white house denies domestic surveillance

It’s painful to watch. The spokesman (deputy White House press secretary) knows full well he’s being deceptive, using carefully crafted language to avoid a literal, direct lie, rather favoring splitting hairs and resorting to indirect deception. He then steers away from the question to go into “justification mode,” pointing to “documented cases” of the program benefiting intelligence assets–whatever those are–and then suggesting that if members of Congress (not the public) have ideas on strengthening the compliance and transparency of the program (but not altering the program itself or limiting its power), then he welcomes those suggestions.

This tells me that the intention here is business as usual, not change anyone can believe in.

For those interested, there are some interesting tells made by the spokesman throughout.

1. He is shaking his head affirmatively toward the beginning, as the reporter is pointing out the evidence that the surveillance program is spying on Americans, not just foreigners.

2. At 0:54, the spokesman talks about a “narrow program aimed at foreign intelligence,” and subtly does a unilateral shoulder shrug (his right side), implying low confidence in his own assertion.

3. The reporter correctly notes the crafty language about “aims and goals” being one thing, but reality being something else. The spokesman nods his head affirmatively in regards to other points made by the reporter, which might indicate agreement or at least the absence of strong disagreement with said points.

4. He then makes an absurd point about “why we’re talking about it [surveillance, leaks] now,” suggesting that the “strict compliance” had something to do with it (rather than the actual leaked data); don’t ask me to explain this logic, or lack thereof.

5. Around 2:15, he points out Obama had skepticism “about these programs.” He looks like he’s grasping for straws at this point, searching for some way to get the reporter off of his back. Various signs of submissive/defensive body language here as well.

… you get the basic idea here. My view is that he’s not being entirely straightforward, he’s splitting hairs on some points, he’s making justifications for the program, and in the end, makes it clear (after saying just “one more thing”) that he won’t further discuss the issue.

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