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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/22/13

Obama vs. Snowden: "Parsing the Presser" Series, Part 2

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From his August 9 statement alone it appeared that Obama would either redundantly recreate such a group or just pretend that he is newly creating such a "Board," to use his May 23d term. His revised August 9th terminology, "group," is used to disguise the fact that the May 23d term "board" was already taken, twice. For purposes of his propaganda attack against Snowden he had to pretend on August 9th using imprecise language that he had already on May 23d proposed something new, a high-level "group." He also had to pretend that his May 23d reference was not to an existing Board he had virtually named and that also constituted the only operative institutional reform of his retroactively constructed call for "thorough review."

The May 23d statement neither announced nor suggested the creation of a new board or group, but rather mentioned "having" an existing board continue carrying out the tasks it is required by law to carry out. Nor did Obama assign any new tasks for the existing board.

This board carries a lot of weight. On August 9 Obama opines that everything might have worked out better, without all the excitement over Snowden, "if I had simply appointed this review board" prior to Snowden's revelations. He reverts here for maximum ambiguity to the May 23d term "board" to describe his August 9 proposal for a "group." This statement reinforces the appearance of deliberate deception by Obama. By suggesting that his appointment of such a board was the essential missing policy component, Obama intends to disguise the fact that he had already appointed two such "high level" boards, one official and one independent, to do the very "review" task he is suggesting. By this statement Obama also fraudulently attempts to convert his May 23d mention of one of these two existing Boards to be a statement of intent--as he later re-characterized it--to redundantly create a third similar board, or group, in the future.

Obama is concocting out of nothing but verbal confusion a non-existent May 23d proposal for what he called, on August 9, "additional reforms. That's exactly what I called for."

His purpose is to claim "we would have gotten to the same place" in the reform agenda--which itself is comprised at most of a third redundant new group--even in the absence of Snowden's revelations. By claiming that Snowden's revelations accomplished nothing, Obama could undermine any defense of Snowden based on the actual success of his revelations in achieving exactly what he intended them to achieve: public knowledge leading to democratic outrage and action against Obama's constitutional violations.

Another problem with Obama's deceptive claim that he was already on the case pre-Snowden, concocted to undermine the significance of Snowden's act of citizenship, is that it ignores that "Snowden's documents and statements add greatly to an understanding of just how...deceptive the NSA and the Obama administration have been in describing the agency's activities to the American public." According to James Bamford , the leading historian of the surveillance state created by the secret and illegal conduct of the NSA and its predecessors, under "the Obama administration, the NSA's powers continued to expand at the same time that administration officials and the NSA continued to deceive the American public on the extent of the spying." How could Obama empower a "thorough review" premised upon the exposure of his own lies about the subject being reviewed?

In the wake of Snowden's revelations, people are less likely to trust the government officials who are spying on them, and have--like James Clapper--been lying about it, or, in Clapper's words, helpfully fashioning the "least untruthful" statements for public consumption. People may not trust government officials who now tell them to just never mind about their erstwhile rights. This is when the "independent expert" ploy, trotting out the bi-partisan non-government propagandists, is needed to put lipstick on the pig.

Obama is not speaking of a reform for greater transparency. He is deploying an age-old propaganda technique, used famously in the Warren Commission , the 9/11 Commission and other such highly manipulated "independent groups" designed to "maintain the trust of the people" in government lies, half truths and cover-ups. In this case, Obama's application of this false remedy is not even new. He deceptively refers to a propaganda mechanism already put in place in his predecessor's term for the same purpose, as if it were a new initiative of his own four-point program. He depends upon a cooperative mass media to keep the public uninformed about such transparent chicanery as this pretense of initiating a new reform that already exists in two flavors.

Obama said "I'm tasking this independent group to "consider how we can maintain the trust of the people." Instead of assigning the existing independent or government Boards such propaganda responsibilities not expressly included in their governing statutes, Obama in an August 12, 2013 "Memo," delegated to the CIA the task of forming his third new "group," labeled "Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies." This new group was necessary primarily to retroactively change Obama's May 23d reference to the existing PCLO Board as if it were a pre-Snowden "call" for this new and redundant "review" mechanism.

If Obama is looking for independence and trust, why on earth put the CIA, the government's clandestine experts in spying, propaganda and subterfuge, in charge of forming this new group? A CIA-selected group could not possibly be either more independent or more solicitous of constitutional values of openness and privacy than the other two existing groups would be. Obama does not explain how he thinks such a third new group would enhance the existing capacity for "thorough review" already possessed by the other two operating groups.

As experts in psy-ops the CIA is suitable for the propaganda assignment to "maintain the trust." The agency would be well positioned to recruit clandestine service assets whose job descriptions include the skill set of maintaining a false appearance of independence from government. The precise provenance of those members Obama does not need to know. This explains why, strangely, for a reform he supposedly initiated personally back in May, and is an essential component of his varnish over a possibly impeachable high crime, Obama would remain uninvolved in the appointment of those who will carry the weight of his "thorough review." The propaganda offensive conducted by this group will fashion Obama's public defense against allegations of high crime against him. Selecting this group is similar to selecting his legal defense team, which he undoubtedly hopes not to need until after the final report of this group just before Christmas.

This "Group" is to be established but not "led" by the most famous public perjurer of the day, who is also a consummate government insider, the long-term military intelligence operative and now Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper. This makes a complete joke of the idea of an "independent" or "outside" commission.

This ad hoc group's duties ? Predictably, yet another joke: enhanced focus of surveillance on "insider" threats," national security and foreign policy concerns, "while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust." In other words, the new group will be looking for new ways and excuses for casting an even broader surveillance net, conducting an escalated war on whistle-blowers, and purveying improved propaganda to elicit "trust" in this unconstitutional program. That might help explain why a new "group" was required--since the two existing Boards are charged by law to actually address the "need to protect privacy and civil liberties," terms which Obama left entirely out of his CIA memo. Something more covert, not tied to the rule of law so much as the rule of lies is required to suit his needs.

Assessing Obama's one page "memo" to the CIA, which Obama did not even elevate to the status of the executive order that Bush issued for his "board-washing" exercise, is like watching an illusionist do the color change trick in slow motion. It was the laziest way to do nothing, or worse take a step backward from what Bush had already done, pitched so that Obama could pretend he is taking a step toward a "thorough review" by a new, but redundant, "group"--or was that a "board"?--that was already supposedly announced pre-Snowden, but clearly was not.

Obama's treatment of this new board/group issue is all deception, no reality. As a federal judge said of similar obfuscation by Obama's DJ: "So many words. So little meaning." Any notion that this "reform" is intended to do anything but continue the mission of building Obama's Panopticon while delaying any day of reckoning with the American people is delusional.

2. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance "Court." In a similar vein of announcing new doubled-down propaganda initiatives as if they are reforms, a second of Obama's four proposals was that "we should consider some additional changes to the FISC," which would dress up, to look more like a court, this unelected group of judges that has been secretly exercising legislative powers and implementing secret interpretations amounting to law.

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Rob Hager is a public-interest litigator who filed a Supreme Court amicus brief n the 2012 Montana sequel to the Citizens United case, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, and has worked as an international consultant on legal (more...)
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