Obama Preps Army of Straw Men, False Choices to Defend NSA Surveillance


President Barack Obama wants to you know that you can trust the government not to break the rules it has made for itself for surveillance, even though they had refused to tell you what those rules are, refused to say that the surveillance was even going on, and have been going hard against anybody leaking any information about the administration.

Here's what he said this morning in California, courtesy of the New York Times:

President Obama on Friday offered a robust defense of the government surveillance programs revealed this week, and sought to reassure the public that his administration has not become a Big Brother with eyes and ears throughout the world of online communications.

"Nobody is listening to your telephone calls," Mr. Obama said, delivering a 14-minute answer to two questions about the surveillance programs during a four-day trip to the West Coast at an event that was initially supposed to be devoted to the health care law. "That's not what this program is about."

Two immediate thoughts: Nobody said that the program was about listening to telephone calls, so good work setting that first straw man aflame. Second, why should anybody believe you? Bring on the next logical fallacy:

"You can't have 100 percent security and then also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience," Mr. Obama said, repeatedly stressing that the lawmakers from both parties and federal judges were aware of the efforts. "You know, we're going to have to make some choices as a society."

Who out there has asked for 100 percent security and 100 percent privacy? A false choice embedded inside another straw man.

One final quote from the president from the full transcript:

That's not to suggest that, you know, you just say, trust me, we're doing the right thing, we know who the bad guys are. And the reason that's not how it works is because we've got congressional oversight and judicial oversight. And if people can't trust not only the executive branch but also don't trust Congress and don't trust federal judges to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we're going to have some problems here.

Mr. President, I think it's safe to say: You have some problems here.

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