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Summary:

President Obama’s speech on spying and privacy was eloquent, but it sure was long. So, very loosely, here’s what he said, section by section, in around a tenth of the words.

Barack Obama
photo: White House

The full, satire-free version of Obama’s speech can be found here.

Paul Revere was a spy and a patriot. We used to spy from balloons! We spied a lot in World War II, which was good, and also in the Cold War, but not like the East Germans. We spied on our activists, which was bad. We won the Cold War, then 9/11 happened and we had to start spying on everyone.

Our spies work hard and are good at networking. I was against warrantless wiretapping when Bush was president. The worst excesses happened under Bush. We’re really good at spying. Seriously, better than anyone else when you think about it, which we do. The spy agencies are always going to want more power, and no one’s supposed to talk about it.

I maintain a healthy skepticism but there’s no way I’m going to stop these programs, as nobody has told me they’re breaking the rules. Our spies always stick to the rules except when they don’t, and did I mention they’re hardworking patriots? Sometimes they get stressed out.

I was actually going to do something about something anyway, even before Snowden. Who let that happen? The reporting has been sensationalist and has hurt us in ways we can’t think of yet. Now we have to get everyone to trust us again. I’ve asked lots of people what I should do. I work hard too.

We have to spy. Other countries are being hypocritical. They spy too, though obviously not as well as us. Sometimes our spies get freaked out by their own power. We must have higher standards than the online ad industry. I keep thinking about Martin Luther King. We spied on him a lot.

So here’s what I’m going to do: assess how badly this is hurting us, and get those spies to keep me more in the loop. We’ve already become more transparent, especially after those lawsuits. We’re going to regularly think about telling people what the spies are doing. Someone will also get to play devil’s advocate in our secret court from time to time.

When we force a company to turn over its customers’ data, we will no longer keep that secret forever, except when we do. Some people want a judge to get involved every time we target someone, but we shouldn’t give terrorists more rights than ordinary criminals.

Mass surveillance might have stopped 9/11, and it might stop something else one day. We’ve never had a debate about collecting all this data, and I’m glad we’ve had this one. Nobody’s ever proven that the phone call database has been deliberately abused, but it certainly got a lot of negative publicity, so we’re going to tweak that program.

We’ll still collect phone data on everyone, but someone else will have to hold it and we’re going to look at less of it. While things are changing, that particular database will only be used in an emergency or when a judge allows it.

Foreigners should remember we’re the good guys. We only spy on bad people. We’re not going to stop spying on everyone everywhere — just a few foreign leaders — but we are going to hold the data for less time and restrict its use.

It hurts that everyone thinks we don’t have the purest motives. It’s not like we’re China or Russia. We invented the internet.

Thank you.

  1. Brilliant!
    Thank you for that.
    I was actually curious about what he said but couldn’t be bothered to watch or read the whole speech.

    If the press starts acting like adults (that would be a first) then the politicians might stop treating all of us like children.

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  2. that #nsaspeech is the point at which i gave up on america … there will be no transformation from the government, the only thing to do is wait for the inevitable collapse …

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  3. Loved the satirical “Reader’s Digest” version of Remarks by the President Obama on Review of Signals Intelligence. Good stuff… シ

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  4. You have got some points! Brilliant

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