Archive for January 18th, 2014

An emptier than usual speech from Obama

I really can’t figure out why Obama made a speech about the NSA today. Usually when he makes a speech it is either him talking about how wonderful one of his ideas is (which is usually false) or is a long-winded speech without any real substance, designed to distract from whichever fiasco of his happens to be in the news at the time. Today’s speech was long-winded at a mind-numbing 45 minutes, and contained almost no substance, but there hasn’t been a predominant fiasco in the news in the last couple days so unless he was worried that the media might be bored enough this weekend to take a proper look at the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report which was highly critical of the way he and his executive team handled Benghazi, he may have just made the speech so that people would pay attention to him. Either that, or something else is happening which needs to be hidden behind the limelight of a high-profile Obama speech.

Obama’s speech today was supposedly an announcement of an overhaul of the way the NSA’s phone-and-email-and-more tapping program works. It turned out to be nothing of the sort.

President Obama announced Friday he would end the National Security Agency’s ability to store phone data collected from millions of Americans.

While the president did not say the program would end, he did say the information collected would no longer be held by the NSA. He did not offer his own plan for where the phone records should be moved and will instead call on the attorney general and members of the intelligence community to recommend a transfer point

So the NSA can collect data but can’t store it…but it doesn’t make sense for anybody else to store it so the NSA will just keep storing it.

The president’s directive, delivered at the Justice Department, also requires intelligence agencies to obtain approval from a FISA court – a secret U.S. court that governs surveillance of terrorist and foreign espionage targets – before accessing the records.

They already require this. They already ignore this. Nothing is changing.

More importantly, the accessing of the records isn’t the main concern. The main concern is that the mass and indiscriminate collection of the data is a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure unless a court provides a specific warrant for a specific individual. If the collection was being done in a manner which was consistent with the Constitution, then accessing the records would not be a problem as the data would have been collected for the same reasons for which it would then be accessed.

FISA courts are an interesting beast as well as there is no good reason why a normal court couldn’t perform the same functions in a closed session. The records would be sealed and everything would be a secret for a period of time as determined by the court in consultation with the necessary parties. Eventually some or all details would become public, but that’s how the courts are supposed to work, even with closed sessions.

He also said that ‘dozens’ of foreign leaders would be safe from NSA surveillance techniques but did not offer that protection to their advisors.

Effectively that is saying “we will continue to spy on you, but we will do it via the people closest to you”. Another statement which changes absolutely nothing of substance.

Obama also said the government could no longer request data beyond two people from the terrorist target.

But they’re still collecting the data, and…

Obama also said the U.S. doesn’t indiscriminately snoop on people who pose no threat

As the NSA indiscriminately snoops on almost every communication which goes via an American network, and a heap of international networks as well, he has just declared that the US government sees everyone as a threat and a potential terrorist, and will continue to indiscriminately snoop on them.

Obama’s 45 minutes of droning on and on and on boiled down to a simple statement of “we will continue to spy on everyone and nothing will change that…I will, however, stand here and make noises which might make some of you think something is changing”.

While Obama tried to make it sound like something is changing, the speech is so much more transparent and easily seen through than usual that it really does make me wonder what he is trying to distract people from…because there is no other good reason for him to make such an utterly pointless speech.

Samuel

January 18th, 2014 at 05:54am

The apology for entering Indonesian territory is nice, but Rudd, Gillard, The Greens and Indonesia should apologise first

I was more than a little befuddled when I heard that the Australian Government has apologised to Indonesia after the Australian Navy accidentally sailed in to Indonesian waters during an operation to turn around an illegal boat which was heading for Australia before it could reach Australia.

This is a bizarre apology in a way as, while it is nice to see the apology, the Australian Navy has entered Indonesian waters on many occasions to deal with boats which were illegally headed for Australia, and the Australian government has never had to apologise for it before now.

The only difference I can see between those previous occasions and this recent occasion is that previously, under the Rudd and Gillard governments, the Australian Navy was rescuing sinking boats and bringing the people from those boats to Australian territory (which saved Indonesia the hassle of dealing with people who, by rights, could and should have been returned to Indonesia which was the nearest port of call, and should have been rescued by Indonesian vessels anyway), whereas in this instance there is no indication that the boat the Australians intercepted was sinking and it was turned around and sent back to Indonesia rather than escorted to Australia.

It seems that the Australian government is being made to apologise for being civilised and protecting lives by sending the boat back to the nearest location, and for deterring future dangerous boat trips in the process.

In my view the Abbott government should not be apologising. The precedent for Australian involvement in Indonesian waters was set years ago and it is hypocritical of the Indonesians to request an apology now just because Australia is turning boats around instead of escorting them to Australia. The people who should be apologising are Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Bob Brown, Christine Milne, Sarah Hanson-Young, and everyone else involved in the Labor/Green dismantling of John Howard’s successful border protection policies…these people lured people to their deaths by incentivising dangerous boat trips organised by people smugglers. Indonesia should also apologise for turning a blind eye to the people smugglers and avoiding their responsibility to monitor their own waters and help the many people who were in distress in those waters and were rescued by Australians in the absence of Indonesian rescuers.

The Abbott government is being nice and trying to lead a civil discourse by apologising, but until Indonesia apologise for their part in the problem and commit to properly monitoring and securing their own territorial waters, the Abbott government should not be apologising for doing the humane thing in picking up the slack and trying to save lives by destroying the business model of the people smugglers.

It’s sad but true that there is such a thing as being too nice, and when it comes to dealing with the stubborn and irresponsible Indonesian government, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison are being too nice.

Samuel

2 comments January 18th, 2014 at 02:36am


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