Glenn Greenwald NSA The Daily Banter

Why the President’s NSA Reforms Weren’t as Sweeping as They Could’ve Been

President Obama's slate of National Security Agency and FISA Court reforms, which he announced in a speech on Friday (full video here), were exactly what I expected they would be: modest changes to a highly complex system which is not particularly easy to reform, especially using broad-stroke, sweeping measures.

It probably wasn't watched by most Americans, but it should've been, if for no other reason but to hear some actual history and reality about the upsides -- and downsides -- of America's intelligence agencies. This was a welcome breath of fresh air, given how the debate around NSA and Edward Snowden is increasingly resembling an InfoWars comment thread.

The address was also a lesson in political reality -- a reality which is mostly ignored by the Greenwald clique.

As we've observed throughout this administration, and even during previous administrations, changes in the United States never happen overnight and change almost never gives us exactly what we want, especially if those demanding changes resort to flailing, unhinged screeching.

Indeed, there are many things about NSA functionality that need to be reformed. Not to get too soupy about it, but it's always our duty as citizens composing a government "of the people" to make the system better and more effective. But as former NSA analyst and Naval War College professor John Schindler observed over the weekend, the manner in which the current debate came about ultimately delayed any serious reforms for many years to come.

The patient-zero of Glenn Greenwald's and Edward Snowden's failure: their basic lack of understanding of American politics.

If they'd been serious about making changes, and if they'd understood from the beginning how change occurs here, they would've turned the dial slowly and methodically with an eye on the big picture, the long view. Instead, the two primary voices in this effort ignorantly and indiscriminately blurted away, raising all kinds of hell, as if they could've successfully rolled back decades of national security policy by mocking the very people who'd otherwise be tasked with carrying out those changes.

One of the very basic rules of a negotiation, much less politics in any form, is to allow your opponent to save face; to not embarrass or force them appear as if they're a weakened capitulator, crumbling to the incessant scolding of an activist ex-pat in Brazil and a defector in Moscow... [CONTINUED HERE]