Barack Obama sought to once again use Dick Cheney as a whipping boy to create a distinction between his and the previous administration.
President Barack Obama used a television interview set to air Monday night to defend his administration’s use of far-reaching surveillance programs as carefully supervised and controlled.
Obama also appeared to reject comparisons between himself and Vice President Dick Cheney, who strongly backed similar surveillance efforts in the George W. Bush administration and has defended Obama’s continuation of national security-related programs similar in many respects to those pursued by the previous administration.
“Some people say, ‘Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.’ Dick Cheney sometimes says, ‘Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel,’” the president told interviewer Charlie Rose in the exchange recorded Sunday, according to excerpts of the transcript published by BuzzFeed. “My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances?”
Hang on. We’re doing all this to set up a system of checks and balances instead of preventing terrorism?
In an interview that’s been heavily promoted by the White House and Obama aides, the president acknowledged that a program which collects massive amounts of data on telephone calls made in or through the U.S. could theoretically be used to invade individuals’ privacy, even potentially yielding conclusions about callers’ health conditions.
Dick Cheney didn’t do that.
Then Obama goes off the rails
“All of that is true. Except for the fact that for the government, under the program right now, to do that, it would be illegal. We would not be allowed to do that,” the president said, according to a transcript. “The number of requests are surprisingly small. ….Folks don’t go with a query unless they’ve got a pretty good suspicion.”
But, but, but, Barack, you said
“No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime.”
And yet you are collecting everyone’s emails and phone calls.
Then Obama goes Orwellian with “Newspeak”
Newspeak is the fictional language in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, written by George Orwell. It is a reduced language created by the totalitarian state as a tool to limit free thought, and concepts that pose a threat to the regime such as freedom, self-expression, individuality, peace, etc. Any form of thought alternative to the party’s construct is classified as “thoughtcrime.”
when he says “transparent” and “secret” are the same thing.
In the interview, Obama appears at one point to equate transparency of the surveillance programs with their oversight by the courts and Congress — even though the public was kept in the dark about the nature of the snooping until the leak of highly-classified documents by an National Security Agency contractor via Britain’s Guardian newspaper earlier this month.
“Should this be transparent in some way?” Rose asked.
“It is transparent,” Obama insisted. “That’s why we set up the FISA Court,” the president said, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — which carries out its work almost entirely in secret.
And what’s this “We” thing?
WE set up the FISA court?
The FISA court was set up in 1978, somehow done without one Barack Obama. In 1978 Obama was a member of the choom gang, doing weed and later on, coke. Employing the royal “we” for the creation of the FISA Court is waterboarding the truth.
So let’s see how different Obama is from Cheney.
Spying on everyone?
The NSA’s domestic program, as described by sources, is far more expansive than what the White House has acknowledged. Last year, Bush said he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop — without warrants — on international calls and international e-mails of people suspected of having links to terrorists when one party to the communication is in the USA. Warrants have also not been used in the NSA’s efforts to create a national call database.
In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. “In other words,” Bush explained, “one end of the communication must be outside the United States.”
After the special program started, Congressional leaders from both political parties were brought to Vice President Dick Cheney’s office in the White House. The leaders, who included the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House intelligence committees, learned of the N.S.A. operation from Mr. Cheney, Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden of the Air Force, who was then the agency’s director and is now a full general and the principal deputy director of national intelligence, and George J. Tenet, then the director of the C.I.A., officials said.
And here’s how you know they were told everything:
It is not clear how much the members of Congress were told about the presidential order and the eavesdropping program. Some of them declined to comment about the matter, while others did not return phone calls.
A senior government official recalled that he was taken aback when he first learned of the operation. “My first reaction was, ‘We’re doing what?’ ” he said. While he said he eventually felt that adequate safeguards were put in place, he added that questions about the program’s legitimacy were understandable.
And why did Bush and Cheney do what they did? We were at war.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Cheney said, “We made the decision based on 9/11 that we no longer had a law enforcement problem, we are at war. And Congress, in fact, authorizes the president to use military force to deal with the crisis.”
As I have written repeatedly, our liberals friends have zero long term memory. They have what Bernie Keirik calls a “9/12 mentality.” They forget what it was in the aftermath of 9/11. They forget the insecurity, the fear.
Obama has declared the war on terror over. If it is over, why do we even need these programs?
Nina Totenberg suggests that the FISA Court has been largely neutered since 2008:
As a result, the FISA court became “less a court than an administrative entity or ministerial clerk,” says William Banks, director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University. “They weren’t reviewing law anymore; they were simply sort of stamping papers as approved or filed.”
After 2008, Banks adds, the FISA court didn’t “have a substantive review of these directives that come down the pike.”
Obama is doing pretty much exactly the same thing as Cheney and Bush. He really is Dick Cheney, like it or not. He can claim FISA Court this or FISA Court that, but he has diminished the power of the FISA Court. Additionally, the FISA Court seems appears to be rubber-stamping Obama demands:
But how “strict” is that oversight?
The court rarely, if ever, denies the government’s requests, according to annual reports issued to senior members of Congress by the Department of Justice and collected by the Federation of American Scientists.
In 2012, the government made 1,789 applications to the court — one was withdrawn by the government and 40 were modified by the court, but “the FISC did not deny any applications in whole or in part,” the report states. In 2011, there were 1,676 applications, of which two were withdrawn and 30 modified, but once again, “The FISC did not deny any applications in whole, or in part.” In 2010, there were 1,511 applications, of which five were withdrawn and 14 modified, but “The FISC did not deny any applications in whole, or in part.”
Wait- didn’t Obama say the number of requests were “surprising small”?
Congress is briefed but stymied from real oversight:
Meanwhile, the other body meant to provide oversight — Congress — is often briefed in meetings where “aides were barred and note-taking was prohibited.” This maks it almost impossible for lawmakers, who may not be experts on the topics, to provide proper oversight.
Still, the real issue is Obama and what a lousy hypocrite he is.
But the fact that these operations are operating under the rule of law is not the end of the story. For if we are not approaching the totalitarian nightmare of a novel like “1984,” the revelations provide a stunning example of how President Obama has come to resemble a character in Orwell’s other dystopian parable, “Animal Farm.”
That 1945 novella tells of a farm revolution led by pigs, who drive out their oppressive human master, only to move into his house, don his clothes, and wield his brutal whip to subjugate the other animals. At the story’s conclusion, the pigs’ victims gaze in on their new masters drinking and playing cards with half a dozen farmers. “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
To anyone comparing the conduct of Barack Obama with that of George W. Bush, the sense of confusion should feel familiar. America’s 44th president ran against almost all of Bush’s national security policies. But once power was in his hands, he began to embrace them as avidly as the pigs wielded their whips.
Senator Obama had voted against renewal of the Patriot Act in 2005 because he said it allowed the government “to go on a fishing expedition through every personal record or private document — through library books they’ve read and phone calls they’ve made.” But in 2011, President Obama signed the renewal of the same law and defended its roving wiretaps and searches of business records as vital to America’s counterterrorism efforts.
Presidential candidate Obama ran against the very ethos of Bush’s national security program, saying it put forward “a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide.” But just last week in California, President Obama told Americans they “have to make some choices as a society” because “you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience.”
The real effect of the NSA stories is to cement a narrative about Obama that will likely become part of his legacy: the liberal senator and constitutional law professor who, like the pigs in “Animal Farm,” metamorphosed into what he had so notoriously opposed. Guantanamo remains open. Drones still rain down on Pakistan, Yemen, and anywhere else the president sees fit. Leaks are prosecuted vigorously and reporters are investigated to uncover their sources. And now, the president is affirming the surveillance practices he once mused could be unconstitutional. In light of these actions alone, it seems that Barack Obama has learned that George W. Bush got a lot of things right.
The point of noting the president’s porcine transformation is not to criticize his current policies, but rather to serve as an instructive example for future White House aspirants: The responsibilities of power are difficult to reconcile with lazy criticism that is so easy to dispense from the sidelines. As long as he fails to recognize the debt that he, and the nation, owe to his predecessor, he will be practicing a vice that Orwell was a master of depicting: hypocrisy.
And then there’s the issue of charity:
According to their tax returns [notes Coulter], in 2006 and 2007, the Obamas gave 5.8 percent and 6.1 percent of their income to charity. I guess Michelle Obama has to draw the line someplace with all this ‘giving back’ stuff. The Bidens gave 0.15 percent and 0.31 percent of the income to charity.
Meanwhile, in 1991, 1992 and 1993, George W. Bush had incomes of $179,591, $212,313 and $610,772. His charitable contributions those years were $28,236, $31,914 and $31,292. During his presidency, Bush gave away more than 10 percent of his income each year.
For purposes of comparison, in 2005, Barack Obama made $1.7 million — more than twice President Bush’s 2005 income of $735,180 — but they both gave about the same amount to charity.
That same year, the heartless Halliburton employee Vice President Dick Cheney gave 77 percent of his income to charity. The following year, in 2006, Bush gave more to charity than Obama on an income one-third smaller than Obama’s.
Cheney was honest, generous and not a lousy hypocrite. So despite Barack Obama doing exactly as Bush and Cheney did on a national security basis, in the end we come to the conclusion that Barack Obama is correct- he is no Dick Cheney.