President Obama's Full NSA Speech At a major speech outlining revisions to U.S. intelligence operations, Barack Obama announced a number of new procedures for the NSA
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Department of Injustice
11:15 a.m. EST
THE PRESIDENT: A small, secret surveillance committee of goons and thugs hiding behind the mask of patriotism was established in 1908 in Washington, D.C. The group was led from 1924 until 1972 by J. Edgar Hoover, and during his reign it became known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. FBI agents spied upon and infiltrated labor unions, political parties, radical groups -- especially those led by African-Americans -- anti-war groups and the civil rights movement in order to discredit anyone, including politicians such as Henry Wallace, who questioned the power of the state and big business. Agents burglarized homes and offices, illegally opened mail and planted unlawful wiretaps. Bureau leaders created blacklists. They destroyed careers and sometimes lives. They demanded loyalty oaths. By the time they were done, our progressive and radical movements, which had given us the middle class and opened up our political system, were dead. And while the FBI was targeting internal dissidents, our foreign intelligence operatives were overthrowing regimes, bankrolling some of the most vicious dictators on the planet and carrying out assassinations in numerous countries, such as Cuba and the Philippines and later Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Throughout American history, intelligence services often did little more than advance and protect corporate profits and solidify state repression and imperialist expansion. War, for big business, has always been very lucrative and used as an excuse to curtail basic liberties and crush popular movements. "Inter arma silent leges," as Cicero said, or "During war, the laws are silent." In the Civil War, during which the North and the South suspended the writ of habeas corpus and up to 750,000 soldiers died in the slaughter, Union intelligence worked alongside Northern war profiteers who sold cardboard shoes to the Army as the spy services went about the business of ruthlessly hunting down deserters.
The First World War, which gave us the Espionage Act and the Sedition Act and saw President Woodrow Wilson throw populists and socialists, including Socialist leader Eugene V. Debs, into prison, produced $28.5 billion in net profits for businesses and created 22,000 new millionaires. Wall Street banks, which lent $2.5 billion to nations allied with the United States, made sure Wilson sent U.S. forces into the senseless trench warfare so they would be repaid. World War II -- which consumed more than 50 million lives and saw 110,000 Japanese-Americans hauled away to internment camps and atomic bombs dropped on defenseless civilians -- doubled wartime corporate profits from the First World War. Why disarm when there was so much money to be made from stoking fear?
The rise of the Iron Curtain and nuclear weapons provided the justification by big business for sustaining a massive arms industry, for a huge expansion of our surveillance capabilities and for more draconian assaults against workers and radicals. The production of weapons was about profits rather than logic. We would go on to produce more than 70,000 nuclear bombs or warheads at a cost of $5.5 trillion, enough weapons to obliterate every Soviet city several times over. And in the early days of the Cold War, with Hoover and Joe McCarthy and his henchmen blacklisting anyone with a conscience in government, the arts, journalism, labor unions or education, President Harry S. Truman created the National Security Agency, or NSA.
Throughout this evolution, Americans were steadily shorn of their most basic constitutional rights and their traditions of limited government. U.S. intelligence agencies were always anchored in a system of secrecy -- with little effective oversight from either elected leaders or ordinary citizens. Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a sterling example of what our corporate masters might achieve with pervasive, unchecked surveillance that turned citizens into informers and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their homes. Today I would like to thank the architects of this East German system, especially Erich Mielke, once the chief of the communist East German secret police. I want to assure them that the NSA has gone on to perfect what the Stasi began.
In the 1960s, the U.S. government spied on civil rights leaders, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement and critics of the Vietnam War, just as today we are spying on Occupy activists, environmentalists, whistle-blowers and other dissidents. And partly in response to these revelations decades ago, especially regarding the FBI's covert dirty tricks program known as COINTELPRO, laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens. In the long, twilight struggle against communism, and now in the fight against terrorism, I am happy to report that we have eradicated all of these reforms and laws.
The crimes for which Richard Nixon resigned and the abuses of power that prompted the formation of the Church Commission are now legal. The liberties that some patriots, including Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, have sought to preserve have been sacrificed at the altar of national security. To obtain your personal information, the FBI can now freely issue "national security letters" to your bank, doctor, employer or public library or any of your associates without a judicial warrant. And you will never be notified of an investigation. We can collect and store in perpetuity all metadata of your email correspondence and phone records and track your geographical movements. We can assassinate you if I decide you are a terrorist. We can order the military under Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act to arrest you, strip you of due process and hold you indefinitely in military detention centers. We can continue to throw into prison those who expose the illegality of what we are doing, or force them into exile, as all totalitarian secret police forces from the SS to the KGB to the East German Stasi have done. And we can torture.
The fall of the Soviet Union left America without a competing superpower. This threatened to delegitimize our massive spending on war and state security, now more than 50 percent of our budget. But a group of Islamic radicals who had never posed an existential threat to our country emerged to take the place of the old communist bloc. The politics of fear and the psychosis of permanent war were able to be continued. The war on terror placed new and in some ways more complicated demands on our intelligence agencies. Our illegal and disastrous occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and our indiscriminate bombing of other countries, along with the war crimes Israel is carrying out against the Palestinian people, are driving people in the Muslim world into the arms of these militant groups.
We are the most hated nation on earth. At the same time, globalization -- our corporate policy of creating a worldwide neofeudalism of masters and serfs -- means we must spy on citizens to prevent agitation and revolt. After all, if you are a worker, things are only going to get worse. To quash competitors of American companies, we spy on corporations in Brazil, including Brazil's biggest oil company, Petrobras, and on corporations in Germany and France. We also steal information from the leaders of many countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose personal cellphone we tapped. However, Ms. Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, should not, as she has done, accuse us of being the Stasi. We are much more efficient than the Stasi was. We spied successfully on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in addition to Pope Francis and the conclave that elected him last March. Senior U.N. officials and Roman Catholic cardinals are highly susceptible to recruitment by al-Qaida. The reasons are classified. I won't share them with you. Believe me.
Threats to the nation raised new legal and policy questions, which fortunately our courts, abject tools of the corporate state, solved by making lawful everything from torture to wholesale surveillance. I would like to take a moment to thank our nation's compliant judges, the spineless deans of most prestigious law schools and most law professors and lawyers for refusing to defend the Constitution. They have been valued partners, along with the press, in our campaign to eradicate your civil liberties.
The horror of September 11th was masterfully manipulated by the security state and our for-profit military-industrial complex. These forces used the attacks as an excuse to increase the massive pilfering of taxpayer dollars, especially by the Department of Homeland Security, which has a public budget of $98.8 billion. The truth, however, is the system of internal security is so vast and so secret no one in the public has any idea how large our programs are or how much we spend. It is true that our 16 intelligence agencies missed the numerous signs and evidence leading up to the 9/11 attacks. In short, they screwed up, just as they did when they failed to anticipate the fall of the Shah of Iran or the collapse of the Soviet Union, or when they told us Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But we have a rule in Washington: Never reform failed bureaucracies or hold government officials accountable; rather, give them more money. Keep failure secret.
It is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women of our intelligence community that over the past decade we've taken enormous strides in making the Middle East a caldron of rage. New capabilities and new laws have turned us into the most efficient killers on the planet. Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded, creating one immense, global corporate system of surveillance and security that obliterates the rights of people at home and abroad. Taken together, these efforts have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. We have terrorized whole countries from the sky and forced millions to become refugees. This will ensure endless war, which ensures endless profits for those who make war -- which is the point.