On the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, President Obama made a statement that cuts right to the chase on the whole NSA surveillance hype. I call it hype because almost every revelation that we’ve learned about recently has been blown out of proportion, exaggerated or inserted into an existing conspiracy theory. And damn near all of the revelations have been known for years, written in books and published in many outlets. President Obama from The Tonight Show.
“We don’t have a domestic spying program. What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat. And that information is useful. But what I’ve said before I want to make sure I repeat, and that is we should be skeptical about the potential encroachments on privacy. None of the revelations show that government has actually abused these powers, but they’re pretty significant powers.”
That paragraph pretty much sums up the reality of what is happening. Let’s break it down.
The President makes it very clear, “We don’t have a domestic spying program.” I know that makes heads explode, especially those deeply invested in conspiracy theories and mistrust of everything our federal government does. But it is true, and there is no indication that one exists…in any of the “new’ information that has come to light.
The President went on to spell out exactly what the feds do in their effort to protect us from 9/11 style terrorist attacks, “What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat.” Those mechanism are set in motion by warrants issued by judges. Sure, you can argue that the process is crazy and needs to be changed, but at the moment, it is legal.
I was very vocal in my opposition to the Patriot Act, I wrote my senators and congressperson when that piece of crap law was being rammed through the congress in the fog of a nations grief after 9/11. If we only had a functioning legislative branch today, we could maybe get rid of that law and replace it with something that doesn’t trample on our liberties as much.
And finally, the President points out what I think is the heart of the issue, “…we should be skeptical about the potential encroachments on privacy. None of the revelations show that government has actually abused these powers, but they’re pretty significant powers.” The issue of encroachments on privacy, especially as it relates to law enforcement and national security, isn’t new. It’s a balancing act that has been going on since our country was founded. And yes, there have been many, many abuses. Just ask any African American about that.
The reason I think that last statement is the heart of the issue is because it’s all about trust. For those who have a profound mistrust of all politicians or leaders, it’s not hard to convince them to be outraged. The awesome Bob Cesca coined the phrase “outrage sandwich”, which is best explained by him…
It gets sillier. The following Greenwald statement could be referred to as an outrage sandwich: two outrageous claims surrounding a throw-away mention of delicious, meaty truth that mitigates the outrageousness of the two claims.
“It’s done with no need to go to court, no need to get approval. There are legal constraints for spying on Americans, you can’t target them without going to the FISA court. But it allows them to listen to whatever e-mails they want, telephone calls, browsing history, Microsoft Word documents.”
Put another way: No need for court oversight! (But there’s court oversight and warrants.) They can listen to whatever they want! In the midst of inciting outrage, these mitigating news blips manage to pop up in nearly every article. But the blips are considerably out-gunned by all of the bloated hyperbole preceding and following each one.
And Glenn Greenwald has been getting away with “outrage sandwiches” for a long time. It’s the red meat he feeds his mushy brained followers.