Obama’s NSA ‘reforms’ are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public
Obama is draping the banner of change over the NSA status quo. Bulk surveillance that caused such outrage will remain in place
The Guardian, Friday 17 January 2014 14.23 EST
Barack Obama speaks about the National Security Agency on 17 January 2014 from the Justice Department in Washington. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
In response to political scandal and public outrage, official Washington repeatedly uses the same well-worn tactic. It is the one that has been hauled out over decades in response to many of America’s most significant political scandals. Predictably, it is the same one that shaped President Obama’s much-heralded Friday speech to announce his proposals for “reforming” the National Security Agency in the wake of seven months of intense worldwide controversy.
The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are “serious questions that have been raised”. They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic “reforms” so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.