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Obama Partially Unveils NSA Reform And It's 50% Hope, 50% Hype
by Karl Bode 04:36PM Thursday Mar 27 2014
The other day leaks emerged suggesting that the Obama Administration was preparing a new proposal that would end bulk communications collection as we know it. The supposed move was the result of surveillance reform efforts announced by the government back in January. Most of our readers obviously weren't buying it, and the New York Times editorial board argued that if the government really wanted to stop bulk data collection, they could simply end the program (that didn't happen).

What has happened is the government has released a fact sheet containing a loose outline of proposed changes to how the intelligence community will interpret Section 215 of the US PATRIOT ACT. While there is a smattering of promised improvements here, many of them are things the government already stated they would do, most of which won't have any meaningful impact on user privacy.

"Earlier this year, I announced a transition that would end the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program as it previously existed and that we would establish a mechanism to preserve the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk metadata," the President said in a statement. "I did so to give the public greater confidence that their privacy is appropriately protected, while maintaining the tools our intelligence and law enforcement agencies need to keep us safe."

One change is to eliminate a government-held metadata database and ensure that the phone companies hold on to metadata themselves, something that was already proposed. If you've followed AT&T's cozy relationship with government on this front (from allowing fiber splits and copying of entire data streams to giving advice on how best to break the law), this won't provide much comfort.

A more important change (also already stated) is to reduce the web of surveillance from "three hops" away from a surveillance target to two hops. That should act to reduce the overall volume of the metadata being collected, eliminating collection from oodles of innocent Americans. You're still looking at a hell of a lot of innocent people who'll be having their personal data hoovered up by the intelligence community.

By and large the fact sheet fails to really outline the actual language in the government's proposed "legislative package." When you're buried in semantics and rule bending to the degree that the NSA has been, that's fairly important to note. The fact sheet also doesn't do much to deal with the problem that FISC is essentially just a rubber-stamp court that says yes to everything. At the bottom of the sheet, the government states the FISC program will be reauthorized:
quote:
Given that this legislation will not be in place by March 28 and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities in question, the President has directed DOJ to seek from the FISC a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program, which includes the substantial modifications in effect since February.
In short, until we can see the full details of the legislative package, this reform seems more like a reconfiguration than an actual reform. You'd also need Congress to actually work together to pass meaningful reform, so that's another obvious hurdle. The President could act now to do more to do something about metadata collection, but he's effectively kicking the can to Congress -- where there's already a number of competing bills -- some better, some worse -- in circulation.

Regardless, the importance of getting the government to go from total denial and snotty pot shots at the media to actually admitting there's a problem that needs fixing in just eleven months speaks to the importance of what Snowden and other whistleblowers have accomplished. Hopefully this is the beginning of an honest sea change and not simply some cosmetic hyperbolic reconfiguration. It should only take another decade and dozens of additional whistleblowers to find out.

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tshirt
Premium
join:2004-07-11
Snohomish, WA
kudos:5

Jimmy Carter rides again...

...our most decent President, a Southern Gentleman.
MrBungle87

join:2013-01-18
Durham, NC
Reviews:
·Frontier Communi..
·Time Warner Cable

Re: Jimmy Carter rides again...

said by tshirt:

...our most decent President, a Southern Gentleman.

Jimmy Carter seems like a good guy, but he was feckless President.

tshirt
Premium
join:2004-07-11
Snohomish, WA
kudos:5
Reviews:
·Comcast

Re: Jimmy Carter rides again...

Exactly, a gentleman, a patriot, a slow and steady diplomacy guy, great as a neighbor, tremendous as human being, maybe not rude enough to push the buttons.
he begins to complain about the NSA and Obama suddenly wakes up the forgotten promise from January.
And Billy Carter, a touch of stupidity/comic relief that sometimes the 'oh too, serious' part of DC needs to point out their own soap opera like reality show needs to get back on track.
We need him now.
devolved

join:2012-07-11
Rapid City, SD
Three words: Iran Hostage Crisis.

goalieskates
Premium
join:2004-09-12
land of big

More like 100% hype

quote:
The President could act now to do more to do something about metadata collection
and therein lies the tale.

The President has acted on his own on Obamacare, immigration, etc., issuing any number of executive orders regardless of law, but now he wants Congress to do something? That's "doing something" without doing anything. His answer is "no."

PlusOne

@comcast.net

Re: More like 100% hype

said by goalieskates:

quote:
The President could act now to do more to do something about metadata collection
and therein lies the tale.

The President has acted on his own on Obamacare, immigration, etc., issuing any number of executive orders regardless of law, but now he wants Congress to do something? That's "doing something" without doing anything. His answer is "no."

+1 If it is Obama ruling by decreee once again ignoring the law and the constitution, it is all hype by the blowhard in chief.
devolved

join:2012-07-11
Rapid City, SD
Exactly. Why get Congress involved when he's circumvented Congress and the Constitution for so long? So many people are used to it by now.
grabacon9

join:2013-08-21

Mr. President...

Seriously, Shut up unless it's really going to happen.

WillRegSoon

@optonline.net

Yeah, sure

Blowing away the 0bamasmoke and 0bamamirrors:

If you don't like your NSA you keep it anyway.

StuartMW
Who Is John Galt?
Premium
join:2000-08-06
Galt's Gulch
kudos:3

Bi-partisan

IMO it doesn't matter who, and what party, holds the Presidency. For the most part Congresscritters et al are in favor of the NSA's activities to

• Protect us from terrorists.

• To save the children.

Of course that's what they say in public to the sheeple that buy those lines.

There's already evidence that the NSA has passed information to other gummint agencies (e.g. the DEA). Are people really that naive that all that NSA data will just sit in Utah?
--
Don't feed trolls--it only makes them grow!