Someone has to explain to me why I should believe anything I hear out of this White House. Really, I want to. I write things they say, and I’d prefer what I write to be the truth.
When my children were babies, the doctors warned us of the phenomenon known as projectile vomiting. If the kid was really sick, chunks of puke might suddenly emerge from its mouth like rapid fire from a Kalashnikov.
I’m reminded today of projectile vomiting as I behold statements from White House.
We’re all aware of the serial lying that occurred to sell Obamacare to the public. But strangely – or not so strangely – the press has done little to note and ask questions about the unfortunate contrast between President Obama’s suggestion that telephone data collection had prevented many terrorist attacks and his own review panel’s conclusion that it didn’t.
“We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted,” Obama said in June with respect to the NSA’s Internet and telephone record surveillance. “Lives have been saved.”
The report stated otherwise, and it indicated that even the NSA doesn’t make such a claim:
NSA believes that on at least a few occasions, information derived from the section 215 bulk telephony meta-data program has contributed to its efforts to prevent possible terrorist attacks, either in the United States or somewhere else in the world.
Our review suggests that the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215 telephony metadata was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional section 215 orders.
Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor who was on the panel, told NBC news in an interview that the group found no instances of the telephone data collection preventing an attack. “We found none,” he said.
Tellingly, and damningly, the White House is stonewalling.
Jonathan Karl asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney last week whether Obama stands by his statement. Notice how hard he had to squeeze to get it out of him.
Q Jay, coming back to this NSA program, the President in June said, talking about the metadata collection program, “We’ve saved lives. We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information, so lives have been saved.” So the question is, does the President still believe that?
MR. CARNEY: The President does still believe and knows that this program is an important piece of the overall efforts that we engage in to combat threats against the lives of American citizens and threats to our overall national security, as well as threats to the lives and security of allies and allied nations, as I mentioned earlier.
I’m not going to parse or respond to every sentence of I believe a 300-plus page report that the review group produced, except to say that with the exception of the one recommendation that’s already been acted on in a separate process, all 45 in the President’s view and our view merit serious consideration. And the President looks forward to spending time reviewing that report and working with the other elements involved in the overall internal review to reach conclusions about what reforms we can put in place, what changes we can make. And he’ll have more to say about that in January once he’s made those decisions.
Q But, Jay, I didn’t ask you about the report. I’m asking you specifically about what the President said in June when he said that this data collection program has averted —
MR. CARNEY: And I’m saying that, yes, the President believes that this program is part of a broader effort —
Q He wasn’t talking about part of a broader. He said, information —
MR. CARNEY: But it is part of a broader, obviously. This is one of the many efforts that we engage in to —
Q But I’m asking if he is standing by what he said —
MR. CARNEY: Yes, he is.
Here’s the video.
And then Friday, Obama himself dodged the question which, though unfortunately not asked very directly, was clearly an attempt to get him to justify his June statement.
Question: As you review how to rein in the National Security Agency, a federal judge said that, for example, the government had failed to cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata actually stopped an imminent attack. Are you able to identify any specific examples when it did so? Are you convinced that the collection of that data is useful to national security and should continue as it is?
Obama: Let me talk more broadly, and then I’ll talk specifically about the program you’re referring to.
The president, in his response, didn’t cite any specific examples, or even suggest that they exist.