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Fri Jan 17, 2014, 10:19 PM


A Major Victory For Snowden And N.S.A. Reformers - TheNewYorker [View all]

JANUARY 17, 2014



Before today, when skeptics made this same argument about needing a new law to constrain the government, they were met with puzzled expressions and condescending explanations of the ways in which law already constrained the government. Look no further than the Obama Administration’s official white paper, released last August, which defended the phone-metadata program as a model of democratic governance, saying that the program had been endorsed by Congress, which repeatedly reauthorized the Patriot Act, and reviewed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which routinely extends the program’s judicial mandate. In recent months, numerous government officials have told the public that the program meets, in the word of the former N.S.A. director Michael Hayden, the “Madisonian” test of being created and reviewed by all three branches of government.

Today, Obama reversed course, acknowledging that all of that wasn’t enough. He has now adopted the language of the reformers: “I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives, and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future,” he said. “They’re also right to point out that although the telephone bulk collection program was subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and has been reauthorized repeatedly by Congress, it has never been subject to vigorous public debate.”

So where did this newfound skepticism about government secrecy and the frightening implications of collecting an enormous amount of data abut private citizens lead the President? To the same conclusion as the civil libertarians—Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, James Sensenbrenner, Edward Snowden—who have been the most concerned about the Section 215 program: the N.S.A. should no longer collect our phone records. That is a major policy change for this President and his Administration, and it’s an incredible victory for the often maligned community of whistle-blowers, journalists, news organizations, and members of Congress who have called on Obama to end this policy.

What about the fine print? Obama’s speech was filled with caveats, calls for further study, and pained sympathizing with each side of the debate. He was insistent that some entity should continue to collect this information, so that it is available it a search-ready format. There are enormous privacy implications to such a database existing anywhere—whether inside or outside the government—and the details of how such a system is set up will be crucial. Many critics of the metadata program insist that the government shouldn’t create the database at all, arguing that if it wants telephone records, it should go get a warrant and ask the telecom communities for the information. As with his intelligence-review panel, Obama has tried to find a middle ground: the data will still be consolidated in one place, but searches will require judicial approval or “a true emergency.”

But these caveats should not overshadow the fact that Obama has sided with his fiercest critics on two of the most important reforms that have been demanded since Snowden’s first revelations: the N.S.A. should no longer collect this data and the spy agency should generally be required to have court approval when it wants to search Americans’ phone records.



The Whole Piece: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2014/01/a-major-victory-for-snowden-and-nsa-reformers.html

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Reply A Major Victory For Snowden And N.S.A. Reformers - TheNewYorker [View all]
WillyT Jan 2014 OP
grasswire Jan 2014 #1
R. Daneel Olivaw Jan 2014 #2