Here are some examples of deceptive speech from one of former President Obama’s Press Conferences, interspersed with my own critical commentary. Hopefully, my refuting statements will seem clarifying and you’ll be less likely to be swayed by this type of misleading speech in the future. I wrote it just days after the event in 2013, but never published it before, so in it I address Obama as the current president, since he was still in office at the time. The point of the article is not primarily to vilify Obama, but to clarify the structure of deceptive speech in general.
The following quotes from President Barack Obama were taken from his Press Conference on NSA Surveillance on August 9, 2013.
Obama: I am focused on my number one responsibility as Commander-In-Chief, and that’s keeping the American people safe.
Me: Many would argue that the most basic responsibility of the President of the United States is to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. What does he mean by the word ‘safe’? And at what cost to liberty will this so-called safety be won? When Obama and every other President took their oath of office, they solemnly swore that “I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
And in a chat room conversation I stumbled upon, someone (I could not tell what his or her name was) posted the following:
“Just this morning I read a CNN opinion piece by Republican senator Sam Brownback arguing against closing Guantanamo. In the first sentence he says ‘The most important responsibility for any president is the safety and security of the American people.’ He uses this flawed premise throughout and is seemingly willing to justify any act as long as it keeps Americans safe. Why is this man allowed through the doors of Congress? I, like many Americans, am willing to give up my life in defense of American ideals and freedoms. I would rather die in a terrorist attack than see the Constitution and the American ideals embodied within it weakened or destroyed in the name of protecting me.”
This emphasis on the safety and security of the American people may sound reasonable, but until we know exactly what this phrase represents to the President, until we know what values and intentions are driving his efforts to supposedly protect us, until we know specifically what ultimate forms of safety and security he envisions, and exactly what he considers the gravest threats we need protection from, we can’t really tell whether we should welcome it or oppose it.
The President then heads in the right direction by claiming that:
Obama: “We have to strike the right balance between protecting our security and preserving our freedoms.” [And a few sentences later,] “I called for a review of our surveillance programs. Unfortunately, rather than an orderly and lawful process to debate these issues and come up with appropriate reforms, repeated leaks of classified information have initiated the debate in a very passionate but not always fully-informed way”.
Me: Ha! Calling for a review is hardly a courageous or reassuring act, and judging from the fact that Obama was not embarrassed by the facts these leaks exposed, it seems highly likely that a mere ‘bad review’, hidden from public scrutiny, would have had even less influence on his behavior and policies…
The leaks showed that our surveillance programs were not lawful and orderly to begin with, but were grossly unconstitutional! This makes them not only illegal, but technically treasonous-a deep betrayal of our fundamental premises as a constitutional republic of laws that are supposed to apply as much to the lawgivers as to the law receivers. This has nothing to do with passion. It has to do with gross violations of his oath of office.
Besides, if these leaks are accurate or factual, then how can these leaks possibly prevent an orderly and lawful process to debate them? Simply start with the information gathered in the leaks and go from there. If what you really want is a lawful and orderly debate, nothing about these leaks can prevent it. In fact, these leaks can help assure the public that the debates are addressing the more important points and abuses we have found to exist in secret. If your interest is truly the safety and security of the general population, you would presumably welcome these leaks and thank Snowden for doing his very difficult duty as a responsible American citizen defending the Constitution. Instead, you persecute him. This is very compelling evidence that your interest in public safety, along with protecting our legal rights, is not among your top priorities-in actual fact.
Further, there is, in reality, no such thing as a ‘fully-informed way’. We can never, any of us, become ‘fully-informed’ about anything, particularly a large and complex project. We inevitably have to act with incomplete and partial knowledge and so does the President.
He then goes on to assure us how much he has done to make sure everything is going beautifully well and sufficient safeguards are in place, all the while ignoring the fact that his administration has been found to be in direct, gross violation of basic legal, constitutional guarantees.
He then stresses the importance of American democracy and American openness. In reality, we are NOT a democracy (majority rule), but a constitutional republic (governed by laws that are supposed to apply to all the people regardless of their ‘social class’ or ‘political position’). Far more important to our national health than ‘openness’ is our vigilance in defending and protecting our constitutional rights and freedoms, regardless of what any or all other countries in the world are committed to or wanting from us.
He suggests what defines us is open debate and democratic process. Open debate? Where have any of the changes his administration initiated that have reduced our constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms been subjected to open debate? And again, our process is supposed to depend on constitutional law, not ‘democratic process’. What does that really mean, anyway? Decided by the majority of the people sitting in his closed office?
Then he makes many additional assurances before listing the following four specific steps he is going to be taking shortly to “move the debate forward”. Again. What debate? The one in his mind? The one behind closed doors? He is assuring us he is making everything all right again, even though he has admitted neither wrongdoing nor any breach of constitutional law. The first of the four steps is:
Obama: “I will work with Congress to pursue appropriate reforms to section 215 of the Patriot Act, the program that collects telephone records.”
Me: Aha! So he is referring his authority to illegally collect telephone records to a section of the Patriot Act, which is itself an unconstitutional travesty and a betrayal of the U.S. Constitution. And he’s going to patch it up? Why? To make his crimes look less blatant? How will pursuing “appropriate reforms” in an unconstitutional document help assure the rights and privacies of the American people or affect existing unconstitutional practices we’ve just learned he’s committed? He goes on to say:
Obama: “This program is an important tool in our effort to disrupt terrorist plots, and it does not allow the government to listen to any phone calls without a warrant.”
Me: So, this ‘program’ does not allow the government to listen to our calls without a warrant. The implication here is that the government is only allowed to record our telephone conversations without listening to them. That’s blatantly unconstitutional surveillance that imparts more potentially-oppressive power to the government than the government was ever intended by the Constitution to possess in the first place.
Obama: “I believe that there are steps we can take to give the American people additional confidence that there are additional safeguards against abuse. For instance, we can take steps to put in place greater oversight, greater transparency, and constraints on the use of this authority.”
Me: Recording our telephone conversations is a gross waste of the taxpayers’ money to help unconstitutionally ‘allowed’ illegal surveillance operations and now we’re supposed to trust this hugely dangerous power won’t be abused because they promise they won’t abuse it? They’ve already trashed the Constitution! The only thing that should give the people confidence is the dismantling and elimination of such expensive and treasonous powers that should never have existed in the first place.
By oversight, the administration typically means they will oversee themselves and let us know if they spot any problems they can tell us about without threatening the national security. They, of course, will decide which items fall into this neat little category. The President obviously doesn’t even know how to speak transparently let alone behave and run his administration transparently. What evidence can he point to that could possibly warrant our confidence in his ability and desire to be transparent, open and honest with the American people who pay his salary? And constraints are supposed to make us feel confident? His administration has a consistent history of overturning any constraints that get in their way, including the U. S. Constitution itself by renewing the Patriot Act-a profoundly criminal, anti-American, anti-freedom, and blatantly treasonous act in and of itself.
Obama: “Second, I’ll work with Congress to improve the public’s confidence in the oversight conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Corps. known as the FISC. The FISC was created by Congress to provide judicial review of certain intelligence activities so that a federal judge must find that our actions are consistent with the Constitution.
Me: We have already repeatedly seen that federal judges can no longer be counted on to uphold the Constitution because the Patriot Act has rendered the Constitution effectively null and void on crucial matters where human rights and freedoms are concerned. Elite ‘influence’ can now apparently turn federal judges in any direction they want, and some judges have explicitly stated that many Constitutional rights no longer apply. Attorneys have apparently been threatened with disbarment for so much as bringing up in the courtroom, the issue that the Patriot Act is not constitutional. And naturally, because of the open and transparent government the President assures us we have, you already know all about the FISC, right?
Obama: “However, to build greater confidence I think we should consider some additional changes to the FISC. One of the concerns that people raise is that a judge reviewing a request from the government to conduct programmatic surveillance only hears one side of the story. May tilt it too far in favor of security. May not pay enough attention to liberty. And while I’ve got confidence in the court, and I think they’ve done a fine job. I think we can provide greater assurances that the court is looking at these issues from both perspectives-security and privacy. So specifically, we can take steps to make sure civil liberties concerns have an independent voice, in appropriate cases, by insuring that the government’s position is challenged by an adversary.”
Me: What? Is he making up a new form of government as he goes along? As it occurs to him? It’s among the government’s direct and solemnly sworn official and primary duties to protect our civil liberties! Why do we need a challenging adversary and who the hell is it? Is this challenger elected by the people or appointed by the government? What are his, her or their values? Whose interests do they fundamentally represent? Who is paying them? How much are they being paid?
And dare I ask who gets to decide which cases are ‘appropriate’? Doesn’t this put all the power to choose if and when to use this undefined ‘adversarial power’ squarely in the hands of the government it’s supposedly put in place to counterbalance? This is quite obviously no protection from government control and dictatorial discretion whatsoever. His promises of increased government oversight amount to the assertion that hey, we are going to watch ourselves much more closely as we do whatever we want to. Who feels a whole lot more confident now? Can I see a show of hands?
Have you ever even heard of the FISC, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Corps? Do you remember the openly transparent debates about it? We are supposed to be governed by Constitutional law, so why are we creating strange new ad hoc international governing bodies? And why has no one I’ve asked about FISC ever heard of it if our government is operating so openly and transparently as he keeps telling us it is?
And why this obsession with confidence building? Obama is not actually saying he will do anything substantive to assure our constitutional rights. He is only claiming he will build our confidence that he is doing something we want. This is functionally equivalent to saying I will do my utmost to create the impression, to make it appear as if, to persuade the public, to create a credible façade that appeals to as many people as possible, that I am acting in good faith. We’re apparently supposed to put all the power into his hands, wait for him to tell us how confident we should be in him, close our eyes, and hope for the best.
Obama: Number three. We can and must be more transparent.
Me: Well, there’s a point we can agree upon… Hard to argue with him on this one… We have nearly overwhelming evidence, however, that it was never his intention to be more transparent. His administration seems to be the most secretive one the U.S. has ever had, in spite of numerous campaign promises to the extreme contrary.
Obama: So I’ve directed the intelligence community to make public as much information about these programs as possible. We’ve already declassified unprecedented information about the NSA, but we can go further. So at my direction, the Department of Justice will make public, the legal rationale for the government’s collection activities under section 215 of the Patriot Act. The NSA is taking steps to put in place a full-time civil liberties and privacy officer, and released information that details its mission, authorities and oversight. And finally, the intelligence community is creating a website that will serve as a hub for further transparency. And this will give Americans, and the world, the ability to learn more about what our intelligence community does, and what it doesn’t do, how it carries out its mission and why it does so.
Me: So now he’s happily building a propaganda dissemination center on the Internet where he can publish any information he wants without argument or fact checking from anyone… He’s going to have the Department of Justice “make public the legal rationale” for his administration’s unconstitutional surveillance practices. This is not an ethical or moral rationale, not a humane or constitutional rationale, but a technically legal one. And a legal rationale at that, based on constitutionally illegal assertions under section 215 of a legally invalid document.
Who gets to decide what information ‘it is possible’ to make public? According to his words, they’ve already declassified unprecedented information about the NSA. Not unprecedented amounts of information about the NSA, just unprecedented information. Besides indicating that this information had not been released before, the use of the term unprecedented sounds dramatic without divulging anything substantive. What in the hell is ‘unprecedented information’? If it is simply information we never had before, then that would be true of any new information.
The NSA has been found to have been conducting grossly unconstitutional activities and, rather than apologizing for these treasonous crimes, rather than expressing remorse and regret, he is now going to use a strictly unconstitutional document called the Patriot Act, to justify his actions and convince the public that the NSA is acting legally because this clearly illegal document says so.
And here he has divulged a bit more about how he is going to protect our privacy. One, count ’em, one single “full-time civil liberties and privacy officer”. He forgot to mention what powers this single individual has, if any, but that’s irrelevant. He’s primarily trying to make us feel more confident we’ve got our asses covered. I could feel more confident if we didn’t need to be assured there’s a single person in there defending our interests from the rest. What happens on days when this person is out sick? Do they stop conducting business or get as much done as quickly as possible while this person is out of the building? Do they table certain issues until the next time this person will not be at work, or until he or she returns?
We would be better served by some evidence that the entire government is assuring our interests and protecting our rights and privacies. I suppose at this point, Mr. Obama is fairly confident we simply wouldn’t believe that if he told it to us. Especially after denying the NSA has even done anything wrong, and also coming down on top of Snowden for courageously revealing the ugly truth of their crimes, like a house of bricks.
Obama: Fourth, we’re forming a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies. We need new thinking for a new era. We now have to unravel terrorist plots by finding a needle in a haystack of global telecommunications. And meanwhile, technology has given governments, including our own, unprecedented capability to monitor communications. So I’m tasking this independent group to step back and review our capabilities, particularly our surveillance technologies. And they’ll consider how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure there is absolutely no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used, ask how surveillance impacts our foreign policy, particularly in an age where more and more information is becoming public. And they will provide an interim report in 60 days and a final report by the end of this year so that we can move forward with a better understanding of how these programs impact our security, our privacy, and our foreign policy.
So all these steps are designed to insure that the American people can trust that our efforts are in line with our interests and our values. And to others around the world, I want to make clear, once again, that America is not interested on spying on ordinary people. Our intelligence is focused above all on finding the information that’s necessary to protect our people and in many cases protect our allies.
It’s true, we have significant capabilities. What’s also true is we show a restraint that many governments around the world don’t even think to do-refuse to show. That includes, by the way, some of America’s most vocal critics. We shouldn’t forget the difference between the ability of our government to collect information online under strict guidelines and for narrow purposes, and the willingness of some other governments to throw their own citizens in prison for what they say online.
Me: Well now, this terrorist plot business is indeed a hornet’s nest of deception and lies so deep and thick as to be impenetrable in a short rebuttal. If you believe the threat of terrorists is worth giving up our constitutional freedoms for… this is more than I can contradict quickly in such a short space as I have available here. There is substantial evidence on the Internet, however, for those with the determination to more fully understand the facts, that this war against terror is a sham devised to conceal the deeper war against the freedoms and independence and self-sovereignty of the American people. There are so many issues that need to be brought to bear to make this case convincingly, that you’d likely consider me a nutcase if I simply dismissed the issue out of hand with some basic yet radical facts. Instead, I’ll push on and let it go for now.
Another group of outside experts. He continues to appoint new experts and create new groups to expand and enlarge the government at his whim… Apparently, the inside experts can’t be trusted. This is supposed to inspire our confidence in his administration? We’re supposed to believe the outside experts aren’t as carefully vetted for ‘compatible values’ as the inside experts have been?
It’s an independent group you say-independent from you Mr. President? Independent of the U.S. Government? Independent of the U.S. Constitution? Independent of those paying their salaries?
You already violated or betrayed many of the major promises you made to get into office, and renewing the Patriot Act, after boldly admitting that it needed to be repealed and promising you would repeal it, is unforgivable regardless of other pressures. It is high treason and you and your predecessor Bush should be jailed for committing the crime as well as every elected representative who voted to approve it. It has effectively ended the reign of the U.S. Constitution in the United States of America.
So, whose interests and whose values are you speaking about? This government has already clearly demonstrated it is not interested in supporting our Constitutional rights and freedoms. Your values, Mr. President, generally scare the hell out of me.
The notion that the United States government has shown restraint is completely ludicrous and will convince only those ignorant of the facts or those who ignore non-mainstream media. We are viewed as thugs, bandits and bullies around the world because of our gross lack of restraint, civility and fair play. The history of our foreign policy alone demonstrates our government is not to be trusted and our domestic policies are becoming increasingly harsh and severe as well.
Even at home-restraint? You can look at our economic, military and political history and see restraint? Where? The U.S. Government is clearly controlled by a mega-wealthy handful of owners having almost no respect for the law, for the welfare of the general population, or for due process. More and more people in every walk of life are realizing that the U.S. has become a police state and is growing more militantly abusive and despotic every year.
Restraint? The country is technically financially bankrupt because political and corporate thugs along with selected banking cartels have robbed the people blind in broad daylight. You mean the restraint of a drunken adolescent on an unbridled joyride? U. S. presidents, intelligence agencies and politicians? Have you never read a newspaper? Give me a break, Mr. President! This is simply ridiculous. The out-of-control budget deficit alone renders this claim an obvious con.
And then you’re going to “make sure there is absolutely no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used”? How are you going to turn self-interested, ambitious and commonly corrupt politicians into saints? Are you planning on telling them to behave? The notion that there could possibly be ‘absolutely no abuse’ of these extreme powers is an absurd one. Power corrupts and that is why these types of power should not be created, because once they exist, they will most certainly be abused and you know it. If not for their seductive potential for abuse, these costly powers and capabilities would never be produced.
Obama: Let me close with one additional thought. The men and women of our intelligence community work every single day to keep us safe because they love this country and believe in our values. They’re patriots. And I believe that those who have lawfully raised their voices on behalf of privacy and civil liberties are also patriots who love our country, and want it to live up to our highest ideals.
So this is how we are going to resolve our differences in the United States, through vigorous public debate, guided by our constitution, with reverence for our history as a nation of laws, and with respect for the facts.
Me: Snowden and many other whistleblowers are patriots judging by your words here, and you have consistently shown them persecution and abuse rather than anything resembling respect for their patriotism. I hear you talking about vigorous public debate but I do not see any. Answering pre-written questions from a list of pre-approved question-askers can hardly be considered a debate, let alone vigorous. According to the U.S. Constitution, Mr. Snowden acted lawfully and courageously on behalf of privacy, civil liberties and the public good, and you have yet to acknowledge your guilt in the illegal activities he raised to public awareness at great personal risk and injury from you and your brutally repressive actions against him and others like him. You have already set the country’s all-time presidential record for greatest number of arrests of whistleblowers in the history of the nation. This has been documented in many places. You have repeatedly demonstrated that you use laws as weapons to oppress and control the U. S. citizenry rather than as safeguards to protect them.
Let me close with one additional thought myself, Mr. President. You are not to be believed. This much you have demonstrated in a very transparent fashion.[ad_2]