Obama's Response To NSA Surveillance: Some Minor Reforms & Transparency; Still Lacking Justification
from the uh,-not-good-enough dept
President Obama just gave a press conference in which he announced a four step “response” to the public’s concerns over the revelations of NSA surveillance. He continued to defend the basic program, even referring to his public record concerns back when he was a Senator. He further claims that prior to Snowden’s leaks he’d already ordered a full review of these programs (of course that was all in secret) and Snowden’s leaks merely “accelerated” the process (while also, Obama claimed, putting our national security “at risk”). However, he admits that — while disturbed about Snowden’s leaks — he recognizes the public’s concerns over NSA surveillance and the fact that there is a history of “abuses” when there are “great capabilities” for surveillance. As such, he’s proposing a four-pronged plan to defend the programs, reform them slightly, and increase transparency to build up trust.
- Consider some “reforms” of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, and will reveal more details of the government’s secret legal interpretation under Section 215 that allows them to hoover up all data on every communication. That document has been released, and will be discussed in a future post.
- Improve “public confidence” in the FISA court (FISC) with greater transparency about FISC decisions and support for a civil liberties advocate playing a role in “appropriate cases” so that the judges don’t just hear from one side. This reform has been suggested a few times and isn’t a terrible one, but does have some logistical problems.
- Set up a website to increase transparency. Yeah, sure.
- Set up a group of “outside experts” to review the whole program. Seems a bit late for that.
That’s about it. Note that there are precious few specifics. It’s a lot of rhetoric about transparency, with a few random claims about how important these programs are. Separately, he continued to insist that we’re better than some other countries (setting the bar low) and that we don’t spy on Americans — despite the evidence from this morning that this isn’t true.
In answering questions, he insisted the two key programs being discussed, Section 215 of the Patriot Act and 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, were critical to finding important intelligence — despite the fact that multiple Senators have insisted that there remains no evidence that Section 215 was necessary in any terrorist case.
All in all this seems like a PR scramble by the an administration that realizes it’s on the losing side of the public debate. The promises seem pretty weak and hollow. The idea that he was already moving in this direction before the Snowden leaks is simply laughable. Section 702 was just renewed eight months ago and his administration fought very hard against any detailed analysis and any amendment to the law. Reality just doesn’t support these claims.