Monday, January 20, 2014

The big picture on surveillance

There was one moment in President Obama's speech on surveillance that stood out to me.
...after an extended review of our use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks, I believed a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our effort to get off the open-ended war footing that we’ve maintained since 9/11.
In other words, his overriding goal in all this is "to get off the open-ended war footing that we've maintained since 9/11." Just as with this administration's position on the use of drones, what too many of the people who are concerned with civil liberties often miss is the impact our "open-ended war footing" has on these policies - both psychologically on the American public as well as legally.

The President devoted much of his speech last May on counterterrorism to a discussion of how we might come to view these policies once we are prepared to end this indefinite war.
Now, make no mistake, our nation is still threatened by terrorists. From Benghazi to Boston, we have been tragically reminded of that truth. But we have to recognize that the threat has shifted and evolved from the one that came to our shores on 9/11. With a decade of experience now to draw from, this is the moment to ask ourselves hard questions -- about the nature of today’s threats and how we should confront them.
Those are the questions he is asking us to grapple with now.  In this fascinating article by David Remnick, President Obama talks about his openness to that conversation.
And those who have questioned our drone policy are doing exactly what should be done in a democracy—asking some tough questions. The only time I get frustrated is when folks act like it’s not complicated and there aren’t some real tough decisions, and are sanctimonious, as if somehow these aren’t complicated questions.
What remains to be seen is whether or not we're prepared to have an adult conversation to tackle those tough questions.


  1. That was a long one. For a moment I forgot how I got there. I put, "The only time I get frustrated is when folks act like it’s not complicated and there aren’t some real tough decisions, and are sanctimonious, as if somehow these aren’t complicated questions. " on my clipboard because it resonated with me, too.

    I wouldn't trust anyone who doesn't understand the complexity and the value of multiple perspectives and legitimates concerns by both or all parties--- to run a taco stand. It should be self-evident that monumental tasks are not as simple in real life as they are in the head of someone working with sketches, strong personal biases, a tendency to choose closure and certitude over understanding, and a lack of understanding of Presidential powers and what being a representative of the whole country means.

    So many people who have no clue about what executive power is and how to wield it think themselves to be great strategists and tacticians (ever clueless about logistics) to a degree that is delusional. I hope that historians will give Obama his due, and that the country doesn't learn to appreciate him more through a following administration as bad or worse than the Bush administration.

  2. I enjoy how you keep finding things on this topic. It is important and grossly overlooked by the media. Thanks for sticking with it.

  3. Hi SP,
    Hope things are getting better! Thanks for this post. That part struck me too as in...WOW! David Remnick's awesome 18 page article is masterful journalism. I just liked the whole thing. I felt like I was in the room listening to PBO's brilliance. His truth and authenticity are mind-blowing. It is easy to see why Michelle loves him so much. How special and bless we are to have him as our President.


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