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August 09, 2013 4:22 PM Trying to Keep Up

By Ed Kilgore

I don’t have a transcript just yet, but the president’s remarks on NSA surveillance practices at a press conference this afternoon have the sound of someone trying to keep up with rapidly development events, not to mention the zeitgeist. Here are excerpts of the account from the New York Times’ Charlie Savage and Michael Shear:

“It’s right to ask questions about surveillance, particularly as technology is reshaping every aspect of our lives,” Mr. Obama said, adding: “It’s not enough for me, as president, to have confidence in these programs. The American people need to have confidence in them as well.”
Among other steps, Mr. Obama announced the creation of a high-level task force of outside intelligence and civil liberties specialists to advise the government about how to balance security and privacy as computer technology makes it possible to gather ever more information about people’s private lives.

A task force. Hm. At least it’s “high-level.”

There was actually a more tangible pledge in Obama’s remarks:

The president also threw his administration’s support behind a proposal to change the procedures of the secret court that approves electronic spying under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in order to make its deliberations more adversarial.

This is presumably a reference to the proposal announced last week by Sens. Blumenthal, Udall and Wyden to create a public advocate position to argue for privacy concerns in FISA Court proceedings.

It’s a start. But the president is still playing catch-up.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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