On August 9 President Obama announced reforms to the US intelligence gathering system, apparently in an effort to reassure an increasingly skeptical public. As I sat rolling my eyes at changes we’ll have no way of verifying, he said, “America is not interested in spying on ordinary people.” My thoughts at the time were something along the lines of Either he’s a fool or he thinks we are.
Then came the new revelations this week that the NSA has indeed overstepped its bounds thousands of times since 2008. Among the violations reported by AP and ABC News:
Most of the infractions revealed late Thursday involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by law and executive order, according to the May 3, 2012 audit, and other top-secret documents.
The May audit counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications. Most were reported to be unintended, and many involved failures to take sufficient care or violations of standard operating procedure. They ranged from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interceptions of U.S. emails and telephone calls.
The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.
First Congress denies knowing anything about the intelligence program it authorized and is supposed to oversee. Then, assuming he wasn’t deliberately lying, the president demonstrates an obvious lack of knowledge by assuring us our rights are not being violated by an agency where the joke is, in effect, “If we told you what we do, we’d have to kill you.”
Trust in government? I don’t think so.