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Uberti: Gov't transparency via Tumblr? Seriously?

National Intelligence Director James Clapper testifies on Capitol

National Intelligence Director James Clapper testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. The White House and key lawmakers are standing by Clapper despite his admission that he gave misleading statements to Congress on the how much the U.S. spies on its own. (April 18, 2013 (Credit: AP)

When President Obama announced last week that the intelligence community would create a website to serve as a “hub for further transparency” of the nation’s surveillance programs, I didn’t expect much. Even in the digital age, throwing government information online doesn’t mean a lot. But I assumed the site would be a bit more ambitious than a blog on Tumblr.

For everyone reading who’s over the age of 26 or doesn’t know what a gif is, I’m not talking about the cocktail glass. Tumblr is a microblogging platform that, as its homepage says, takes “1 minute to join.” The visually focused social network allows users to quickly “reblog” anything from memes of every single scene of “The Wire” to pictures of Kim Jong-Un pointing at things. Seriously.

And it’s now home to the intelligence community’s accountability “hub” in its supposed quest to balance security and liberty.


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The blog, “IC on the Record,” was launched Wednesday by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, admitted liar James Clapper. He wrote that it will shed light on “methods of collection, use of collected data, and oversight and compliance.” Clapper’s office posted a handful of declassified reports of Patriot Act violations by the intelligence community. None of them included photos of North Korea’s supreme leader, unfortunately.

This is the government’s going exchange rate: It has the power to monitor nearly every move you make online, and you have the power to reblog heavily redacted government documents. The Tumblr won’t set you free.

It’s just one part of the American public’s false awakening on government surveillance. The issue has an “Inception”-esque, dream-within-a-dream structure that makes it hard to comprehend. When it comes to domestic spying, Americans can tell neither fact from fiction, nor how big the whole truth really is. It’s hard to wake up when the White House keeps hitting your snooze button.

At minimum, the intelligence community should send me a “not so fast” meme the next time I’m shopping for pressure cookers and researching Islamist groups on the same day. Or reblog anything I post about the late al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Awlaki — at least that’d get me more followers.

But I have to wonder: The intelligence community can comb every corner of the seemingly infinite Internet, yet it can’t do better than a Tumblr for token transparency? Maybe sequestration is finally kicking in.
 

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