recommended reading

Commentary: A Narrow Victory for NSA Surveillance Opponents

Patrick Semansky/AP

Don't give up the crown jewels of America's surveillance program, including bulk collection of telephone data, but add enough new transparency and legal restrictions to fulfill the public's right to privacy and civil liberties. That's the bottom line of a 304-page report released late Wednesday by President Obama's special review commission on the National Security Agency's controversial spying programs.

The report, titled "Liberty and Security in A Changing World," supplies a narrow victory to NSA leaker Edward Snowden and his supporters, but not much more than that, in that its recommendations would leave the NSA's mass surveillance programs largely intact.

Among the important changes recommended were that the controversial collection of mass amounts of data be conducted by the private sector rather than the government; that new rules restrict the ability of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to compel telephone service providers and other third parties to disclose private information to the government and how the FBI issues "National Security Letters" to  compel  individuals and organizations to turn over private records; and that a  public interest advocate be created to appear before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration would likely adopt some recommendations and reject others. The administration has already rejected the panel's proposal to separate control of the NSA and Cyber Command, but it is likely to agree to its recommendation to try to come to new agreements with foreign leaders on limiting surveillance.

On the collection of so-called "metadata," the current system  "creates potential risks to public trust, personal privacy, and civil liberty," the report says, adding that it endorsed "a broad principle for the future: as a general rule and without senior policy review, the government should not be permitted to collect and store mass, undigested, non-public personal information about US persons for the purpose of enabling future queries and data-mining for foreign intelligence purposes."

Nonetheless, the panel continued to embrace the need for that program, Section 215 of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and suggested that such searches be tailored only under a rather vague standard, in order "to serve an important government interest."  It also affirmed the need for Section 702, which authorizes the search of emails abroad.

The report was  produced by a relatively intelligence-friendly group of former officials and legal experts consisting of ex-counterterrorism coordinator Richard A. Clarke;  Michael  Morell, the former deputy director of the CIA; Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor; Peter Swire, an expert in privacy law at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Obama's former regulation czar, Cass Sunstein.  

Supporters of the NSA program say that Section 215,  which allows for vacuuming of telephonic data, is needed as a discovery tool in order to discover new terrorist plots at a time when the threat is far more diffuse and harder to detect.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.