That, in general, has long been Obama’s primary role in our political system and his premiere, defining value to the permanent power factions that run Washington. He prettifies the ugly; he drapes the banner of change over systematic status quo perpetuation; he makes Americans feel better about policies they find repellent without the need to change any of them in meaningful ways. He’s not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it.
As is always the case, those who want genuine changes should not look to politicians, and certainly not to Barack Obama, to wait for it to be gifted. Obama was forced to give this speech by rising public pressure, increasingly scared US tech giants, and surprisingly strong resistance from the international community to the out-of-control American surveillance state.
Related: Newly released Snowden leaks revealed the NSA collects nearly 200 million text messages worldwide every day.
If the UK and US governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report aggressively on what these documents reveal, they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further. Beyond that, every time the US and UK governments show their true character to the world - when they prevent the Bolivian President’s plane from flying safely home, when they threaten journalists with prosecution, when they engage in behavior like what they did today - all they do is helpfully underscore why it’s so dangerous to allow them to exercise vast, unchecked spying power in the dark.
June 29, 2013
The US army has admitted to blocking access to parts of the Guardianwebsite for thousands of defence personnel across the country.
A spokesman said the military was filtering out reports and content relating to government surveillance programs to preserve “network hygiene” and prevent any classified material appearing on unclassified parts of its computer systems.
The confirmation follows reports in the Monterey Herald that staff at the Presidio military base south of San Francisco had complained of not being able to access the Guardian’s UK site at all, and had only partial access to the US site, following publication of leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The Pentagon insisted the Department of Defense was not seeking to block the whole website, merely taking steps to restrict access to certain content.
But a spokesman for the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command (Netcom) in Arizona confirmed that this was a widespread policy, likely to be affecting hundreds of defence facilities.
"In response to your question about access to the guardian.co.uk website, the army is filtering some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks,” said Gordon Van Vleet, a Netcom public affairs officer.
"The Department of Defense routinely takes preventative ‘network hygiene’ measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information onto DoD unclassified networks."
The army stressed its actions were automatic and would not affect computers outside military facilities.
"The department does not determine what sites its personnel can choose to visit while on a DoD system, but instead relies on automated filters that restrict access based on content concerns or malware threats," said Van Vleet. "The DoD is also not going to block websites from the American public in general, and to do so would violate our highest-held principle of upholding and defending the constitution and respecting civil liberties and privacy."
Similar measures were taken by the army after the Guardian and other newspapers published leaked State Department cables obtained via WikiLeaks.
"We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security, however there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information," added the Netcom spokesman.
"Until declassified by appropriate officials, classified information – including material released through an unauthorized disclosure – must be treated accordingly by DoD personnel. If a public website displays classified information, then filtering may be used to preserve ‘network hygiene’ for DoD unclassified networks."
A Defense Department spokesman at the Pentagon added: “The Guardian website is NOT being blocked by DoD. The Department of Defense routinely takes preventative measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information onto DoD unclassified networks.”
"Apparently the people in the Army are old enough & mature enough to risk their lives to fight in wars but not mature enough to read news articles that the rest of the world is reading." - Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, saying blocked access to the Guardian website is a “prestigious award” and that he is “humbled & honored to have received this award.”
What Obama has specialized in from the beginning of his presidency is putting pretty packaging on ugly and discredited policies. The cosmopolitan, intellectualized flavor of his advocacy makes coastal elites and blue state progressives instinctively confident in the Goodness of whatever he’s selling, much as George W. Bush’s swaggering, evangelical cowboy routine did for red state conservatives. The CIA presciently recognized this as a valuable asset back in 2008 when they correctly predicted that Obama’s election would stem the tide of growing antiwar sentiment in western Europe by becoming the new, more attractive face of war, thereby converting hordes of his admirers from war opponents into war supporters. This dynamic has repeated itself over and over in other contexts, and has indeed been of great value to the guardians of the status quo in placating growing public discontent about their economic insecurity and increasingly unequal distribution of power and wealth. However bad things might be, we at least have a benevolent, kind-hearted and very thoughtful leader doing everything he can to fix it.
If you continually bomb another country and kill their civilians, not only the people of that country but the part of the world that identifies with it will increasingly despise the country doing it.
That’s the ultimate irony, the most warped paradox, of US discourse on these issues: the very policies that Americans constantly justify by spouting the Terrorism slogan are exactly what causes anti-American hatred and anti-American Terrorism in the first place. The most basic understanding of human nature renders that self-evident, but this polling data indisputably confirms it.
Glenn Greenwald, "Obama, the US & the Muslim world: The animosity deepens"
A Gallup poll released on Thursday surveyed public opinion of the US in Pakistan where ”more than nine in 10 Pakistanis (92%) disapprove of US leadership and 4% approve, the lowest approval rating Pakistanis have ever given”. Worse, “a majority (55%) say interaction between Muslim and Western societies is ‘more of a threat’ [than a benefit], up significantly from 39% in 2011.”
Remember: the US, we’re frequently told, is in Afghanistan to bring democracy to the Afghan people and to teach them about freedom. But the Afghan government is refusing the US demand to imprison people without charges on the ground that such lawless detention violates their conceptions of basic freedom. Maybe Afghanistan should invade the US in order to teach Americans about freedom.