NSA

Obama's Privacy Conversion

The surveillance debate that supposedly preoccupies the president is one he never wanted to have.

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White House

As Ron Bailey noted last night, President Obama professed concern in his State of the Union address about the threat that "surveillance programs" pose to privacy. "While some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I have not," Obama said. "As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we'll issue a report on how we're keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy."

In assessing the president's sincerity on this issue, it is worth recalling that the debate he claims to consider important—the debate triggered by Edward Snowden's revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs—is a debate he never wanted to have. Obama did everything in his power to prevent that debate from occurring by keeping those programs secret. And far from thanking Snowden for provoking this debate, Obama wants to put him in prison.

Even after Americans began to learn about the surveillance programs that Obama tried to conceal from them, he insisted there was no cause for alarm. In June 2013, after news reports based on Snowden's leaks revealed that the NSA was surreptitiously collecting everyone's telephone records, President Obama called this massive dragnet a "modest encroachment" that "the American people should feel comfortable about." Half a year later, after polls showed that the public had turned against the NSA database, Obama changed his mind, portraying the NSA's metadata collection as a significant threat to privacy.

Obama worried that the database "has never been subject to vigorous public debate" and that "without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs." He even insisted that "I maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became president." But somehow that skepticism did not manifest itself until the programs were revealed by leaks that Obama condemns.

NEXT: Obama's State of the Union Address Was a Bid to Influence the Next Democratic Campaign

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  1. And far from thanking Snowden for provoking this debate, Obama wants to put him in prison.

    He welcomes the debate Snowden will have with his cell wall.

  2. Most transparent administration in history, indeed.

  3. Pshhhh.

    There are way more important things to talk about.

    Like under inflated footballs.

    1. What’s there to talk about? The spying is something that happened (past tense) under Bush. I know this because one of my Obot Facebook friends said so on the one occasion on which any of them acknowledged it at all.

      1. The spying is something that happened (past tense) under Bush. I know this because one of my Obot Facebook friends said so…

        If you were already punching this person in the past, then it’s ok to keep punching them in the present and future.

  4. I guess it is inevitable that every single editor and contributor plus the cleaning lady is going to publish an opinion piece about last night’s presidential state of the union speech.

    In a valiant effort to better manage my very limited time, I’ve decided to place the names all Reason contributors in a sheet of paper and decide which opinion piece to read in full by throwing darts to it.

  5. Obama cares about privacy all right. He cares about the privacy of government agents as they flagrantly ignore the law and the constitution.

    1. If you’d just let him manage your privacy for you, you wouldn’t have to worry about it!

      What could possibly go wrong?

  6. “Even after Americans began to learn about the surveillance programs that Obama tried to conceal from them, he insisted there was no cause for alarm. In June 2013, after news reports based on Snowden’s leaks revealed that the NSA was surreptitiously collecting everyone’s telephone records, President Obama called this massive dragnet a “modest encroachment” that “the American people should feel comfortable about.””

    And NOW he’s going to give us a *report* Jacob. A *report*. Did you miss that?

    which makes everything ALL BETTER! So quit your sour grapes over ‘who said what when or who was maybe spying on everyone.’ Also, if you actually Did Your Research, you would be able to tell from the pictures there that the NSA scandal was a *Bush* thing, so asking Obama to clean up more Bush mess is just trying to pass the buck, duh.

    1. I’ll read a quote from the report for you, just so you get a taste of how amazing chocolate jesus truly is. Ok, ready? here goes:

      AHAHAHAHA SUCKER I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU FELL FOR THIS SHIT

  7. Jacob, please, he didn’t “change his mind.” In the parlance of every true Obama sycophant, “he evolved in his position.”

  8. Obama lies without regret, without compunction and extraordinarily readily. Thus, his statements — any statements — deserve about as much respect and consideration as you’d give any compulsively lying con man. Our allies figured this out very quickly.

  9. But somehow that skepticism did not manifest itself until the programs were revealed by leaks that Obama condemns.

    Weird. It’s almost like his words and actions are consistently opposite of each other.

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