When an American President announces a speech on his intelligence agencies, eyes and ears tune in.
That’s especially since the (Edward) Snowden revelations, of NSA (National Security Agency) dishes receiving billions –billions! – of bits of information from Americans, foreigners – everybody.
But that President, smart, smooth as Chinese silk, handsome, took the mike to try to calm the storm, by giving privacy activists and security agencies something to take home.
Twitches here, tweaks there, and statements designed more to ease national anxieties than to actually shut down the surveillance state.
When President Barack H. Obama said that the NSA doesn’t tap phones except when serious national security threats are at stake, he, frankly, sounded more like his predecessor, George W. Bush, than he surely intended.
For, try as I might, I could not resist the recollection of Bush standing at the lectern, the presidential seal reflected in dozens of camera lenses, saying, “The United States does not torture.”
For was German Chancellor Angela Markel a national security threat? Was any other leader?
And by declaring no more tapping of phones of leaders, does this now mean second-tier leaders will be surveilled even more aggressively?
It would seem so.
The business of intelligence is – intelligence!
The business of spies is – spying!
As long as such agencies exist, that’s what they’ll do.
That’s the real bottom line.
And no President will dare to challenge such a powerful tool in his arsenal. Indeed, he (or she) would welcome it!
Think of every US President since Harry Truman (president when the CIA was established in 1947). Can you name one who didn’t use the Agency against his opponents, or refused intelligence data?
There are none to name.
It matters little that then-Senator Obama was critical of US intelligence when running for office, for once in, the game changed.
It was his.
Truman, once out of office, said he never wanted a cloak and dagger outfit: but, out of office is out of power.
And John F. Kennedy, embarrassed by the Bay of Pigs fiasco and failure in Cuba, reportedly told friends he wanted to “break” CIA into “a thousand pieces.”
He never lived long enough to do so.
Obama, like every president before him, has fallen before the golden dream of intelligence; a dream that always promises far more that it can ever deliver.