The Campaign Spot

Obama’s Sleight of Hand in His NSA Explanation

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obama: 1,500–1,700 FISA Court Applications Per Year Is a ‘Surprisingly Small’ Number of Requests

Obama to Charlie Rose:

The whole point of my concern, before I was president — because some people say, “Well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he’s, you know, Dick Cheney.” Dick Cheney sometimes says, “Yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.” My concern has always been not that we shouldn’t do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances? So, on this telephone program, you’ve got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program.

Oh, Mr. President, you’re so, so, so certain that nobody is going to notice your verbal sleight-of-hand.

Remember, in a FISA court, there is no equivalent of a defense attorney speaking on behalf of the person being investigated. It is not an adversarial court. Nobody speaks for you, Joe Citizen. The government makes its case, and the judge either says, “okay,” or “no, I’m not convinced.” Take a guess at how that works out . . . 

Now check your guess against how often FISA courts turn down those requests:

The court rarely, if ever, denies the government’s requests, according to annual reports issued to senior members of Congress by the Department of Justice and collected by the Federation of American Scientists.

In 2012, the government made 1,789 applications to the court — one was withdrawn by the government and 40 were modified by the court, but “the FISC did not deny any applications in whole or in part,” the report states. In 2011, there were 1,676 applications, of which two were withdrawn and 30 modified, but once again, “The FISC did not deny any applications in whole, or in part.” In 2010, there were 1,511 applications, of which five were withdrawn and 14 modified, but “The FISC did not deny any applications in whole, or in part.”

In 2009, the court denied a single application, modified 14, and approved another 1,320. In 2008, the court denied another application, and made “substantive modifications” to two more, but approved more than 2,000. In 2007, the court denied a whopping three applications. It denied a single one in 2006. It denied zero applications in 2005 and 2004, though it denied four in 2003. It approved all applications in 2002 and 2001.

So, since the start of the War on Terror more than 11 years ago, the court has denied just 10 applications, and modified several dozen, while approving more than 15,000.

Obama to Charlie Rose: “First of all, Charlie, the number of requests are surprisingly small.”

Mary Katharine Ham, writing at

Obama’s just repeating speeches from 2008, paired with demonstrable proof that he’s not interested in acting out the beliefs in those speeches, and expecting us all to move on, satisfied that his guiding hand will prevent abuse. His assurances have held great power in the past, but exactly what would make us think they’re worth anything now? Sure, it’s politically advantageous for him to declare on Benghazi, NSA, IRS (not to mention ERA and State Department), “We have noted your concerns and there’s an investigation underway, now let’s get back to exactly what I’d like to talk about, and don’t I give an awesome speech?”

But that’s not good enough. Obama has allowed abuses to happen on his watch, his administration has floated somewhere between malice and utter incompetence letting them go on, and none of the institutional backstops or failsafes have worked to prevent them or punish those responsible.

Just how out of control could our government be? Jim Hoft, late last night:

Tonight on The O’Reilly Factor Sharyl Attkisson told Bill that she knows who hacked into her home computers.

“I think I know. But I’m just not prepared to go into that. We’re continuing our investigations. There are multifaceted looks at what to do next. . . . Let me just say, whoever did it, to come into a private citizen’s home, whether I’m a journalist or not, and look in my family’s computer and look into my work computer. . . . Well, it’s outrageous.”


The Latest