Obama's NSA Reforms on Bulk Data Collection

President Obama today released his reforms to the NSA's bulk data collection program.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said the changes are welcome, but don't go far enough:

The president should end – not mend – the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans’ data. When the government collects and stores every American’s phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an ‘unreasonable search’ that violates the Constitution. The president’s own review panel recommended that bulk data collection be ended, and the president should accept that recommendation in its entirety.”

Here is Obama's Policy Directive . The fact sheet is here. [More}

The policy directive is filled with legalese and footnotes. The fact sheet is more understandable. I'm still reading them.

Here are the recommendations made by the Review Group. The ACLU has this chart of which recommendations the President adopted and those he did not.

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    Wheeler: "Pixie Dust 2.0" (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Mr Natural on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 10:49:33 PM EST
    As even I, a non lawyer, noticed, executive orders may be as easily undone as done, in camera or in your face.

    For anyone who's interested, here (none / 0) (#1)
    by Anne on Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 03:52:44 PM EST
    is Marcy Wheeler's commentary, side by side with the speech.

    It's long, but well worth a read.

    Greenwald: "little more than PR attempt - (none / 0) (#3)
    by Mr Natural on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 07:48:34 AM EST
    - to mollify the public.  Obama is draping the banner of change over the NSA status quo. Bulk surveillance that caused such outrage will remain in place."

    The crux of this tactic is that US political leaders pretend to validate and even channel public anger by acknowledging that there are "serious questions that have been raised". They vow changes to fix the system and ensure these problems never happen again. And they then set out, with their actions, to do exactly the opposite: to make the system prettier and more politically palatable with empty, cosmetic "reforms" so as to placate public anger while leaving the system fundamentally unchanged, even more immune than before to serious challenge.

    This sure rang true for me: (none / 0) (#5)
    by Anne on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 09:02:14 AM EST
    Ultimately, the radical essence of the NSA - a system of suspicion-less spying aimed at hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world - will fully endure even if all of Obama's proposals are adopted. That's because Obama never hid the real purpose of this process. It is, he and his officials repeatedly acknowledged, "to restore public confidence" in the NSA. In other words, the goal isn't to truly reform the agency; it is deceive people into believing it has been so that they no longer fear it or are angry about it.

    As the ACLU's executive director Anthony Romero said after the speech:

       The president should end - not mend - the government's collection and retention of all law-abiding Americans' data. When the government collects and stores every American's phone call data, it is engaging in a textbook example of an 'unreasonable search' that violates the constitution.

    That, in general, has long been Obama's primary role in our political system and his premiere, defining value to the permanent power factions that run Washington. He prettifies the ugly; he drapes the banner of change over systematic status quo perpetuation; he makes Americans feel better about policies they find repellent without the need to change any of them in meaningful ways. He's not an agent of change but the soothing branding packaging for it.

    Bold is mine.

    Marcy weighs in:

    I'm seeing a lot of enthusiasm about President Obama's promise to limit the NSA to 2 hops on its phone dragnet.

       Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of three.

    But it's not that big of a limit.

    As far back as 2011, the NSA had standardized on 2-hops, only permitting a 3rd with special approval. (See page 13.)

       While the BR Order permits contact chaining for up to three hops, NSA has decided to limit contact chaining to only two hops away from the RAS-approved identifier without prior approval from your Division management to chain the third hop.

    So in effect, Obama has replaced the NSA's internal directive limiting the hops to 2 with his own directive (which can be pixie dusted with no notice) limiting the hops to 2.

    Also, can anyone explain what the word "pursue" means in Obama's promise?

    The thing is, overwhelming numbers of people - many of them in the media that will be reporting on this speech and what it means - simply have no idea about the facts and timeline and details of what's really been going on with the surveillance and collection programs - so for them, pretty speeches accomplish the goal they were intended to accomplish: they placate and soothe, and at least until the next revelation, allow things to proceed as planned.


    Reform sounds good (none / 0) (#4)
    by Mikado Cat on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 08:51:20 AM EST
    but first I want to see some "real" oversight. Doesn't seem to me anybody knows in total what is being collected or how its being used. Until people know whats going on, how can reform mean anything?