Sunday, October 20, 2013

Are we loosening up a little?

Pretty interesting and startling—our ambassador to UK, Matthew Barzun, was asked by the BBC to criticize The Guardian for publishing the Snowden leaks but didn't take the bait :
he said he wanted to focus on the "importance of having this debate about what the trade-offs are between security and privacy, between transparency and secrecy, and to do so in a way that protects whistleblowers – which is different, by the way, from wholesale releasing of information, hundreds of thousands of documents". [jump]

Barzun said Obama had "promised to seek to balance the legitimate security concerns of not only our citizens but of our allies, and balance those with the privacy concerns shared by all people". He said the president "put in specific measures to protect whistleblowers if they see something illegal or unethical. That's an important part of the balance".
The best analyst on the emo side, Emptywheel (no snark; where she regularly fails, I think, is in synthesis, in  bringing her evidence into a coherent story, but anybody who wants to learn about these matters without paying attention to her is making a big mistake), sees this as possible further evidence of a pattern in which the President is for some reason unwilling to defend the big NSA programs against the little whistleblowers:
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe Obama welcomes any real debate. The conduct [of] James Clapper’s Committee to Make Us Love the Dragnet makes that all too clear. Rather, I suspect Obama believes he can win the debate, and convince us all that we need an even bigger dragnet. (Which might explain the inclusion of Cass Sunstein on the Committee to Make Us Love the Dragnet.)
I suspect Obama, having been convinced by partial briefings the dragnet is great for America, also believes he can persuade the rest of us (who aren’t stuck in his partial briefing bubble) to love it too.
She seems to have wandered here into "if the tsar only knew" territory where it is conjectured that Obama is being kept in the dark (I'm not mocking her for that—been there myself,  especially on the subject of education, but now and again national security as well). Amazingly, emptywheel does not appear to have responded yet to Jeh Johnson's nomination as Homeland Security secretary (which I noted here).

My own view is that these things (plus the avoidance of a Syria war and the wonderful news about Iran) are signs of Obama gradually, with agonizing slowness, starting to gain some control over the national security establishment and the narrative. Sunstein is a sop, not to us hippies (are you kidding? I wouldn't buy an ice cream cone from Sunstein, let alone a theory about the surveillance of American citizens) but to the neocons, to whom he is the representative case of a Good Liberal. And the NSA's collection of metadata, sorry folks, is still not a threat to our freeeeedumz but rather a necessary corrective (though one that may be working as badly as the health insurance Marketplace) to the pervasive abuse of racial, religious, and ideological profiling in the prosecution of our unhappy Semi-War Against Bad Stuff.
From the Creative Whack-Pack of Roger von Oech.
You could extend this line of thought to the Morgan Chase story, the $13 billion civil penalty for trading in "sack of shit" mortgages and ongoing criminal case. It's not just the national security establishment that Obama seems to be finally taking control of after five years, it's the whole executive branch. And none too soon.

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