Patterico's Pontifications


Obama Lied to Public About Whether Government Was Listening to Our Calls

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:15 pm

Hope and change? I guess an increased ability to surveil Americans is change . . .

From the Washington Post yesterday:

The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.

In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.

Note that the ban was initially imposed in 2008 at the Bush administration’s request (Obama took office in January 2009) and was later reversed at the request of the Obama administration.

It is, of course, apparent that the authority existed before the Bush administration request in 2008, so it’s not as though the request was unprecedented. However, it is striking that Obama, who as a candidate had criticized Bush on this precise point, was the one to reverse Bush’s request.

Still more striking is the fact that Obama blatantly lied about this in June.

Let me support that strong statement.

Although the article is poorly worded, it appears clear from the article as a whole that the actual content of the calls themselves are among the material that the government sought authority to search with respect to Americans. The article says “intercepted phone calls” are part of the material that the government sought authority to obtain. This conclusion is reinforced by this quote from Sen. Ron Wyden, who knows quite well the scope of what the government can obtain:

“The [surveillance] Court documents declassified recently show that in late 2011 the court authorized the NSA to conduct warrantless searches of individual Americans’ communications using an authority intended to target only foreigners,” Wyden said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Our intelligence agencies need the authority to target the communications of foreigners, but for government agencies to deliberately read the e-mails or listen to the phone calls of individual Americans, the Constitution requires a warrant.”

So government apparently has the authority, at Obama’s request, to “listen to the phone calls of individual Americans.”

But Obama said precisely the opposite in June 2013:

“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” President Barack Obama said Friday as he tried to reassure Americans who have had to digest a dizzying array of revelations in the past few days.

Watch the video, in which he clearly and repeatedly states that nobody is listening to the content of the calls:

Unless I am missing something, Obama stood in front of the American people and deliberately lied right to their face.

Would it be too much to ask our Watchdog Press to ask him a question about this?

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