President Obama’s panel of security and civil liberties experts finished their work giving their recommendations to the president last Friday. The report was released to the public Tuesday. Much to the surprise of the war on terror hawks, it slammed the mass surveillance programs vindicating what critics have been saying since Edward Snowden’s revelations.
A presidential advisory panel has recommended sweeping limits on the government’s surveillance programs, including requiring a court to sign off on individual searches of phone records and stripping the National Security Agency of its ability to store that data from Americans. [..]
The recommendations include tightening federal law enforcement’s use of so-called national security letters, which give the government sweeping authority to demand financial and phone records without prior court approval in national security cases. The task force recommended that authorities should be required to obtain a prior “judicial finding” showing “reasonable grounds” that the information sought is relevant to terrorism or other intelligence activities.
In addition, the panel proposed terminating the NSA’s ability to store telephone data and instead require it to be held by the phone companies or a third party. Access to the data would then be permitted only through an order from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The panel called for more independent review of what the NSA collects and the process by which it goes about gathering data.
Amid an international furor over NSA spying on the leaders of allied nations such as Germany, the review group recommended that the president personally approve all sensitive methods used by the intelligence community.
In a re-published article by Kara Brandeisky of ProPublica, that she wrote for Techdirt back in August, the folks there note that the surveillance reforms the Pres. Obama supported before he was president are remarkably similar to the Task Force’s proposals:
As a senator, Obama wanted to limit bulk records collection.
Obama co-sponsored a 2007 bill, introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., that would have required the government to demonstrate, with “specific and articulable facts,” that it wanted records related to “a suspected agent of a foreign power” or the records of people with one degree of separation from a suspect. The bill died in committee. Following pressure from the Bush administration, lawmakers had abandoned a similar 2005 measure, which Obama also supported. [..]
As a senator, Obama wanted to require government analysts to get court approval before accessing incidentally collected American data.
In Feb. 2008, Obama co-sponsored an amendment, also introduced by Feingold, which would have further limited the ability of the government to collect any communications to or from people residing in the U.S.
The measure would have also required government analysts to segregate all incidentally collected American communications. If analysts wanted to access those communications, they would have needed to apply for individualized surveillance court approval.
The amendment pfailed 35-63 http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/… Obama later reversed his position and supported what became the law now known to authorize the PRISM program. That legislation – the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 – also granted immunity to telecoms that had cooperated with the government on surveillance. [..]
As a senator, Obama wanted the executive branch to report to Congress how many American communications had been swept up during surveillance.
Feingold’s 2008 amendment, which Obama supported, would have also required the Defense Department and Justice Department to complete a joint audit of all incidentally collected American communications and provide the report to congressional intelligence committees. The amendment failed 35-63. [..]
The White House has already made it clear that the recommendations are just that and has already said it will not separate the US Cyber Command from the NSA. So basically, as Charles Pierce pointedly put it, “the White House can tell the committee to pound sand.”
And, even if it doesn’t, there is no reason on god’s earth why anyone should believe that the NSA actually would abide by any agreement going forward. The all-too-human, but curiously error-prone heroes of our intelligence community, imbued as they are with a mission mindset that is perilously close to messianic, can be presumed eventually to breach by unfortunate accident almost any new protocol put in place. (And that’s not even to mingle with the wilder fauna in the jungle.)
At Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman and Juan González discuss the panel recommendations with Kirk Wiebe, a retired National Security Agency official who worked there for over 32 years, and Ben Wizner, Edward Snowden’s legal adviser and director of the Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Transcript can be read here
Transcript can be read here
Let the conversation continue.