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Obama seeks to narrow surveillance

31.01.2014 | Maksym Mykhailenko

The White House launches reform for the sake of PRThe White House launches reform for the sake of PR

Reform of the main U.S. intelligence service, the National Security Agency, initiated by President Barack Obama, for whom it is increasingly difficult to identify priorities in U.S. foreign policy, has stirred a confusion in the expert community

The presidents political motivation is clear it is an attempt to mitigate the effect of a bombshell from revelations of Edward Snowden, currently hiding in Russia, and to not irritate European allies that Washington has lately kept a close eye on. In addition, liberal social commentators have on more than one occasion critically noted that the current head of the Oval Office is trying to move away from the legacy of his predecessor concerning such a delicate subject as intelligence.

However, Obamas course in this sphere reeks of amateurism. For example, industrial espionage that NSA engages in, which the president is trying to ban, has never been among the agencys tasks. The key external function of the NSA is generally limited to radio and electronic intelligence. Despite this, the president is also trying to prohibit the surveillance of political leaders of allied countries. It is difficult to technically distinguish one from the other and such initiatives could paralyze the agency. Obamas itch for reform is due to incorrect assumptions and voluntarism and, therefore, may have unpredictable repercussions.

First of all, even if the NSA on occasion steals and trades technologies, the worlds main industrial spy China does not intend to take any symmetric measures for disarmament.

Secondly, Europes resentment of wiretapping is somewhat ritual in nature. After all, the U.S. is the main guarantor of European security and the current trans-Atlantic system is not cheap to maintain, especially taking into consideration the intrigues of France in Libya during the rule of the late Muammar Gaddafi and German alpine songs with Putin, which then posed a threat to existence of NATO and poses a threat to this day.

Thirdly, the head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, is an extremely popular individual, both in military and academic circles. At the same time, the head of the Cyber Command, who is a clever politician and leader of the mad scientists, has managed to hold his office for 9 years. Obama´s infringement on his department can lead to all kinds of troubles, which usually await presidents that do not get along with the intelligence services. However, the current U.S. president has no need to be re-elected, while his exemplary marriage increasingly smacks of jealousy.

One can assume that the president has nothing to lose, but, perhaps this is all about huge funding of the NSA and Obamas hackneyed attempts to economize by shifting those expenses from under the budget umbrella? After all, the policy of sequestering in the U.S. budget strategy continues to gain momentum.

Fourthly, Obamas gang-up against the NSA is simply unfair despite the desire to appease Europeans, since the Americans of the 1960s and 1980s are experiencing some kind of cultural inferiority complex towards them. In addition to that, these very same generations inherently failed most successful foreign policy projects. Be that as it may, NSA works effectively, which the special operations of the riot police units assigned by the current president are testimony to.

Having entangled the entire world with its nets, the NSA made it quite clear that there is nowhere to hide anti-American or any other information, for that matter. By the way, was this not the message that was sent out to Snowden, who naively believed that he was being hunted down by predatory liquidators of the agency, which, by the way, do not officially exist?

Fifthly and finally, Obama himself is reforming the Pentagon with Alexanders technological accents in the NSA. Therefore, his actions appear to be somewhat illogical.

The distrust of President Obama to the military, which was resentfully mentioned in memoirs of the former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the fact that the NSA still belongs to the U.S. Defense Department apparently was taken to a new height. Indeed, when generals explain the risks of non-intervention in the anarchy prevailing in different regions of the world or the intrinsic value of the balance of power to the president, Obama apparently frowns, recalling Vladimir Putin´s kind eyes as it is apparently very convenient to solve all unpleasant global issues with the Russian president.

The U.S. president seems to have forgotten that his opponent in the 2008 presidential race John McCain saw in those eyes something completely different, while the master of the Kremlin would be happy to know that the NSA no longer looks at him through Obama´s eyes.

However, given the pragmatism typical to the Democrats, we can assume that the reform of the discredited security service announced by the president is nothing more than a promotional campaign targeted primarily towards the American people. Speculation on rejection of the fallout from the Republican dictatorship of the George W. Bush administration, with its excesses, which became the result of the Black Tuesday, can come in handy during the next presidential elections race in the U.S. Be that as it may, the race is still beyond the horizon and Obamas second term has barely reached its middle and he still needs to maintain his ratings. On the other hand, it is a convenient time for testing new election techniques.

The survey by the newspaper USA TODAY and the sociological Pew Research Center on January 15 19, i.e. on the backdrop of Obama´s speech about the upcoming reform, shows that the struggle for limiting the power of the state may well be such. The survey was conducted among over 1,500 adult Americans that had never heard of the plans of the president. Approximately 53% of them said they do not approve the NSA monitoring data of U.S. citizens even within the framework of anti-terrorist activities and only 40% responded that they had no objection to total control. Interestingly enough, the ratio of opposing views has changed since last July. At that time 50% of respondents spoke in favor of surveillance, while 44% were against it. The fact that the terrorist threat is perceived as a daily risk not worth restriction of personal freedoms should be converted to the rating, all the more that the executive director of the New York office of the Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth said the U.S. intelligence community is safe from major restructuring.

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