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Why Obama's speech on NSA reforms is a bag of chips full of air

Saturday, 25 January 2014 - 10:11am IST Updated: Monday, 27 January 2014 - 1:13pm IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna Shadow Editorial Board

A couple of days ago Obama gave a long speech about the so-called reforms he was going to bring to NSA. When I went through the transcript of his speech it reminded me of a packet of chips that's practically full of air. 

Ever since the Edward Snowden leaks it seems like the NSA has been organising some sort of a PR campaign. Sadly, they are using the 9/11 attacks as a strategy to justify anything in the name of National Security. This can be seen in the 29-page document, obtained by Al Jazeera writer Jason Leopold via the Freedom of Information Act where it is used an escape mechanism from the government's accountability to the people.

The NSA has been constantly at work to sabotage the encryption and security technology. This is the big factor which is making people lose collective trust in the US government. Even though his review group recommended to stop these practices. Obama was silent on the issue.

Obama’s review group recommended that the telephone metadata surveillance program should be abolished, suggesting that a third party or even telecommunication companies themselves be responsible for maintaining a searchable list of our calling records. This approach mandates companies to act as the government's assistants and does not do anything for the serious privacy concerns with maintaining a digital record of every call we make.

Obama managed to twist facts to link patriotism to spying when he used the example of the famous patriot of the American Revolution who warned that the British were coming. He said, “At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of "The Sons of Liberty" was established in Boston. The group's members included Paul Revere, and at night they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America's early Patriots."

The fact still remains that Paul Revere was not covertly spying on his own people. He did not spy on the communications of innocent people without any real cause. To portray him in such a regard is just wrong. Senator Rand Paul was vocal about this when he shared his opinion with CNN on the subject.

 

Obama states, “Nothing in that initial review, and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.”

When Julain Assange said, “We heard a lot of lies in this speech by Obama,” he wasn't kidding or maybe he just did not consider what everybody else thought was clear abuse.

Obama even compared USA to China and Russia when he said, “No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs, or Russia to take the privacy concerns of citizens into account.”

I find it absolutely astonishing how a head of state could say something like this, especially a head of state whose countrymen have fought wars for democracy. 

To virtually no one’s surprise, the president’s “reforms” will not stop NSA’s mass spying domestically or internationally. The common foreign national is still subject to surveillance as the NSA's official standpoint is not to give any legal protections to foreign nationals under surveillance laws. Since our phones are made by companies in the US and our data is stored with companies in Silicon Valley. This is still a big worry for me in India and all my friends outside the United States especially because this is not in accordance with international human rights law. The only real solution at this point is to take your privacy in your own hands and not hand it out.

The writer is a member of dna's shadow editorial board. The views expressed here are strictly of the author and dnaindia.com doesn't  necessarily concur with them.


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