other countries and their citizens who wish us ill all they (we) want, but don't you dare spy on us!

  • Sevo||

    "Your Honor, to me it doesn't matter if NSA spying on US citizens stops ONE terrorist attack. It still isn't okay to violate the constitution."

    Yep.
    You can prevent burglaries by locking everyone up, but...

  • DJK||

    I've said it many times and I'll say it again. Fuck the Constitution. It was a document written to solidify a central state and secure the privileges of old white men. I can't think of anything more anti-libertarian than the system of slavery that it enshrined for more than 75 years. Are you really surprised to find that a document which was written with these principles in mind is being used to advance anti-libertarian principles? I'm not.

    I will grant that the Constitution has some good features and some great rhetorical value. But it's an extremely flawed document. Why do we revere it so much?

  • Sevo||

    "But it's an extremely flawed document. Why do we revere it so much?"

    Because it's the best we've got?

  • Goonions||

    So, you don't like the constitution? You need to get outside of your little world of freedoms and go see what it is like to live in places where there is so little. I have been to these places and seen it. You better thank God(that you probably don't believe in) that you can sit on your computer and type the dribble you just spewed out without a knock on the door from some guys that want to beat the crap out of you.

  • MaggieMansfielddva||

    uptil I saw the draft for $8854, I accept ...that...my brother was like realie earning money in their spare time online.. there brothers friend haz done this 4 only about seven months and recently paid for the depts on there home and bought a gorgeous volvo. see page
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  • SuperOBD SKP-100||

    Good post.

  • Web Design Minneapolis||

    Whether the president likes it or not? I believe that Obama like it!

  • Goonions||

    So, you don't like the constitution? You need to get outside of your little world of freedoms and go see what it is like to live in places where there is so little. I have been to these places and seen it. You better thank God(that you probably don't believe in) that you can sit on your computer and type the dribble you just spewed out without a knock on the door from some guys that want to beat the crap out of you.

  • Goonions||

    Meant for this to go above in reply to DJK. Wound up down here

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