Obama Speech On NSA Spying: “A Nothing Burger Served Hot And With A Sympathetic Smile”

George Washington's picture

NSA REFORMArtwork by William Banazi

Artwork by Anthony Freda

President Obama did exactly what the American people predicted: made a pretty speech, but failed to rein in NSA spying.

CNN correctly notes:

Critics of U.S. intelligence practices barely waited for the speech to end before pouncing.

Representative Rush Holt says:

The President’s speech offered far less than meets the eye.


“His proposals continue to allow surveillance of Americans without requiring a Fourth Amendment determination of probable cause.  They continue to regard Americans as suspects first and citizens second.  They continue to allow the government to build backdoors into computer software and hardware.  They fail to strengthen protections for whistleblowers who uncover abusive spying.


“The President spoke about navigating ‘the balance between security and liberty.’  But this is a faulty and false choice.  As Barack Obama himself urged in his first inaugural address, we must ‘reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.’


“The Fourth Amendment and other civil liberty protections do not exist to impede police or intelligence agencies.  To the contrary, they exist to hold to hold government agents to a high standard – to ensure that they act on the basis of evidence, rather than wasting time and resources on wild goose chases.


“Even the modest improvements announced today are subject to reversal at a stroke of the President’s pen.  A standard of ‘trust my good intentions’ isn’t good enough.  Congress should reject these practices and repeal the laws that made the NSA’s abuses possible.”

Senator Rand Paul says:

President Obama’s announced solution to the NSA spying controversy is the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration ….


“The American people should not expect the fox to guard the hen house,” Paul said about Obama’s promise to appoint a special White House oversight director to keep a watchful eye over the security programs.

Leading constitutional and military law expert Jonathan Turley writes:

I just listened to the NSA speech by President Obama and as expected there is precious little in terms of real change. For civil libertarians, it is a nothing burger served hot and with a sympathetic smile. It is much of the same.




The programs will continue and the intelligence community will retain its authority with little outside independent limits. The speech had the feel of a car salesman coming back from “speaking with the manager” and saying that he is able to offer a deal that no one likes but he wants to offer because he likes the customer. Of course, this “deal” does not require our consent.


In the end, the changes are either undefined (like the privacy advocates) or basically “trust us were your government” (including a reminder that NSA people are your neighbors).


The Paul Revere reference at the beginning seemed to set the less than honest approach of the speech. Revere and the Sons of Liberty were watching public movement of an enemy at war. Likewise, Obama again references “court” review of the metadata as if it were a true court applying real probable cause. FISC has been widely ridiculed as a rubber-stamp for the government. The Court is given a standard that is hard for the government not to satisfy with even the most casual filings.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund notes:

Rather than dismantling the NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance programs, or even substantially restraining them, President Obama today has issued his endorsement of them. What are billed as ‘reforms’ are mere window dressing, cosmetic changes that leave this unconstitutional system intact and, in fact, provide presidential ratification.


Today’s speech full of minimization and outright denial regarding the now-documented massive scope of NSA spying on the population served as the presidential announcement of an intention to permanently implement a national surveillance grid and indiscriminate mass data collection. Every keystroke will still be captured, every phone call will still be logged.




Using tactics of misdirection, the president has tried to reframe the issue as who should house the massive collection of data on law-abiding people, rather than the real issue, which is that this massive indiscriminate collection and warehousing of data must stop. This speech will fail to stop the tide of opposition of people in the United States and around the world who reject living under a Surveillance State.

The Guardian reports:

Obama’s NSA speech: an affirmation that mass surveillance has a future




The Mozilla Foundation – the internet non-profit that makes, among other things, the Firefox browser – reacted to Obama’s speech in a way that pointed to the path not taken. “Overall, the strategy seems to be to leave current intelligence processes largely intact and improve oversight to a degree,” it said in a statement.


“We’d hoped for, and the internet deserves, more. Without a meaningful change of course, the internet will continue on its path toward a world of balkanization and distrust, a grave departure from its origins of openness and opportunity.”

Spencer Ackerman tweets:

The more you parse the details of what Obama's announced & what he's punted on, the better it looks for NSA [and the worse it looks for the people.]

David Swanson comments:

Massive bulk collection of everybody’s data will continue unconstitutionally, but Obama has expressed a certain vague desire to end it, sort of, except for the parts that are needed, but not to do so right away.  The comparisons to the closure of the Guantanamo death camp began instantly.




Obama has not proposed to end abuses. He’s proposed to appoint two new bureaucrats plus John Podesta. Out of this speech we get reviews of policies, a commitment to tell the Director of National Intelligence to read court rulings that impact the crimes and abuses he’s engaged in, and a promise that the “Intelligence Community” will inspect itself. (Congress, the courts, and the people don’t come up in this list of reforms.) Usually this sort of imperial-presidential fluff wins praise from Obama’s followers. This time, I’m not hearing it.

ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romero says:

The president’s decision not to end bulk collection and retention of all Americans’ data remains highly troubling. The president outlined a process to study the issue further and appears open to alternatives. But the president should end – not mend – the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data. When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the Constitution. The president’s own review panel recommended that bulk data collection be ended, and the president should accept that recommendation in its entirety.”

Julian Assange argues:

[It's] embarrassing for a head of state to go on like that for 45 minutes and say almost nothing.

CNN’s Ashley Killough points out:

Retired Maj. Gen. James ‘Spider’ Marks says he doubts anything is going to “substantively change” in terms of using data collection to go after terrorism.

CNN’s Carl Lavin points out:

How important is 9/11 – I count
nine mentions:

  1. The horror of September 11th brought these issues to the fore.
  2. It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to
    go through after 9/11.
  3. We saw, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, our government engaged in enhanced
    interrogation techniques that contradicted our values.
  4. some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took
  5. they know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber-attack occurs, they will be asked,
    by Congress and the media, why they failed to connect the dots.
  6. a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our
    effort to get off the open ended war-footing that we have maintained since
  7. Those who are troubled by our existing programs are not interested in a repeat
    of 9/11,
  8. Why is this necessary? The program grew out of a desire to address a gap
    identified after 9/11.
  9. One of the 9/11 hijackers – Khalid al-Mihdhar – made a phone call from San
    Diego to a known al Qaeda safe-house in Yemen.

But Zeke Johnson tweets:

President repeats red-herring about 9/11 fail related to lack of surveillance. Problem was lack of sharing existing info btw CIA & FBI

And Dana Davidson comments:

CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen says the true story of 9/11 wasn’t a failure to have enough intelligence data. Read the story: Would NSA surveillance have stopped 9/11 plot?

Glenn Greenwald notes:

It’s really just basically a PR gesture, a way to calm the public and to make them think there’s reform when in reality there really won’t be. And I think that if the public, at this point, has heard enough about what the NSA does and how invasive it is, that they’re going to need more than just a pretty speech from President Obama to feel as though their concerns have been addressed.


“Store all citizens’ communications records” is a radical policy. But it’s been transformed to normal- only allowed debate is: who holds it?


The key question: will the NSA continue to monitor hundreds of millions of people without any suspicion? Under Obama’s proposals: yes.


In response to political scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the same well-worn tactic.




The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are “serious questions that have been raised”. They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic “reforms” so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.


This scam has been so frequently used that it is now easily recognizable. In the mid-1970s, the Senate uncovered surveillance abuses that had been ongoing for decades, generating widespread public fury. In response, the US Congress enacted a new law (Fisa) which featured two primary “safeguards”: a requirement of judicial review for any domestic surveillance, and newly created committees to ensure legal compliance by the intelligence community.


But the new court was designed to ensure that all of the government’s requests were approved: it met in secret, only the government’s lawyers could attend, it was staffed with the most pro-government judges, and it was even housed in the executive branch. As planned, the court over the next 30 years virtually never said no to the government.


Identically, the most devoted and slavish loyalists of the National Security State were repeatedly installed as the committee’s heads, currently in the form of NSA cheerleaders Democrat Dianne Feinstein in the Senate and Republican Mike Rogers in the House. As the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza put it in a December 2013 article on the joke of Congressional oversight, the committees “more often treat … senior intelligence officials like matinee idols”.


As a result, the committees, ostensibly intended to serve an overseer function, have far more often acted as the NSA’s in-house PR firm. The heralded mid-1970s reforms did more to make Americans believe there was reform than actually providing any, thus shielding it from real reforms.


The same thing happened after the New York Times, in 2005, revealed that the NSA under Bush had been eavesdropping on Americans for years without the warrants required by criminal law. The US political class loudly claimed that they would resolve the problems that led to that scandal. Instead, they did the opposite: in 2008, a bipartisan Congress, with the support of then-Senator Barack Obama, enacted a new Fisa law that legalized the bulk of the once-illegal Bush program, including allowing warrantless eavesdropping on hundreds of millions of foreign nationals and large numbers of Americans as well.


This was also the same tactic used in the wake of the 2008 financial crises. Politicians dutifully read from the script that blamed unregulated Wall Street excesses and angrily vowed to reign them in. They then enacted legislation that left the bankers almost entirely unscathed, and which made the “too-big-to-fail” problem that spawned the crises worse than ever.


And now we have the spectacle of President Obama reciting paeans to the values of individual privacy and the pressing need for NSA safeguards.




By design, those proposals will do little more than maintain rigidly in place the very bulk surveillance systems that have sparked such controversy and anger.




Obama’s speech was so bereft of specifics  …. that they are more like slogans than serious proposals.


Ultimately, the radical essence of the NSA – a system of suspicion-less spying aimed at hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world – will fully endure even if all of Obama’s proposals are adopted. That’s because Obama never hid the real purpose of this process. It is, he and his officials repeatedly acknowledged, “to restore public confidence” in the NSA. In other words, the goal isn’t to truly reform the agency; it is deceive people into believing it has been so that they no longer fear it or are angry about it.




[Obama is] not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it.

Cesar Cordova parodies Obama’s speech:

“Changes in the NSA goes as follows. Tuesday will now be known as Taco Tuesdays at the cafeteria. That is all.”

SRsage107 replies with his own satire:

You misread. It clearly says “sweeping” changes. It just means they are going to “try” and keep more of their illegal surveillance swept under the rug.


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lakecity55's picture


"Sir, what are you going to do about the domestic spying?"
"Those cornflakes were good this morning, huh, Bill?"
"I would also suggest keeping an extra roll of TP in your bathroom. You should not yell at your kids like that. Now, what was the question again?"
"Are you playing any golf this week, Mr pResident?"

d edwards's picture

And n$@ still didn't stop the Boston b0mbing-even tho those two had been interviewed by the FBI, and Russia had warned the US about them.


How f-ed up is that?


BTW-the 0bozo economy is a shit sandwich: no matter how many "stimulus" condiments you put on, it is still a shit sandwich. Bon apetit!

satoshi101's picture

Obama today announced that WORLD citizens have the same privacy rights as USA citizens.

So today Obama confirmed that he really does rule the world, and that the NSA will spy on everybody on earth.


Uncle Sam to spy just a little, it will not snoop allies, friends Hindustan Times  - ‎21 minutes ago‎ In a significant revamp of its intelligence activities, the US on Friday announced foreigners will have the same safeguards against privacy infringement as its own citizens.
Bunga Bunga's picture

It's not Obamas fault, his teleprompter comes with an NSA backdoor.

max2205's picture

The internet sure makes it hard to govern.....

Burticus's picture

The Kenyan Usurper and most of the other elephant/jackass sock puppet @$$#01e$ in CONgress need to HANG, from every lamppost between BrainWashington and New York City, and be left hanging whilst the fowls pluckest out their eyeballs, as a reminder for the next would-be tyrant.

no more banksters's picture

"Controlled leaks are very useful, as the leaking information is usually something which almost everyone suspects. So, for example, the revelation that the telephone conversations of the embassy of an Arab country were recorded by NSA or Mossad, is something that more or less everyone expects. It's not a big revelation. But in this way, people gradually "trained" to take for granted the interceptions between governments."


bunnyswanson's picture


Agenda 21 - The action plan (inventory and control)

Rosa Koire - (over 1 hr) 

Remember the big picture everyone!

JustObserving's picture

Nine mentions of the false-flag 9/11 and not a single mention of the fourth amendment.  Obama using fear and lies to deny us our basic rights.   

In a speech at the Justice Department Friday, President Barack Obama issued an unqualified defense of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the US government’s police state surveillance of the American people and countless millions around the world.

The address was an exercise in lies and historical falsifications. The fact that such a speech could even be given without provoking a massive outcry and demands for the president’s immediate impeachment is an indication of how far the American ruling class and political establishment have gone in the direction of totalitarian rule.

In the course of his 45-minute address, Obama never mentioned the Fourth Amendment, which explicitly bans warrentless and arbitrary “searches and seizures”—precisely what the NSA and other intelligence agencies are doing, and on a scale that could not have been imagined by the Founding Fathers of the American republic.

Instead, the speech was marked by repeated paeans to the military-intelligence apparatus.

“The folks at the NSA are our neighbors, they’re our friends and family,” Obama said. “Our intelligence community follows the law and is staffed by patriots,” he added, declaring that NSA operatives “follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people.”

Obama endorsed the surveillance programs “not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in the initial review [of the NSA programs] and nothing I have learned since indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.”

In another baldface lie, he said the NSA’s collection of records of all telephone calls made by US residents “does not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans.” He declared that the NSA “is not abusing authorities to listen to your private phone calls, or read your emails,” and “the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.”


lakecity55's picture

Bath House can only say what the nsa allows him to say.

ease up. he may have the goods on us, but They have the goods on him.

machineh's picture

Nine mentions of 9/11, the gift that keeps on giving.

But for that fortuitous (/sarc) event, gov't would have shrunk to an emaciated little shadow that would've blown away in the breeze.

'Because 9/11': the universal justification for more bigger, more secret gov't.

You'd think they would name a federal building for Osama in gratitude.

tip e. canoe's picture

we might as well have had the drag queen RudiG at the teleprompter at this point.

different deliveryman, same results.

mendigo's picture

What the predsident and legislature say on this matter is wasted time. In theory this would be a matter for the court and they have already given it a pass. And it has become clear that any ruling from the court would be evaded. Theres no putting this genie back in the bottle. Any half bright would be terrorists have adjusted thier methods and moved on and now we know the real nature of our personal protections. Nobody can bring this patient back to life. We are left to accept our surveliance units. Now you know. Behave accordingly

Ban KKiller's picture

NSA, FBI, CIA, all bow  down to their masters...the corporate elite. They are slaves who follow in the footsteps of fascists. Got my keystrokes?


q99x2's picture

The president is a moron.

Clapper needs to be put in prison for treason and terrorist acts against the United States of America.

By forcing backdoors and only allowing minimal encryption millions of citizens have been subjected to the terrorist attacks of Russian hackers. The bank CEOs too. Throw those criminals into prison along with him.

WTF this isn't a game that can be played for money.

satoshi101's picture

Google this week announced 'contact lens' for complete data collection.

You will not even know the person you see is wearing a 'google data collection' device.


First round venture capital for google, and virtually all bay area spy companys came from NSA, making the NSA IPO's some of the most profitables trades in the USA, and of course making the NSA one of the richest organizations on earth.


Last week NSA announed they now can collect sewage treatment water anywhere and sample DNA and track people where they piss or shit,... so now the only safe place to shit or piss is in a bucket and to toss it out the window, or on a wall, or in the dirt :(


Elliott Eldrich's picture

"Last week NSA announed they now can collect sewage treatment water anywhere and sample DNA and track people where they piss or shit,... so now the only safe place to shit or piss is in a bucket and to toss it out the window, or on a wall, or in the dirt :("


Sorry, but that sounds like nonsense to me. Don't forget that back in the 1970's government spooks were spreading propagana about our super-powered spy satellites, saying that they could read the date on a dime laying on a sidewalk, from space. Turned out to be a big lie, at best they could sometimes read the numbers on a license plate, in ideal conditions. 


Never forget, spooks are professional liars, and they live in a world of deception populated by the most dangerous liars of all, those who believe their own lies. Don't be so quick to give them credence, and don't forget that they will seek to make their victims as paranoid and ineffective as possible at all times, and the more paranoid and fearful the better. Far better to simply reject their claims as pure lies and seek useful information from sources that enjoy at least a glancing familiarity with concepts such as "integrity" and "honesty."

Winston Churchill's picture

A story of my personal experience forty years ago re sewage tracking.

In my engineering factory in the UK I had a degreasing system.Nothing heavy like trike,

just an industrial floor degreaser,colisil, and a rinsing tank.The rinse water was filtered and pumped into the

foul sewer.Regs changed ,and this became illegal,I carried on as I had no practical alternative.

Within 12 months, the water company tracked down the "contaminent" to my specific  factory.

So yes, I do believe them,re sweage tracking.

satoshi101's picture

I like to bone spooks like U in the arse, cuz they never ask for condoms.
This my point, here is a bitch on ZH for 2 years that is promoting CIA/NSA cointelpro fuck-nit, ... for what?

The NSA Would Like Your Sewage
Gizmodo? - Jan 6, 2014
When residents of Howard County, Maryland, flush their toilets, their sewage will soon end up at the NSA's new computer center several miles ...

bunnyswanson's picture

Monitoring input and output is what is being described in the UN's Agenda 21.  This plan has been in the making for over 20 years.


Agenda 21 (lecture with Rosa Koire, atty who dedicated her life to exposing Agenda 21, a diabolical plan to put into place a global totalitarian state, cordoning the humans into stalls-with-walls near railroads, factories and prisons.  All interconnected.  Why this has been kept a secret is because we'd never agree to this.  Now man or woman of sound mind would agree to this.  Deprogramming institutions need to be put into place, snap them out of it before it begins, as it may never stop once it does.  Grande scheme is very complex but all points to the UN and the gang in tuxedoes, trying to look cool.



sun tzu's picture

A better plan would be to dump it on google headquarters doorstep

thefirstabomb's picture


Pray and hope that there is still a semblance of humanity sitting on that bench

ebworthen's picture

Obama is a pussy puppet.

He and the Wookie and the girls will be taken care of for life.

Nice job if you can get it.

Vendetta's picture

Nice job if you have no qualms about screwing over the vast majority of the people in the US.   There, fixed it for ya

lakecity55's picture

Well, if you are not an American in the first place,


"What difference does it make?"

fox-mulder's picture

The NSA has cameras in the smoke detectors.

Every room in the house.

Worse that 1984

Yes_Questions's picture



you could have been a contender, Barry.




Whoa Dammit's picture

Fox News has a story up about information released by the EPA under a freedom of information act request:

In response to Freedom of Information Requests, the federal agency released information on up to 100,000 agriculture industry workers, including their home address and phone numbers, GPS coordinates and even personal medical histories. 


Why does the EPA have access to anyone's  medical history?


Milestones's picture

Thanks for the informative post. S. O.B.s. These kinds of folks at EPA must avoid the Constitution like a plague. What a turd sandwhich this government is.              Milestones

Yes_Questions's picture



its stake holders need to know how much to set aside for lawsuits.


wild guess.

nakjii's picture

I just love it when people fail to call this slimeball what he is. The apt name for this creep is the Dunce of DC.  He's an ugly reminder that communism is coming to all towns near you in the future. Obama the Liar will be leading them.



All Hail the Slime!!!

Yes_Questions's picture



H0LY SHIT those two gaphics are outstanding!


I'll read on, but just wanted acknowledge.



Thanks Mssrs. B7illiant and Freda!


Proof positive our POTUS is an empty suit, this speech was, once again.


Mr. Obama:  you've succeeded in diminishing trust in you and more importantly the parts of .GOV austensibly tasked with preserving rights.  


NSA:  You are the enemy within and may your hacker tans mark you as such!


even behind your masks.



nmewn's picture

Not all "enemy within's" are bad guys...some are enemies within, the bad guys system.

And it really fucks with bad guys heads trying to figure out who the good guys are ;-)

Yes_Questions's picture



kindred, my friend.


I thought of you on this one FWIW.

nmewn's picture

Absolutely kindred, most don't understand.

The thing about both our screen names is, they can mean many different things to many different people, at any given point in time, under different circumstances.

We coalesce at fuck the bastards and feed into their paranoia ;-)

TheReplacement's picture

What are you talking about?  Your names are gibberish to most people. 

akak's picture

The first word is obviously a contraction of "very smiley attitude".

The second one is the opposite of "short evity".


I lerned it all in publik scule.

Yes_Questions's picture



couple days later


you rock!

Yes_Questions's picture



verismilitude and longevity







Kina's picture

Oh yes...Obama came very cheaply, is price was low. Let me do the job...and I will give you the Constitution and people bound and gagged....just let me be President. So the 1% laughed their heads off at this cheap piece of shit.


Obama is like the pedophile father...who has a sacred responsibility to protect and nurtured his childred but instead engages in gross betryal and abuse.

Kina's picture

Obama's role is to be the NSA fuck doll. He is doing a splendid job, every hole filled.


Never more a traitor to an ideal than those who intimately understand what that ideal is and betray it. Obama is a constitutional law expert....and thus his betrayal of the Consitution is with full knowledge and understanding. Obama has turned on America and the people with the greatest treason.

He got his bits of silver, sold out a history and country so he could be President, no different than if he sold his children into prosititution.

q99x2's picture

Dude's got the respect of a used car lot salesman. At least a used car lot salesman's first name is likely to be his real name.

Reaper's picture

He's lying again.

Yes_Questions's picture



was it the insincere sincerity?

doctor10's picture

“A Nothing Burger Served Hot And With A Sympathetic Smile”


How our overlords tell the peasants and peons  "fuck you"