Foreign Policy Glenn Greenwald International Relations Internet NSA President Obama Russia Worse than Bush

President Obama and First Lady Taking It To The World

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, third from right, her daughters Malia, right, and Sasha, second from right, is greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, second from left, and his wife Peng Liyuan, left, at the Diaoyutai State guest house in Beijing, China Friday, March 21, 2014. U.S. first lady Michelle Obama met with excited students who were building robots and tried her hand at Chinese calligraphy Friday during a tour of a Beijing high school. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool)

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama with Malia, right, and Sasha, greeted by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan in Beijing, China Friday(AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool)


First Lady Michelle Obama is in China on a goodwill tour– the first independent trip by the wife of a U.S. president to the country. During a speech to about 200 students at Peking University’s Stanford Center, she told the crowd:

“It is so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the internet and through the media. My husband and I are on the receiving end of plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens, and it’s not always easy. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”

“When it comes to expressing yourself freely, and worshipping as you choose, and having open access to information – we believe those are universal rights that are the birthright of every person on this planet.”

But since Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald have pretty much poisoned the well of international relations, greeting any effort by this president and First Lady to promote the principles of democracy and freedom with eye-rolling immaturity and sneering contempt, they’ve done much to cut this president– and, by extension, America– off at the knee.

And, so long as people are led to believe we’re worse than, or equal to, Russia’s and China’s record on human rights and internet freedom, the President and First Lady are evidently not allowed to leave the house anymore.

Meanwhile, President Obama is headed to Europe this week, “making his first trip to the European Union headquarters in Brussels as part of his tour that includes a nuclear security summit in the Netherlands, a G-7 meeting in The Hague and a visit with Pope Francis in Vatican City.”

With the Snowden NSA revelations acting as a diplomatic cloud over U.S. credibility, it’s going to be a tall order trying to convince Europe that Russia’s actions in Ukraine demand immediate, unified action.

In taking good faith steps toward addressing the concerns of privacy extremists who see black choppers and chemtrails in their inbox, I’ve never seen so much openness and responsiveness toward reforming the legal practices of our national security apparatus. This administration actually gives a shit what people think. Go figure.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Holder told reporters that the Justice Department was on track to present the president with its proposal to change the government’s metadata collection program. In a January speech, Obama tasked his attorney general with finding a way to wind down the government program without harming intelligence capabilities.

And, even though you can burn the president in effigy on You Tube and pretty much call for his head on the floor of the U.S. congress these days, accusing him of everything from conspiring to kill American citizens and silence dissent to being a Muslim sleeper cell coming for your guns and bible, according to Reporters Without Borders, “The US government doesn’t censor online content, and pours money into promoting Internet freedom worldwide.”

And never mind the fact that Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald continue to selectively leak stolen national security documents virtually unobstructed while complaining about all their lost freedoms as they hurl all kinds of wild accusations and innuendo. If this president is trying to silence their dissent, ignore their concerns and destroy internet freedom, he’s doing it wrong.

I get the feeling it’ll never be good enough. There will never be satisfaction. We’ll never be “free” enough to appease those who’ve dug in and made metadata collection a crime “worse than Bush.”

When will we know? When are we allowed to show up and vote for Democrats without being shamed?

  • nathkatun7

    Thank you Mr. Brink for this most excellent post! I have consciously (by that I mean the years I’ve been a grown up) lived under 9 Presidents before President Obama. I cannot think of any of those 9 presidents who were more open and more sensitive about people’s rights than President Obama. Yet the supposedly “purity progressives” (including the born again Bush admirers) have done nothing but vilify President Obama, suggesting that he is the worst abuser of civil liberties in the history of the U.S. Presidency.

  • FTR

    The quickest and easiest way to cut Greenwald and Snowden off at the knees would be substantive and public reform, a report on how maybe to do it isn’t going to change any minds. Now mind you I’m about as liberal as they come, and with that, comes the responsibility to see facts for what they are. And the FACTS are that the intelligence services ARE doing these things, and yes they make us look like hypocrites. Maybe instead of complaining about the leakers, who mind you, would have had zero ability to change the system by working within it, and based on the experience of other government intelligence whistle blowers, would have been actively punished for such actions. You should work to stop the hypocrisy that is a drag on US foreign relations despite the good we do in other areas.

    Just because Greenwald is personally objectional, doesn’t mean our laundry isn’t dirty. We on the left need to come to terms and deal with the fact that the national security apparatus created under bush has become a bi-partisan institution. A failure to do so because we like the current white house leadership opens the door to crazies like Rand Paul.

    • Badgerite

      It has become an enterprise under the oversight of the Congress and the FISA Court and that is pretty much all I ask. Oversight and that they abide by the law. 1)This type of surveillance goes on all over the world. It will not stop if the US stops. Quite the contrary.
      It will only put the US at a competitive disadvantage.
      2) This type of surveillance is not going away. Anymore than nuclear technology has.
      It will have to be dealt with. You can’t just pretend that you are on a crusade to make it all stop. Because that will never happen. So oversight and legal constraints are to me what I am concerned about. Period.

  • drspittle

    Before the Snowald Circus came to town, PBO delivered a speech in which he stated US needed to reexamine how it approached Global War On Terror, and I believe the role of intelligence was included in that evaluation. I think Obama has been willing to look at reforms for the NSA for a long time. In some weird, backhand way, the Snowald Circus provided a pretext. Can you imagine if he had initiated the discussion “on his own”?

  • eljefejeff

    They’re so disingenuous. The more I think about it, I can’t help but feel the ones most upset about the NSA are the ones with the most embarrassing internet surfing habits

    • nathkatun7

      My problem with critics of NSA and President Obama: I have not seen any concrete evidence of a single innocent American who was harmed by the alleged NSA surveillance! I challenge all these Obama haters to show me evidence that innocent people have been harmed by the NSA, similar to the way innocent people were harmed during the McCarthy era of “blacklisting,” or the sixties era of FBI’s surveillances of leaders of Civil Rights and and anti-Vietnam war movements.

  • Sabyen91

    I was taken aback by the response to that story by the emoprogs. I suppose I shouldn’t have been but…vicious, nasty losers saying vicious nasty (and stupid) things.

  • muselet

    When Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden start exposing the surveillance misdeeds of Brazil and Russia, respectively, then and only then will I believe they give a monkey’s about privacy as anything but a handy cudgel with which to beat Barack Obama (and the United States).

    Until then, I will continue to ignore them.


  • rob black

    Mr. Brink,
    I dont comment here anymore..but god I wish you had your own site.

    • Modius

      Black Daug?
      If so, I miss your comments here and at Banter. I’m glad you’re still around.
      A lurker who wondered if you were ok.