Obama’s NSA speech: Reading between the lines

Obama’s NSA speech: Reading between the lines

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On Airforce One, President Obama laughs on yet another taxpayer funded jaunt - Whitehouse.gov Obama laughs on yet another taxpayer funded jaunt - Whitehouse.gov
On Airforce One, President Obama laughs on yet another taxpayer funded jaunt - Whitehouse.gov

By Conor Higgins

WASHINGTON January 20, 2014 —  Last week, President Obama addressed the nation concerning leaks by Edward Snowden alleging the National Security Administration (NSA) collects over 200 million texts per day. Public pressure is mounting, and many believe that the NSA has gone too far. People are pressing their representatives in Congress to take action to limit just how blatantly and flagrantly the government can violate our Fourth Amendment rights.

The speech was interesting and said much about how the president sees his role in the government, the role of the police and military, and the role of the NSA. He said things which he probably believed make NSA spying sound patriotic, but the tone was harsh and threatening when you read between the lines.

On NSA data collection and spying on the American people the president said this:

“At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of the ‘The Sons of Liberty’ was established in Boston. And the group’s members included Paul Revere. At night, they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early Patriots.”

“Throughout American history, intelligence has helped secure our country and our freedoms. In the Civil War, Union balloon reconnaissance tracked the size of Confederate armies by counting the number of campfires. In World War II, code-breakers gave us insights into Japanese war plans, and when Patton marched across Europe, intercepted communications helped save the lives of his troops. After the war, the rise of the Iron Curtain and nuclear weapons only increased the need for sustained intelligence gathering. And so, in the early days of the Cold War, President Truman created the National Security Agency, or NSA, to give us insights into the Soviet bloc, and provide our leaders with information they needed to confront aggression and avert catastrophe.”

The President of the United States just equated spying on the American people to fighting a war against the enemy; the People of the United States are the enemy of the government. The president could only make that more clear if he bought commercial time on the Super Bowl.

The president compared spying on the American people to the Sons of Liberty and its efforts to establish a resistance to British authority in the Colonies. He showed no comprehension of our own nation’s past. How do the actions of the Sons of Liberty imply a right of the government to spy on is own people for the sake of security? In the situation that the president described, the NSA is the Sons of Liberty, and we are the British army, the enemy.

Perhaps the British army represents al-Qaeda; the government needs to be on watch for when the dangerous terrorists arrive.

How does the president believe that he fits into the picture? The NSA is not a group of patriotic merchants who are living under British rule in occupied Boston. Nor did those early patriots seek to spy on everyday citizens who had nothing to do with their revolutionary efforts.

That was war, there was threat of invasion.

Are we under threat of invasion? If we are, perhaps the people of the United States should not have their rights to defend themselves infringed.

To suggest that the current President of the United States shares an ideological or political philosophy with the Founding Fathers is ludicrous. He uses the Founding Fathers as a means to defend his gross and unconstitutional abuse of power. Benjamin Franklin saw this coming when he said “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

The president addressed the American people citing the work of the Founding Fathers in his effort to justify his continued violation of our most basic civil liberties, and our right not to be treated as criminals.

The second paragraph of his speech cemented the sentiments drawn from the first. According to Obama, NSA domestic spying programs are justified based on the necessity of battlefield and wartime intelligence during American military operations in our past. He equates the NSA spying on American civilians to Union balloon artillery scouts who “tracked the size of Confederate armies” and the “World War II code breakers” who “gave us insights into Japanese war plans.”

Does that make the NSA the heroes and the American people the villains?

President Obama says that American intelligence and counterintelligence have been used over the course of our history to achieve military victory. How are our armed forces helped by the NSA collection of phone call data? Are they fighting us?

The President gave examples of American forces engaged in active and open warfare, seeking to incapacitate and destroy an enemy. It in no way compares to the covert, insurgent style warfare the United States wages against radical Islamists and other terrorists.

In essence he says, we need to spy on you so that we can prevent dangerous groups like al-Qaeda from getting the upper hand on us again.

Stop arming al-Qaeda in Syria and allowing them to take territory in Libya and Iraq.

If al-Qaeda is “decimated,” as Obama famously said, then who else is seeking to destroy the United States? We have enemies other than al-Qaeda, but who?

Advocates of the spying programs have said that numerous terrorist plots have been foiled because of them. So let’s have the NSA show some senators and congressmen the evidence. Let a neutral third party see exactly what the NSA has done.

According to his examples, the president sees the American people as the enemy. He sees us as a target which needs to be monitored and spied upon. He thinks that the Sons of Liberty were out in the streets of Boston spying on teenagers’ World of Warcraft accounts.

It is difficult to take this situation seriously, despite it being deadly serious. We have allowed the government to do too much, and now it is too late. As John Adams said, “Liberty once lost is lost forever.”

Now the People stand opposite the U.S. government. We are the enemy; we are the targets that the government has in mind when collect as much information on us as it can. We are the enemy they send “code breakers against,” we are the enemy they send up balloon scouts to spy on. We are the Redcoats whose return the government fears.

Well, at least we know where we stand.

“A good enemy is better than a bad friend,” says a Greek proverb. If the government wants to paint the people as its number one adversary, then maybe perhaps we are on our way to adhering to the principles of the Founding Fathers.

It was Thomas Jefferson who said, “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

Perhaps there is more to explore there as well.

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