What, Exactly, is the Difference Between Obama’s Behavior and that of the KGB or Stasi?

Italian Magazine Says NSA Listened into Vatican and Pope

Oh! Wait! I remember! Obama supposedly had *no idea* what the NSA was doing and is therefore totally innocent of making us a rogue nation bent on trying to control everything with spy technology, drone murders, and Machiavellian cynicism. He is relieved of the guilt of being a corrupt authoritarian by being–so we are told–an incompetent ninny whose subordinates don’t inform him lest he know too much and lose plausible deniability.

I pledge allegiance to the God King of the Surveillance State of Amerika, and to Obama for which it stands, one people loyal to the State, against God and the Church, with slavery and injustice for all.

“My country right or wrong” is like saying “My mother, drunk or sober.” – G.K. Chesterton. We accelerate toward the moment when American Catholics will, for the love of country, have to defy their country. The trick will be to defy her for the right reasons and not because we’ve been ginned up by some demagogue who cares no more for the Faith than Obama does. That will be harder than most people think since our tribal culture tends to recklessly assume that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

  • http://canfrancisbringmeback.wordpress.com/ ganganelli

    Or MI6 or Mossad. You have to be extremely naive if you think this hasn’t been going on for a VERY long time.

    • chezami

      Translation: I am an excuse-making whore for my preferred ideology.
      Duly noted. I’ve had enough excuse-making whores for ideology. You’re gone. Bye!

      • Chesire11

        A “whore”?

        Really???

        Isn’t that a bit immoderate?

        • chezami

          You’re right. He offers himself to Obama body and soul for free.

  • Kristen

    I wonder if maybe J. Edgar Hoover might be a closer parallel. Concerning, yes (very very concerning indeed) but not KGB.

  • JM1001

    Although Obama deserves every criticism he’s getting, it’s also important not to get so focused on him personally, which misses the larger picture: Obama is simply the inheritor of a sprawling surveillance state that has been constructed by both Democratic and Republican presidents for the last sixty or seventy years, with greater emphasis in the last decade.

    Like every president since at least the end of World War II, Obama came into office and found massive executive power at his disposal and awesome imperial tools at his fingertips. As the head of the world’s only remaining superpower, with a perpetual mission to maintain global supremacy and dominance, the temptation to use such executive power and imperial tools to that end is enormous.

    Once you find yourself in that office, as the head of a superpower that has as its highest objective to maintain its global dominance, I can imagine consequentialist thinking easily sets in, and you start to think that you can’t not use this awesome power at your disposal, bequeathed to you by your predecessors and sanctioned by an increasingly impotent Congress.

    Obama deserves every criticism he’s getting. But we also need to keep an eye on the bigger picture: The constant growth of executive power, sanctioned by a Congress that has abdicated its constitutional responsibilities, and fueled by an unrelenting institutional pressure to maintain America’s global dominance no matter what the cost.

    • chezami

      No. He is the massive *expander* of a sprawling surveillance state. And one who has granted himself the power to unilaterally jail or murder anybody he likes.

      • JM1001

        Actually, Obama is simply using massive expansions of the surveillance state that were instituted shortly before he came into office:

        The Protect America Act of 2007 essentially legalized Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program, as did the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which also retroactively immunized from prosecution the telecommunications companies that illegally cooperated with Bush’s warrantless spying program.

        When he was running for president, after clinching the nomination in the summer of 2008, Obama shifted his stance and began to support the surveillance powers he had previously denounced (even voting for the FAA of 2008). He did this because endorsing massive executive power to confront external threats has become a prerequisite for winning the presidency of the United States.

        We get the government we deserve.

        As for detention and extra-judicial killing, again, this is largely a continuation of policies in place before Obama even became president. The Bush administration was engaging in drone and JSOC operations far from any declared battlefield long before most people even knew Obama’s name.

        When Obama came into office, he simply ramped up a pre-existing targeted killing program already in place. Aside from just the sheer number increase of people killed far from any declared battlefield, Obama’s only real innovation was the due process-free killing of an American citizen.

        All of these powers have been years in the making, so I maintain that getting too myopic and focusing on him personally misses the whole point. This isn’t about Barack Obama. It’s about executive overreaches that have been decades in the making.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    The difference is that you’d be on your way to a cell by now.

  • http://yardsaleofthemind.wordpress.com/ Joseph Moore

    In some ways, the most accurate comparison is with Enron: their CEO claimed ignorance of all the stuff going on under him, stuff that was fattening the bottom line he was hired by the shareholders to watch and on which he was being handsomely compensated. Faced with choosing between owning up to being a criminal or being utterly incompetent, Lay chose ‘incompetent’.

    No one believed him, and laws have since been passed requiring CEOs to sign off on quarterly statements, meaning the CEO is now personally responsible for the representations made by the company to the public.

    The mind-blowing part is that you’d need a law to say that – what the hell is CEO making the big bucks for, if he’s not responsible for what goes on in the company he’s managing?

    Now, we have a president that wants us to trust his authority to order the execution of anyone on the planet on his authority alone – but he is unaware of how the information upon which he bases those life and death decisions is accumulated? Defies credulity, at that.

  • Chesire11

    Well…not to split hairs, but there is the whole “not using the security services to comprehensively violate the rights of American citizens, and not arresting, torturing and imprisoning political opponents in a network of prison camps” is a subtle difference.

    I understand concern over the balance between security and privacy rights, but this is intelligence gathering against foreign subjects in a foreign country.

    That’s the whole point of having an intelligence service is to do just that.

    This isn’t abuse, it’s what these agencies do.

    • JM1001

      The problem with the “it’s just what intelligence services do” argument is that it ignores the costs and benefits of engaging in particular surveillance actions, and as a result shuts down any debate about the consequences of what our intelligence services do:

      But assume that many countries do spy. (Because they do.) Assume many use nasty techniques against us (including our friends). That still doesn’t mean that we should use every means or method available to us. Because some are too high risk to warrant it — not because our spies will necessarily be outed or captured or killed, but because our spying might be discovered and diplomatic, political, or economic blowback will result.

      David Rothkopf, Foreign Policy

      The “it’s just what these agencies do” excuse gives them too much license to ignore the consequences of their actions.

      • Chesire11

        That’s all well and good, and I happen to agree with the point, but it doesn’t really relate to the point I was making.

        Mark argued that this episode demonstrates, or at the very least illustrates, that Barack Obama is some sort or power hungry, “corrupt authoritarian.” My point wasn’t that all intelligence agencies do stupid things, so we should never question the wisdom, or do a cost-benefit analysis of their activities. My point was that spying on foreigners overseas, whether wise of foolish, is not evidence of a ruler run amok, but of a government doing the job we have given it to do with the tools we have given it. There is nothing tyrannical about spying on foreigners overseas…there just isn’t.

        • JM1001

          Yeah, I understand your point. Thanks for clarifying. Although I wonder about this:

          There is nothing tyrannical about spying on foreigners overseas…there just isn’t.

          At what point does dragnet spying on millions of foreigners suspected of no crime become tyrannical? If the United States one day developed the technical capability to monitor the communications of every foreigner on the face of the planet, constructing a globalized surveillance apparatus, would that be okay, because “spying on foreigners” is “nothing tyrannical”?

          • Chesire11

            Unless and until they become American citizens, it may be unwise, overbearing, even malevolent, but it would still not be “tyrannical,” but I should warn you, I am nothing, if not pedantic, so…

            ;?)

  • http://chicagoboyz.net/ TMLutas

    Mark I really hate it when you go massively overboard on somebody I don’t like at all politically as my basic sense of fairness tugs at me to defend my political enemy in the service of justice.

    Obama is a lot of things, but indistinguishable from the KGB and the Stasi? I don’t think so. For one thing, nobody opposing him in the Congress or the Judiciary has been jailed on politically trumped up charges on Obama’s say so. As a US President, Obama’s nastily given to dictatorial impulses. As a dictator he’s weak tea, not in the same class as the monsters who created and kept the Soviet bloc intelligence agencies.

    Were he what you say, I would not be posting a thing publicly under my own name, not one word.

  • Paxton Reis

    Know one liberal (blood relative) who was so upset about BusHitler and John Ashcroft & his jack-booted thugs regarding the Patriot Act, the NSA, etc.

    Now he is states, “Well, President Obama has to do this. What if there is another 9/11?”

  • Dan Li

    … I’m afraid that what Obama has been doing ( in terms of spying) is nothing inherently special. At all. States have always spied on one another (and on one another’s citizens), and likely shall do so for aeons to come. After all, they don’t survive by *being* examples, they survive by *making* examples. It is natural for the government that runs the State to try and expand its powers to ensure its own ( and hopefully its people’s) benefit (… on the rare occasion). As the Vatican’s still an ideal listening post for western governments, it may be that the spies were more concerned about how administration changes might affect their ability to gather information from sources there than on how the Pope’s pastoral missions would affect US politics.

    Not that the spying and espionage is actually *good*, I just don’t see it ever stopping. If one State does it, all the others will follow out of their own self-interest/self-preservation. The rather cynical state of the world pretty much means advancing intelligence gathering of all kinds is obligatory. On the upside, at least the Conclave itself was not eavesdropped.

    • Dan Li

      Also, I don’t know if anything about these trends and situations *can* be changed save by divine intervention.

  • Liam

    Seeing as Pope Francis is the new “Most Interesting Man in the World,” I’m picturing his Dos Equis commercial showing him unintentionally converting the eavesdropping spies.

  • meunke

    There is a major difference. Two actually:

    1. The STASI was actually MUCH better than practically any Western intelligence service at not getting caught and not having leaks. Reading accounts of what they were able to do, and all that the West had NO CLUE about, you begin to feel that it was only through divine intervention that we didn’t totally lose the cold war.

    2. The STASI didn’t pretend its purpose was anything other than EXACTLY what they were doing.

    To be honest, I don’t blame Obama for… PERHAPS… not knowing EVERYTHING the NSA was doing. However, once made aware, I DO blame him for not ending it all!

    As a side note: The KGB was ok. The real pros in the Soviet Union were the GRU.


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