Annotated: The Most Important Passage from President Obama's NSA Speech

President Obama just gave a landmark speech about NSA surveillance and the future of digital privacy. As we noted in our reaction to it (which you can read here), the president introduced a number of welcome, but incremental, reforms to NSA surveillance, while leaving in place — at least for now — the bulk collection of Americans' sensitive data.

In analyzing what the president's speech means for bulk collection going forward, much ink will undoubtedly be spilled over a few critical paragraphs. Below, I've annotated those paragraphs with my thoughts about how to interpret them. The bottom line? We probably won't know much until at least March 28. Until then, the NSA will still be ingesting our data in bulk.

mytubethumbplay
%3Ciframe%20height%3D%22775%22%20src%3D%22https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thinglink.com%2Fcard%2F480849738854301698%22%20thumb%3D%22files%2Fimce_images%2Fblog_images%2Fobama_nsa_speech-V02.png%22%20type%3D%22text%2Fhtml%22%20width%3D%22500%22%3E%3C%2Fiframe%3E
Privacy statement. This embed will serve content from thinglink.com.

Learn more about government oversight and other civil liberty issues: Sign up for breaking news alertsfollow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

View comments (5)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous

Why do I have to miss every "landmark" and important speech just b/c I chose Emergency Medicine as my field of interest?
Oh yeah. I was called back into work b/c I'm still a qualified medic, and they needed all the emergency personnel they could get to help the people who started getting SICK after a company spilled a chemical in the river - and still don't give a tinman's DAMN that they did it.
Where the hell's the freakin' outrage at the gd KOCH-addled brothers who are RUNning half these operations. It's like they've turned into a syphilitic dog about how they're suddenly attacking everything left and right and even buying whole political teams to stir up trouble all OVER the place.
Gimme a freakin' break. Have you two ever heard of the PEASANTS Revolt, or did they conveniently forget to TEACH it to you at MIT and Dartmoor or whatever other school you attended that was crawling with poison ivy?
These people are taking great leaping serious risks with the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans, but still one can find people who are falling all over the Koch's money, with their tongues hanging out, waiting for the Kochs to drop gold in their laps.
The only "gold" THEY'RE going to drop is the kind that's in the water of West Virginia and has been detected in the water where I live and work; the water in West Virginia looks like brass-colored urine and traces of the chemical are in the water here. So get a clue. They don't give a fig NEWTON about you, and if you keep panting after them waiting for them to give you something you're going to end up getting death or worse for it.
In my not so humble opinion, and I just know this comment probably WON'T make it to the light of being posted. Because apparently, they can buy everybody and everything except their own sanity and humanity.

The Kochs were forbidding people to write Facebook posts about them. They stopped doing that a few hours ago, but I damn sure don't believe their reason was noble.

Anonymous

JUST FOR THE RECORD: I am NOT a terrorist. But someone in my family died at the hands of some, and after he did YOU GUYS START TREATING EVERY MEMBER OF HIS FAMILY LIKE ONE?!
And THAT started under Bush TOO. In 2006, BUSH was president, and it was my fault since I VOTED for him.
What a bonehead. What a positive NOODLEBRAIN.
I don't know why I ever voted for Bush Junior, except that I must have been sick with grief.

I can't even put the two images together - watching Tower 1 crumble to the ground knowing he was inside, imagining a government person suddenly assuming I'm like the person who could DO such a thing. If I even try to think of both together or one and then the other, I lose the little bit of cohesion I had in the logical area of my brain. And everything turns so emotional that it's like the time I had a brace on my leg b/c I'm a gunshot victim, and the brace had little magnets in them to stop the pain.
The magnets set off the alarm at the airport, and all of a sudden I was treated in a way I can't even begin to TELL you. They wanted to do so many tests on the brace and make me miss my plane just to do it b/c they wanted me to wait more than half an hour while they wait to see if anything showed up that was a chemical that they thought I would be carrying on me.
I got so upset at what happened that I could no longer contain myself and burst into genuine tears and said "I can't believe this is happening. I can't believe that now everybody assumes I could do the same thing to another person as what happened to my daughter's dad."
Every one of the agents looked uncomfortable when I said that. They told me they still "have to take the sample" but that they would let me go to the plane instead of waiting the 30 minutes you have to in order to get results.

It did nothing to make me feel better. The fact that there are people thinking I can do to another person what was done to Eric and that I could put an unsuspecting family through what we live with on a daily basis totally unhinged me and I've never flown again except for once and then only b/c there was no alternative. The place I went to was thousands of miles away. Driving would have taken forever and it was not an option.

rikkimc

What is Obama referring to with "transition period"? It sounds like all the proposed changes will be in place only during a transition period.

From implementation till WHEN? Transitioning from what to what?

In the many pieces from various news sources I have not seen one mention of any transition period. Help!

William Hamilton

To me it sounds like a lot of gobbledegook. Really nothing more than "business as usual." I really would like to know how Hillary stands on spying on American citizenry. I wonder if President Obama has seen the FBI dossier of himself as a black "community organizer" in Chicago? I'll bet that would open some eyes! Come on people! Pull your heads out of your butts and speak out! The puppet masters are shortening our strings and soon it will be too late to fight back.

Anonymous

I see little in Obama's speech to suggest that the executive branch will voluntarily relinquish any surveillance capabilities and powers. The "negatives" in his speech deserve as much attention as you are giving the "positives." Example: See his phrase "preserves the capabilities we need." What part of "preserves" gives you any reason to be optimistic? I think "preserves the capabilities we need" is the most important part of the speech and the most indicative of what the Obama administration is going to do.

Stay Informed