Obama’s Press Conference: The Smiling Face of a Police State
Barry Grey | Monday, August 12, 2013, 15:44 Beijing
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At Friday’s press conference, President Barack Obama resorted to outright lies in his defense of the massive and illegal surveillance programs exposed by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
Obama made it clear that, as far as he was concerned, the problem was not that wholesale violations of the Constitution were being perpetrated by his government, but that these crimes had been made known and had alarmed the public. What was needed was a better job of public relations.
The press conference itself was thrown together to assuage popular anger and concern over the systematic violation of privacy rights. As Obama said, his aim was to “make the American people more comfortable” about government snooping on every aspect of their lives.
“America is not interested in spying on ordinary people,” Obama said, as if documents had never been published exposing the government’s seizure of records of all telephone calls placed in the United States, its dragnet of electronic communications around the world, its recording of license plates, and its photographing of letters.
This statement came one day after the New York Times reported that the NSA is “copying and then sifting through the contents of what is apparently most emails and other text-based communications that cross the border.” It followed last week’s exposure of the NSA’s XKeyscore program, which allows analysts to listen to phone calls and read emails at will without a warrant or authorization from higher-ups.
In a tone of seeming incomprehension, Obama said, “And a general impression has, I think, taken hold, not only among the American public but also around the world, that somehow we’re out there willy-nilly just sucking in information on everybody and doing what we please with it.”
But as everyone knows, that is precisely what the US government is doing.
In discussing the surveillance programs, Obama attempted to project a patient attitude toward public concerns. “It’s right to ask questions about surveillance,” he said. Only when the question of Snowden came up was there a flash of anger in his voice and a tightening in his face. “No, I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot,” Obama said in response to a reporter’s question.
He went on to accuse the whistle-blower of “putting at risk our national security and some very vital ways that we are able to get intelligence that we need to secure the country.”
But Obama was caught in a flagrant contradiction. On the one hand, he implied that Snowden was a traitor. On the other, Obama acknowledged that he had been compelled to reassure the public because of Snowden’s revelations, without which the people would have remained in the dark.
The president spoke as though he was amazed that the actions of the government had deeply alarmed the population. He seemed surprised that anyone could doubt the hard work and good faith of the NSA. He lavished praise on the spy agencies, declaring that their operatives were “patriots” who “work every single day to keep us safe because they love this country and believe in our values.”
Having made clear that all of the spying programs will continue, he announced a handful of vague and meaningless measures that will in no way lessen the programs’ criminal character. “Some bolts needed to be tightened on some of the programs,” he said.
“Tightening the bolts” on the vast bureaucratic machinery of state surveillance and putting a smiling face on the agencies and individuals who are targeting the American people for repression—such is Obama’s response to the exposure of vast crimes against the US Constitution and the democratic rights of the people.
Less than three months ago, Obama gave a speech at the National Defense University in which he acknowledged that policies such as drone assassinations of American citizens and the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo—for which he is responsible—called into question the viability of American democracy. Yet he now speaks as though the shredding of the Bill of Rights is merely a communications problem.
The White House press corps, pliant as always, did not challenge claims by Obama that everyone in the room knew to be lies. No reporter so much as hinted that the NSA programs were unconstitutional.
Nor did anyone raise questions about the global terror alert, which Obama cited at the start of his remarks as justification for the surveillance programs. The fact that in the midst of a supposedly imminent threat Obama is leaving the capital to vacation at Martha’s Vineyard was never broached.
Even more chilling than Obama’s lies is his obliviousness to democratic principles. There is not a hint of concern for what Eisenhower warned of a half-century ago—the immense danger to democratic rights posed by the rise of a military-industrial complex. And this is under conditions of a present-day military-intelligence-industrial complex far beyond anything Eisenhower could have imagined.
Obama personifies the contempt for democratic rights and the Constitution, and the police state mentality that pervade all branches of the US government.
By Barry Grey
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Tags: democratic government NSA Obama
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Media provides false “context” for Bush quote on bin Laden
FROM MEDIA MATTERS
From the October 13 debate:
KERRY: Six months after he said Osama bin Laden must be caught dead or alive, this president was asked, “Where is Osama bin Laden?” He said, “I don’t know. I don’t really think about him very much. I’m not that concerned.”
BUSH: Gosh, I just don’t think I ever said I’m not worried about Osama bin Laden. It’s kind of one of those exaggerations.
But Bush wasn’t telling the truth. From a March 13, 2002, press conference:
Q: But don’t you believe that the threat that bin Laden posed won’t truly be eliminated until he is found either dead or alive?
BUSH: Well, as I say, we haven’t heard much from him. And I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don’t know where he is. I — I’ll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.
But several news organizations gave Bush credit for nonexistent “context” around the remark. Knight Ridder reported after the debate:
“Kerry accused Bush of saying ‘I’m not that concerned’ about the al Qaida leader when asked where bin Laden was. The context, though, was misstated. Bush was saying bin Laden could not elude U.S. forces forever and also said of bin Laden at the time: ‘He’s the one who needs to be worried.'” [Knight Ridder, 10/13/04]
That isn’t true. At no point during his March 2002 press conference did Bush say bin Laden is “the one who needs to be worried,” or anything like it.
Knight Ridder was apparently referring to comments Bush made nearly two months earlier, on January 22, 2002:
BUSH: A fellow came the other day to the office, and said, well, are you worried about Mr. bin Laden? I said, no, I’m not too worried about him. He’s the guy that needs to be worried. But I want to assure you, the objective is not bin Laden. Oh, we’ll get bin Laden. There’s only so many caves he can hide in, if he’s still hiding in caves. My attitude was, once we get him running, it’s just a matter of time before we bring him to justice.
So, by “at the time,” Knight Ridder apparently meant “nearly two months earlier.”
On October 14, MSNBC anchor Randy Meier twice claimed that the “context” around Bush’s 2002 quote showed that he meant that bin Laden should be more concerned about us:
All right, so, Craig, here’s what happened. The president, when we looked at it later, said it in the context of ‘I think of Osama bin Laden should be more concerned about us. I’m not necessarily so concerned about him,’ but was it enough of an error that it should not have been said? [MSNBC News Live, 10/14/04, 10:45 a.m. ET]
There was a moment last night where George Bush was caught flubbing a little bit about Osama bin Laden, saying after Kerry had made reference that he wasn’t concerned about Osama bin Laden. President Bush made that comment in context that he thought Osama bin Laden should be more concerned about us. [MSNBC News Live, 10/14/04, 11:04 a.m. ET]
It’s unclear what Meier meant when he said “we looked at it later,” since looking at the transcript of Bush’s March 2002 remarks doesn’t show any such “context.”
On FOX News Channel, anchor Brit Hume and “FOX All-Star” panelist and Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes likewise spun for Bush on October 13:
HUME: The Kerry camp has been quick to point out that the president said — when Senator Kerry had said that the president — quoted the president saying he wasn’t concerned about Osama bin Laden, the president responded to that in tonight’s debate, “I don’t think I ever said I’m not worried about Osama bin Laden. It’s kind of one of those exaggerations. Of course, we’re worried about Osama bin Laden.”
In fact, they have pointed out — the president did on a couple of occasions — said that they — he wasn’t that concerned about bin Laden; in another case, that he wasn’t worried about him, but Osama bin Laden could be the one that was worried. Does anybody think that’s the kind of gaffe that might change anybody’s judgment of this debate?
BARNES: No, but the Kerry people — you know, they nailed him on it. I mean, he did say I’m not too worried about him. Now he was meaning that he’s the guy then — and he went on to say Osama bin Laden’s the guy that should be worried. But it wasn’t harmful, but the president did say that. [Post-debate coverage, 10/13/04]
Hume seemed to recognize that in the Bush statement Kerry was quoting, there was no “context” about bin Laden being worried. But Barnes ignored that inconvenient truth, pretending that in the March 2002 statement, Bush “went on to say Osama bin Laden’s the guy that should be worried.”