President Obama's Friday speech outlining changes to National Security Agency surveillance programs was a convoluted mess. The dead giveaway that Obama meant none of what he said about protecting the privacy of American citizens came in the repeated philosophical contradictions he so blithely espoused. Those and the dishonest allusion to Paul Revere.
Obama's deceptions began with the opening paragraph, where he asserted that Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty were the Revolutionary era's version of the NSA. As he framed it, "a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of the 'The Sons of Liberty'" was our first American spy operation, and from that we changed with the times until we wound up with the NSA collecting millions of phone and Internet records.
But Revere's Boston committee was a citizens committee kept secret from government spies so they could keep tabs on their own oppressive government. Obama presented them as the exact opposite of what they were.
He went on to say that we can trust the government not to abuse our data because the people who have access to it are our friends and neighbors, regular Americans just like us. He then criticized Edward Snowden, one of the people he just said we could trust with keeping our secrets. He then said that trusting those people was no solid safeguard, which is why we need strict laws to oversee intelligence operations. Contradictions all around.
Some changes he announced on Friday, such as limiting government access of the phone call database to either an emergency or a court-ordered search, are welcome. But in sum his changes provide little protection against possible abuse.