No-Show Intelligence

January 23, 2014

pt_948_11108_oClear and chilly this way-too-early Thursday here on California’s north coast — and apparently earthquake weather, too.
We had a 4.7 last night, but I didn’t feel a thing — it was located more than 70 miles southwest of where I’m at, but not many locals felt it, just a “short, fast jolt” if anything.

And speaking of earthquakes — President Obama probably felt an intelligence shudder this morning as an independent government watchdog-group reported the NSA thingy is not worth a shit and should be shut down.

(Illustration found here).

So Obama’s soft-on-snooping speech last Friday can be canned, and the report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will no doubt rekindle debate about the horrific outreach programs the NSA has been operating since time immemorial.
Via the New York Times:

The Obama administration has portrayed the bulk collection program as useful and lawful while at the same time acknowledging concerns about privacy and potential abuse.
But in its report, the board lays out what may be the most detailed critique of the government’s once-secret legal theory behind the program: that a law known as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the F.B.I. to obtain business records deemed “relevant” to an investigation, can be legitimately interpreted as authorizing the N.S.A. to collect all calling records in the country.
The program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” the report said.
“As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.”

The report also sheds light on the history of the once-secret bulk collection program.
It contains the first official acknowledgment that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court produced no judicial opinion detailing its legal rationale for the program until last August, even though it had been issuing orders to phone companies for the records and to the N.S.A. for how it could handle them since May 2006.

The program began in late 2001 based on wartime authority claimed by President Bush.
In 2006, the Bush administration persuaded the surveillance court to begin authorizing the program based on the Patriot Act under a theory the Obama administration would later embrace.
But the privacy board’s report criticized that, saying that the legal theory was a “subversion” of the law’s intent, and that the program also violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
“It may have been a laudable goal for the executive branch to bring this program under the supervision” of the court, the report says.
“Ultimately, however, that effort represents an unsustainable attempt to shoehorn a pre-existing surveillance program into the text of a statute with which it is not compatible.”

The report also scrutinizes in detail a handful of investigations in which the program was used, finding “no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

That last point already made last month, when one member of the White House review panel on NSA surveillance claimed all the humph was actually just shit:

“It was, ‘Huh, hello? What are we doing here?’” said Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor, in an interview with NBC News.
“The results were very thin.”
While Stone said the mass collection of telephone call records was a “logical program” from the NSA’s perspective, one question the White House panel was seeking to answer was whether it had actually stopped “any [terror attacks] that might have been really big.”
“We found none,” said Stone.

Then what good is the NSA?
Americans seem to be catching on to what’s good/bad about the NSA, and Obama — the longer this goes on, the worse it most-likely will be. We’re turning against Big Bro:

In a poll of 1,504 adults, 53 percent said they opposed the government’s collection of phone and Internet data as a part of a anti-terrorism efforts.
Just 40 percent said they supported such actions.
The numbers are a drop from last July, when 50 percent supported such efforts and 44 percent were opposed.
Obama’s speech on Friday announcing a rollback of the NSA’s data-collection occurred right in the middle of the poll’s data-collection period of Jan.15-19.
However, the speech appeared to have no measurable effect on public opinion of the NSA.
Only 8 percent of respondents said they had “heard a lot” about Obama’s planned changes, and 50 percent had heard nothing at all.
Even among those who had heard something about the changes, 73 percent believed they would not make a difference in terms of protecting privacy.
While a solid majority opposed the NSA’s data collection, respondents were evenly split in their attitude toward former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who first brought the programs to light after fleeing overseas to eventual asylum in Russia.
Forty-five percent said Snowden’s leaks had helped the public interest while 43 percent said he had hurt the public interest.
Despite a plurality saying Snowden had helped the public, a 56-percent majority still believed the government should prosecute Snowden for his actions, and just 32 percent opposed prosecution.

Crazy, huh?
And in the Obama/Snowden stack up, the president seems lacking — nice guy, shitty president:

A new Associated Press-GfK Poll finds the president’s personal image to be on the rebound after taking a hit during the government shutdown late last year, with 58 percent now sizing him up as very or somewhat likable.
That’s up 9 percentage points from October, just after the shutdown.
Yet as Obama prepares to stand before Americans for his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, people are largely pessimistic about the country’s direction, down on the condition of the economy and doubtful it will bounce back anytime soon.
Seventy percent think it will go higher or stay the same.
Obama “wasn’t a total disappointment,” allows Joshua Parker, a 37-year-old small businessman in Smyrna, Tenn.
“He didn’t put us into a Great Depression.”
But Parker, a self-described political independent and conservative, suspects that someone who understood the economy better could have done more.
“He would probably be a guy I would like to hang out with if he wasn’t president,” says Parker.
“But I like a lot of people who are not qualified to be president.”

From Huntsville, Texas, 51-year-old Wes Brummett thinks the economy will improve eventually—but it may be up to his grandchildren to do it.
Obama, this Democrat says, seems like an all-right guy and a good dad, but “he needs to show more leadership.”
“People are getting disheartened,” says Brummett, a self-employed computer systems administrator.
On the cusp of his sixth year in office, Obama is far removed from those heady days before his first inauguration, when two-thirds of Americans predicted he’d be an outstanding or above-average president.
Now, 31 percent think he’s been outstanding or above average, a quarter size him up as average, and 42 percent describe his presidency as below average or poor.

No, Obama’s not a “total disappointment,” but seemingly getting closer all the time.
Barack, however, with all the other shit going down, just didn’t need no Eddie right now.

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