Surveillance critics face Obama

Lawmakers say surveillance efforts are suffering from perception problems that have undercut trust among the American people.
Associated Press
Aug 2, 2013

Struggling to salvage a massive surveillance program, President Barack Obama faced congressional critics of the National Security Agency's collection of Americans' telephone records Thursday as snowballing concerns made new limitations on the intelligence effort appear increasingly likely.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden joined lawmakers on both sides of the issue for an Oval Office meeting designed to stem the bleeding of public support and show Obama was serious about engaging. Among the participants were the NSA's most vigorous congressional supporters — the top Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate intelligence panels — alongside its most stern critics, including Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado.

The lawmakers departed the rainy White House grounds without speaking to reporters. But in interviews later, they said there was a consensus that the surveillance efforts are suffering from perception problems that have undercut trust among the American people.

"There is openness to making changes," said Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, top Republican on the Senate's intelligence panel and a strong NSA defender, said Obama and the lawmakers didn't agree to take specific steps but brought up a number of proposals that will be fleshed out over the August congressional recess.

"A lot of ideas were thrown out," Chambliss told The Associated Press. "Nothing was concluded."

Wyden, in an interview, said he and Udall had sought to convince Obama of the urgency of addressing rising concerns. He said he proposed strengthening the government's ability to get emergency authorization to collect an individual's phone records, so that pre-emptive collection of everyone's records would no longer be necessary.

"I felt that the president was open to ideas — and we're going to make sure he has some," Wyden said after returning to Capitol Hill.

Wyden and two Senate colleagues also unveiled legislation Thursday to overhaul the secret federal court that oversees the programs, which critics decry as largely a rubber stamp. The senators aim to make the court created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, more adversarial by creating a special advocate who could argue for privacy during closed-door proceedings and appeal decisions. A companion bill would diversify the court's bench by ending the chief justice's sole authority to pick its judges.

"These bills do not compromise national security, but they put a necessary opposing view in the FISA court and assure ideological diversity of judges," said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. Another of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the Obama administration was receptive to the ideas, although White House officials declined to comment.

Debate over the line between counterterrorism and invasion of privacy has been heating up since former government contract systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked classified documents exposing the NSA's monumental capability to sweep up data about phone and Internet use, including programs that store years of phone records on virtually every American. Snowden's revelations have prompted a national rethinking over government surveillance powers that have grown since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Russia decided on Thursday to grant temporary asylum to Snowden, who has been in a Moscow airport hotel for more than a month, despite America's insistence that the fugitive be sent home to face prosecution on espionage charges.

In Washington, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said he stressed to Obama the role Congress must play in ensuring that U.S. spying isn't infringing on Congress' intent or on civil liberties. He said his committee would further probe the issue, including in a classified hearing he's hoping to hold in September.

Extending its efforts to defend the programs to the public, the White House pledged to help Americans understand as much as possible about how they work, even as it staunchly defended their efficacy in keeping a post-9/11 America safe.

"That process will continue," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "But I don't think that we can sensibly say that programs designed to protect us from terrorist attack are not necessary in this day and age."

The more information about the programs the government has released, the more it has fed even greater concerns about the scope of the surveillance and whether Obama's national security team has been truthful in describing it publicly in the past.

After the administration on Wednesday declassified more documents about an email mining program, Wyden said they showed the government had "repeatedly made inaccurate statements to Congress" about the effectiveness in countering terrorism. And new details released about the phone records program created new fodder for critics by confirming for the first time that, when investigating one suspected terrorist, the government can also examine records of people who called people who called the targeted individual — netting millions of people's records in a single request.

Meanwhile, the head of the NSA openly clashed with lawmakers including Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., over the agency's statements that telephone and email data collection helped foil 54 terror plots.

Rising tensions have stoked concern at the White House that surveillance programs Obama considers crucial will soon be undermined or even dismantled — despite the fact that many Democrats and Republicans in Congress have come to the NSA's defense.

Leahy, the Judiciary Committee chairman, has threatened to seek to end the phone records program if it's not proven effective. And Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., signaled Thursday that unless an agreement is reached on releasing more of the secret court's opinions, he would push Congress to use its "power of the purse" to compel their disclosure by withholding funding for certain programs.

Even some staunch advocates for a tough national security stance have become outspoken critics, including Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who helped write the USA Patriot Act but now says the phone records collection goes far beyond what he envisioned and may not be renewed. Sensenbrenner was among the lawmakers who shared concerns in the session Thursday with Obama and top officials, including Biden, National Security Advisory Susan Rice and White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler.

The White House also was spooked by a House vote last week to dismantle the program, which failed by a narrow 217-205 margin.



The Big Dog's back

At it again huh. S-R please take note.


Troll, old and weak.


Nakita said it all and you nuts are making it come true !


I think the NSA situation is a happy medium. The same people who are complaining about supposed government peeking into our personal records are the same people who would blame Obama if we had another 9/11.

I do understand that Republicans always need something to complain about, and won't be happy no matter what Obama does, but that doesn't mean we rational folks need to listen to them and give credence to them. Until they are able to acknowledge recent history, and stop insisting on a completely different version of what actually happened, and until opinions stop mattering more than facts, I don't feel they deserve a seat at the grown-up table.

Darwin's choice

Dodge,defer,deflect. The story is about the NSA, not your man-crush on Obama. Please get over yourself. So, Coasterfan, happy medium? You mean, doing nothing, or marshall law? Where will it end for you?


Darwin's Reject-

Why are you so mentally insufficient ?

Darwin's choice

However, here's your beloved Democrats at work Coasterfan....

How about that?


Re: "I think the NSA situation is a happy medium."

Other than obvious sophistry, what does that mean Comrade?

So you're fine with the PA & NDAA and other terrorist task force policies being renewed and enhanced under the Obama Admin.?

So why are Dems like Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt) and libertarian-leaning Repubs calling for more openness?


Parallel to the Little Bighorn Battle...


This whole issue of surveillance has obviously changed since 911. No one wants a repeat of that and that means increased awareness of terror groups and other threats to the US. I don't think the US Government gets a file on people who are threats without this kind of surveillance. The whole idea of this snooping goes against the grain of most Americans but so does a repeat of 911 and then the words are the US Government should have known.

We have seen Republican GWB and now Democrat Obama come into almost total agreement this surveillance has to be done to protect the US. I don't believe its a Republican or Democrat issue. Those who are critics are cashing in on American fears of too much snooping. They want it both ways stop potential 911 attacks and not snoop on Americans. These folks are neither in the security briefing the presidents receive or the hot seat if an attack is successful on US citizens. So they are free to give their criticism without any threat to their political career.

No, I don't like the US Government snoopingl. I don't like the process you are put thru getting on a plane by TSA, I don't like the snoops the US Government has on my financial information. Yet, if doing this means I can get on a commerical aircraft with a low chance of it being hijacked and flown into a building then I will put up with it.

Alas, I don't blame Republicans or Democrats, or GWB or Obama or NSA or others in the US Goverment for all this surveillance........lets put the blame where it squarely belongs,,,,,,on terrorist groups around the globe who wish you and I harm and mostly certainly death for the sole reason we are Americans.


He who would trade liberty for temporary security deserves neither liberty nor security.

Ben Franklin said that back in the day when men were men and freedom MEANT something. Perhaps the remarks of various other philosophers come into play here since it's also been said that those who were BORN to freedom don't appreciate it until they're forced to live under tyranny. Forgive me if I don't find much of a silver lining in the notion that Americans may be closer to learning that lesson than most would like to think...

Darwin's choice

Surveillance must be working outside the US, Several US embassies are closed sunday?
Coasterfan, Big Dog, 4Shizzle, is it for Obama's birthday?


Gee , Darwins Reject-

Maybe they should stay open , be attacked , and have people die...
Would that make you happy ?


Maybe it is all fabricated to pull attention away from the administration and a ploy to pacify by trying to make the general public afraid of terror. A bold move to prove that data mining and personal privacy infringement of Americans is justified. It is almost sad to even think that our government would do this but they have shown their strips before!


Re: "a ploy to pacify"

EVERYTHING this Admin. does is run through a political "optics" sive.

Would not be surprised in the LEAST!

Let us all take 'comfort' in the words of Dear Leader from 2012:

"Al Qaeda's been decimated and Osama bin Laden is dead."


"Maybe it is all fabricated to pull attention away from the administration and a ploy to pacify by trying to make the general public afraid of terror"

.........Oooooooooooooo , cut right from the Republican playbook.

Darwin's choice

4shizzle, always the azzhat...

Well, azzhat, what time does your birthday party start for your Obama?
Plenty of kool-aid to be had!
It is his supposed birthday, right?


"It is his supposed birthday, right?"
..........You tell me. You're the one who has the man-crush on Obama.

How's YOUR kool-aid tasting ?


Barack Hussein Obama II

Born: August 4, 1961, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. (or so his web-based birth cert. claims)

How exactly did he received a free college education while being listed as a "foreign exchange student"?

When did Hawaii become a foreign country? :)


(How exactly did he received a free college education while being listed as a "foreign exchange student"?)

Many types of foreign, even the United States Constitution can be foreign to some : )


Remember the pamphlet that listed Mr. Obama as "born in Kenya"?

"Even if the original 1991 brochure’s listing of Kenya as Obama’s birthplace was in error, as the agency has since claimed, it apparently was an error Obama allowed his publicist to persist in for over a decade, right until after he was running for president."


I guess claiming that you're "foreign" helps ya to get a free education, while claiming that you were born in Hawaii helps ya get to be POTUS.

WHATEVER works with this guy. :)


Hey NSA! Put this in your file.


As Tom Jackson recently pointed out in his blog:

Who is the U.S. at war with?


The Senate recently voted to supply weapons to Syrian rebels.

How did they vote?


Apparently there was a large massacre of U.S. held Afghani prisoners in 2001.

What are the details, who was involved?


The Obama-holes should recall a little phrase from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

"...that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

How does all this Obama Admin. SECRECY jive with the above phrase?



When is a military coup, NOT a military coup?

When the Obama Admin. says so.

Secy of State Kerry: "And the military did not take over,"

Obama-holes believe any crap these professional liars shovel out.


coasterfan and others of his ilk refers to the secrets and the cover-up surrounding the terrorist attack at Benghazi as a: "make-believe scandal."

Shame, shame on CNN & FNC and other "right wing nut media sources" for attempting to help Americans learn the (bleeping) TRUTH about WHAT happened and WHY?

"One source told Tapper (CNN): 'You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation.'"

And shame on websites like Drudge and BI for spreading this "made-believe scandal."

Obviously to the Obama-holes - ignorance is bliss.

Darwin's choice

"Over 1,000 Special Operations personel sign petition"
I can't believe these people have a different view than Coasterfan, Big Dog, and bi-polar 4shizzle. How dare they differ!!!


Google backpacks and pressure cookers and see how fast you get a knock at the door.


Re: "Google backpacks and pressure cookers,"

Yea, Big Brother isn't reading our websearches and email. LMAO!!!

"If people can't trust not only the executive branch but also don't trust Congress and don't trust federal judges to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution, due process and rule of law, then we're going to have some problems here."

- Pres. Obama, June 7, 2013



I did but also was searching powerful fireworks, automatic weapons and did it all with (4shizzle's) IP : )


If coasterfan would actually research Bush's patriot act he would find out a majority of it was to tear down the wall Jamie Gorelick set up to protect further bimbo's claiming sex with Clinton.