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Obama Claims Congress Knew About Prism

President Barack Obama salutes military service members while watching the inaugural parade from the reviewing stand on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, January 2013

“The programs are secret in the sense that they are classified. They are not secret, in that every member of Congress has been briefed… These are programs that have been authored by large bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006… Your duly elected representatives have consistently been informed.” – President Obama

ON FRIDAY, President Obama made a sweeping claim that members of Congress had “consistently been informed” on the NSA secret spying project Prism. It didn’t take long before that was directly challenged.

“I knew about the program because I specifically sought it out,” Merkley said on MSNBC. “It’s not something that’s briefed outside the Intelligence Committee. I had to get special permission to find out about the program. [The Hill]

Same goes for the claim that Prism helped catch Najibullah Zazi, who planned the New York City subway bombing. Marcy Wheeler easily debunked and demolished that canard. That didn’t keep Rep. Mike Rogers from taking to the podium to declare Prism had stopped a, as in one, terrorist attack, referring to Zazi, which Reuters sucked up and spit out.

From other quarters come writers saying the Administration utilizing Prism, both through phone companies and the tech companies, doesn’t really matter, as they dutifully parrot President Obama’s talking points.

Google has responded very precisely to the stories circulating.

First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.

Mark Zuckerberg has as well.

Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. And if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We hadn’t even heard of PRISM before yesterday.

Perhaps the NSA is using its secret spy center that Joyce wrote about yesterday, a story Wired broke in March, to launch Prism.

Perhaps now’s the time, if you haven’t yet, to meet Thomas Drake. Then understand that it’s not a myth, but actual fact, that President Obama has had prosecuted more national security leaks than all previous Administrations combined.

People are throwing around the word metadata like it means nothing. It has a benign enough sounding pronunciation that belies the power of its collection. From Jane Mayer:

“The public doesn’t understand,” she told me, speaking about so-called metadata. “It’s much more intrusive than content.” She explained that the government can learn immense amounts of proprietary information by studying “who you call, and who they call. If you can track that, you know exactly what is happening—you don’t need the content.”

The Obama administration’s dragnet was made legal through the Patriot Act web. Except what the Administration is doing goes well beyond the Patriot Act, because they’ve gone on a domestic fishing expedition and we’re all caught up in their net.

This is one of the subjects that separates me from the Democratic borg. The libertarian streak in my political philosophy rejects the notion that a commander in chief needs to preemptively invade the privacy of the citizenry before any threat’s been assessed, warned is coming, detected or worth tracking. Being Democratic in political leanings, there is a strong role for government to play in the modern era, but when that role bumps up against personal freedoms for the sake of some phantom terrorist plot where there’s no proof, my libertarian passions are awakened. The Administration’s aggressive tactics have done just that.

I’d say what the Obama administration is doing through Prism is un-American, but in the years of Bush and Obama this type of executive overreach has become very American, with the majority of Congress going along like sheep.

President Obama made a sweeping statement on Friday, saying plainly that Congress knew about Prism, which was rebutted openly and swiftly. Someone is lying.

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6 Responses to Obama Claims Congress Knew About Prism

  1. Art Pronin June 8, 2013 at 1:23 am #

    It looks like one story is begatting another in this thing. what else will we learn? This is just begining

  2. Cujo359 June 8, 2013 at 1:27 am #

    “The programs are secret in the sense that they are classified. They are not secret, in that every member of Congress has been briefed… ”

    What patent double-talk! Of course it’s a secret. When something is classified, those members of Congress can’t talk about what they’ve heard with anyone who hasn’t been cleared to know about it. That means that they can’t even talk to their staffs if they weren’t cleared. Did anyone at that announcement ask who had been cleared to hear about this besides the congressmen? I’d bet not. Without being able to discuss a program openly, and without their staffs being able to investigate it, how can they discuss its merits among themselves?

    Anyway, this statement of the President’s is nonsense – utter, complete nonsense. If you’re told about something but can’t discuss it with the people you work with, you can’t make use of the information.

  3. ladywalker68 June 8, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    One thing I have noticed is that activity on Facebook seems to have dropped dramatically the last few days. All I am seeing are posts from the cute little dog and horse photos sites that I follow.

    Gee, I wonder why?

    People got along just fine without social media before and we can do it again. In fact, it might be a good thing. Imagine a world where we actually go visit one another and have a in person conversation. When possible,I much prefer it!

    And I just got my first “smart” phone and decided it is too smart. I think I will only turn it on when I absolutely have too. No sense in beaming my whereabouts 24X7.

  4. PeggySue June 8, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    There were warnings [although not specifics] about this two years ago:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/27/us/27patriot.html

    which were promptly ignored and dismissed by the Administration as well as other members of Congress. But Wyden and Udall said the American public would be stunned if they knew how POTUS and his advisors were interpreting the ‘legal’ boundaries of the Patriot Act. Sort of reminds me of the double talk we got on taking out an American citizen without due process if said citizen is bent on terrorism.

    Civil liberties are so-o-o yesterday.

    Better yet, Obama mentioned “Rule of Law” yesterday in his comments on PRISM. Anyway you can twist it, I guess. Of all the allegations of late–Benghazi, IRS, the AP story–this is the most damaging because it goes to the heart of what the man said he was prepared to reform and what he’s actually signed off on.

    Sorry, pretty words and a call for a national discussion don’t cut it.

    • ladywalker68 June 8, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

      PeggySue-Yes, that “Hopey Changey” thing hasn’t worked out too well.

      Whether or not your presidential candidate of choice wears a D or R on HIS sleeve, at the end of the day, your vote is for a totalitarian Corporatocracy that doesn’t give a crap about climate change or the environment.

  5. fangio June 8, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    I literally cannot stand to look at the man anymore. The word that best describes his attitude would have to be ” smug. ” He is the demented constitutional scholar who apparently knows nothing about the constitution. If you go back over his career it becomes apparent that he knows nothing about a lot of things. I was surprised that he did not say we need a law to prevent this sort of abomination from happening, as he usually does. The truth of what this man truly believes can be found in the plans for the asia / pacific free trade agreement. Once again the crusader for transparency is conducting a process in complete secrecy, even from congress, with the ultimate aim being fast track authority. This agreement would give corporate america and wall street everything they ever wanted by giving them the ability to ignore country by country environmental and financial regulations. It is ironic that people like John Roberts and Samuel Alito, true believers in the imperial presidency, would find the symbol of all they have worked for in a Democratic president. The man is simply appalling.

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