Policy: National Security

Latest Edward Snowden revelations show President Obama should listen to Michelle Obama

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Op-Eds,Barack Obama,Michelle Obama,Germany,National Security,NSA,Edward Snowden,Surveillance,Analysis

U.S. Ambassador James Costos was commanded to appear at the Spanish Foreign Ministry in Madrid on Oct. 28 as a public expression of Spain's outrage.

That outrage was sparked by the latest document releases from the former National Security Agency contractor and current guest of Russia, Edward Snowden, which demonstrate United States has been collecting electronic surveillance on the phone calls of tens of millions of Spaniards.

Costos was not alone regarding anger at American diplomats spying on their hosts. Over the weekend, the U.S. ambassadors to Germany, France, Brazil and a number of other countries received similar treatment after spying in their countries was also outed by Snowden.

Given that Snowden has every intention of continuing his revelations regarding what he believes is President Obama's destruction of privacy and basic human liberties, the chief executive should show some honesty and integrity by acknowledging the scope of the domestic and foreign surveillance policies he approved.

It is not very shocking that the NSA is doing its job of spying on foreign citizens. But with Snowden working as a rookie systems administrator with an NSA contractor for less than 100 days, he apparently was able to hack into a large number of “sensitive compartments.”

Snowden then appears to have downloaded large quantities of top secret “codeword” material on flash drives without being caught.

Snowden earlier revealed the NSA was specifically targeting all the electronic communications of “friendly” heads of state. After this bombshell, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that spying on “friends” is misguided.

In a television interview, she added that allegations the NSA hacked her phone are a relevant concern for every German citizen who needs to trust digital communications.

So far, Snowden has responsibly refrained from disclosing any documents that would compromise the prime NSA security mission of protecting U.S. communications from the intrusions by foreign intelligence services.

But over the last six months, Snowden systematically dribbled out documents in a pattern that has serially humiliated Obama. A number of documents he released detail that prior administrations were involved in some of the current NSA surveillance activities, but the Obama administration radically expanded the scope and volume of these activities.

In prior reports, I have highlighted that the “Edward Snowden affair” has relentlessly undermined Obama's reputation for honesty and integrity with the millennial generation.

The recent Economist/YouGov poll confirms that Obama’s approval rating that plunged by 15 points this summer continues to erode. A USA Today/Pew Research poll found that 60 percent of 18- to 29-year-old voters said exposing the surveillance programs served the public good.

Voters under 29 also said by a 50-44 margin that the U.S. should not pursue a criminal case against Snowden.

The NSA compounded the recent damage by denying a report in the German tabloid magazine Bild am Sonntag that Obama was told by Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, in 2010 that Merkel's phone was being tapped and that Obama allowed it to continue.

But later in the day the White House was forced to alter the story, when the Wall Street Journal reported that the NSA did not stop a program that intercepted the communications of Merkel and other European leaders until this summer, after Snowden had already begun his regular document releases.

First lady Michelle Obama during the presidential campaign famously stated, “We learned about honesty and integrity -- that the truth matters ... that you don't take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules ... and success doesn't count unless you earn it fair and square.”

It appears that when it comes to demonstrating honesty and integrity to the American people, Barack Obama should listen more to his wife.

Chriss W. Street is a widely published financial writer and speaker.
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