Obama denied that the move for reform was motivated by recent leaks to the press from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and said that the review and changes were in place before the leaks occurred and would have happened anyway.
“There’s no doubt that Mr. Snowden’s leaks triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board to go through and I had sat down with Congress,” he said. “It would have been less exciting, it would not have generated this much press. [But] I actually think it would have got to the same place and we would have done so without putting at risk our national security.”
Obama had called for a review of the programs in April, before the Guardian newspaper began publishing the first leaks from Snowden. But the review was a secretive closed-door process. Snowden’s leaks have forced the issues into the spotlight and ensured that the public has been able to voice its concerns and anger over the programs and pressure Congress to fully engage in ways they have failed to do until now.
In a bit of hollow “nuh-uh” one-upsmanship that would probably make an 11-year-old blush, the President claims we, like, totes would be having the same debate about surveillance we are now if he’d just been allowed to do things his way and there had been no leaks from Edward Snowden. Even though “his way” happens behind closed doors. Cool story, POTUS.
If you’re still unconvinced, just take a look at what “his way” looks like when it comes to oversight of the program:
Obama made promises that he would “work with Congress” to produce better oversight, but he treated the recent leaks about NSA spying as more of a PR problem than anything else. The leaks had been revealed “in the most sensationalized manner,” he stressed. But Obama maintained that the programs were not being abused. Notably, the president didn’t suggest he would reduce the amount of surveillance taking place in any way.
But the “high level group of outside experts” that Obama promised to convene is unlikely to change any hearts and minds, unless its composition changes. Today it was announced the “outside” committee would report to James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence—one of the officials most scorned by reformers.
Amazing. You got that? The guy who went before Congress and said “No” when Sen. Ron Wyden asked if “any kind of data at all” was being collected on millions of Americans (for those scoring at home, that’s a felony!)…that’s the guy who will make sure everything’s on the up-and-up.