Nostalgia, Deceit and Lies: The Tradecraft of Obama

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Barack Obama speaks about the NSA from the Justice Department in Washington. (Courtesy: Kevin Lamarque)

By Ann-Marie de Veer
Saturday 18 January 2014

In a display of seemingly wistful affection for the past Obama opened his speech of the 17 January 2014 on his restrictions to NSA surveillance bedecked with nostalgic references. His amble through the past included the Boston Tea Party the American Civil War, World War II and the Cold War.

The premise was simple: we are at war and the foe is terrorism.

Next up was totalitarianism, followed by socialism and then communism as he sought to justify the growth of the security agencies in the years that followed World War II. When he mentioned the 9/11 tragedy, an event as yet to be fully explained, he had successfully cast the rest of the world as dystopian and the justification for the Orwellian state the US has enacted upon us all was complete.

Thus, as Obama's skill as an orator prevailed, so too was his ability to deceive as his narrative dipped into the pool of humility: a softener for things to come:

And yet, in our rush to respond to a very real and novel set of threats, the risk of government overreach -- the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security -- also became more pronounced. We saw, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, our government engaged in enhanced interrogation techniques that contradicted our values. As a Senator, I was critical of several practices, such as warrantless wiretaps. And all too often new authorities were instituted without adequate public debate.

His claim of being critical of these nefarious practices only to do absolutely nothing serves to demonstrate a deft hand in the art of deception. He continued:

For all these reasons, I maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became President. I ordered that our programs be reviewed by my national security team and our lawyers, and in some cases I ordered changes in how we did business. We increased oversight and auditing, including new structures aimed at compliance. Improved rules were proposed by the government and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And we sought to keep Congress continually updated on these activities.

And yet, there is little evidence in the public domain to support the majority of his assertions here but there is some proof that not all members of Congress were as au fait with these activities as he would suggest.

Finally, at the end of his list of superficial reforms he mentions the program in which his global audience are most interested in, the bulk collection of telephone metadata. The change he proposes to this program is to "establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata". In other words, we are not going to do this activity, we are going to get other people to do it for us.

Thus, akin to the UK's legendary Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament whose ability to deliver in its very first open session to the public a diatribe of non-content content, the President of the United States (POTUS) is now equally as notorious in delivering a verbose dictum of non-change change.