Intelligence Task Force To Recommend Cosmetic Changes… While The White House Pre-Rejects The Biggest One

from the that's-the-punchline,-right? dept

Remember the supposedly “independent, outside experts” that President Obama had invited to be on a task force to review the NSA’s surveillance? The same task force that was actually set up by and reported to director of national intelligence James Clapper? The one that was actually made up of intelligence community insiders, who kicked things off by having two of its key members not bother to to show up for a meeting with civil libertarian groups?

Right. So their report is “due” to be delivered this Sunday, and some of the details have leaked. While the Wall Street Journal suggested that the recommendations would “constitute a sweeping overhaul of the National Security Agency”, almost everyone looking at the details suggests something completely different. Instead, it’s looking a lot more like some stern language accompanied by cosmetic changes that “leave spying programs largely unchanged.” For example, it appears to recommend that bulk collection of metadata continue, but potentially with that data residing at the telcos, instead of in the NSA’s own databases.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because this is exactly the “concession” that NSA boss Keith Alexander himself proposed. When the task force is directly pitching the same “solution” the NSA’s own boss has proposed, that’s hardly a “sweeping overhaul”.

Oh, and what appears to be one somewhat substantive move suggested in the report — definitively splitting the NSA and the US Cyber Command — has already been pre-rejected by the White House. If you don’t recall, these are supposedly two different organizations — but they’re currently both run by Keith Alexander and are housed in the same place. The NSA is supposed to just be obtaining “signals intelligence”, not conducting offensive operations. US Cyber Command, on the other hand, does conduct offensive operations, launching numerous attacks on computing systems around the globe. Many, many people see significant problems with this, as the roles of the two can be merged in dangerous ways — such as rather than having the groups protect the US from computer attacks, having them help to create new vulnerabilities for their own purposes (basically, exactly what’s happening).

Many have argued that Cyber Command should have civilian rather than military leadership, and the task force is rumored to support this. But without the report officially being delivered, the White House has already flatly rejected the idea.

“Following a thorough interagency review, the administration has decided that keeping the positions of NSA Director and Cyber Command Commander together as one, dual-hatted position is the most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies’ missions,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an e-mail

So, we end up with a task force report that has cosmetic changes to the surveillance program, and one big change they’re going to recommend has already been dismissed out of hand before the recommendation was even made. In other words, this whole task force was as much of a farce as everyone expected.

Remember how, when President Obama set it up, the main purpose was to supposedly “restore the trust” of the American public in what the NSA is doing? That doesn’t seem to be working.

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Comments on “Intelligence Task Force To Recommend Cosmetic Changes… While The White House Pre-Rejects The Biggest One”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Obama deserves impeached over this. There are mass abuses by the NSA and Obama wants to do absolutely nothing about it.

That “keeping the data with the telcos” proposal is such a joke, because they know they can already get all the data they want from them, so in effect it would be no improvement at all.

Impeach Obama! He’s already much worse than Nixon ever was regarding this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The lack of true alternatives is the disturbing part. There are so many unconstituional things they could be attacking them for. The NSA, the war crimes (our president the drone murderer). Instead Fox News and ilk go after any and every non-issue and non-scandal and has such an obsession with Benghazi and Obamacare that they could be replaced with a parrot who just repeats “Benghazi care!”

The implications here are deeply disturbing. Not only do they agree with this but there are hardly any opposing this shit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Depends who you are: If you own a huge company or a well-connected organisation, you have full access. It is impossible to increase the say of those people and therefore it is impossible to increase the say of any people in the world. The system is perfect. It is just people not understanding or being unwilling to do the work to get a say!

Representative democracy doesn’t mean that people can choose anyone. It means that the politicians represent different organisations and companies and those interests are what you vote for every four years. Don’t like the companies behind the candidates? May god bless your innocent soul!

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: @ "apart from one day every four years,"

Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2013 @ 1:21pm

Are you beginning to understand now that, apart from one day every four years, when you decide who will sit in a particular office, you have absolutely no say in the policies and operations employed by your rulers?

Oh, you poor ignorant idealist! You don’t even have a clue how BAD reality is! — So here, I’ll crush the last of your optimism: They have the elections sewn up too. Entirely. Not only is it limited to candidates acceptable to The Establishment, who are both raving fascists competing only in who’ll sell out the public to corporations fastest and cheapest, but with electronic voting machines and no paper trail, there’s zero actual auditing of votes even possible, the machines just repeat what’s stored and accurately claim are working perfectly. But it’s all computerized: what key was pressed has no necessary relation to the numbers output.

Anonymous Coward says:

Obama isn’t in the least bit interested in restoring public trust in anything or anyone! all he’s interested in is getting through to the next election and then sitting back, surrounded by God knows how many agents, dedicated to keeping him and his family safe from harm, while never having to worry about what else happens in the country or the big, wide world!
he has made his mark by saying and doing the exact opposite things once elected to before. the things he said would be happening are not and vice versa. Bush probably went down as a security nut. Obama will go down, i suspect, as a total, two faced, liar!

Allanstrings says:

I don’t think the Cyber Command needs to be civilian given its current mission, but it should certainly be cleaved off from any direct relation with the NSA, and work like the other divisions under the Joint Chiefs.

The NSA has clearly become bloated beyond its intended mission by a massive margin and needs to be constrained to extra-US intelligence gathering only.

Cyber Command should be tasked with the defense of the military’s networks and digital infrastructure. They should NOT be responsible for civilian/municipal/etc networks or data ingress/egress mechanisms.

Anonymous Coward says:

To me this was a foregone conclusion with Clapper was originally named to be on the committee. The next day after a lot of hubbub was raised, Clapper’s duties changed from being on the committee to being the one to pass on the report which to me read being able to censor what he didn’t like coming out of the committee before it was turned in.

As I suspected, Obama’s purpose in stating he would be reigning in the NSA was merely a smoke screen to prevent worse damage coming out of congress.

Obama has sunk to the level of Nixon as far as believability, truthfulness, doing what is good for the public, and upholding the constitutional laws. Obama presses on those things he favors and ignores those laws he doesn’t like. It’s just now become so in your face you can no longer believe anything else.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

The same old, same old

Obama might have ignored and expanded the role of the NSA to snoop and pry into places where they’re not legally allowed, but do not forget this-George Bush started the whole ball of wax when 9/11 happened.

Not that it absolves Obama at all-merely that he’s just enabling more of the same.

It won’t change because it’s none of our business what goes on in Washington, don’t you know? It’s far too profitable for some very well-placed contractors and agencies-plus if they were shut down, people would actually have to find real jobs in the real world.

From what I’ve seen, most government employees couldn’t find their asses with both hands, and that’s after they have their coffee.

Plus it pays better and has in-built job security. Who wouldn’t want to have that?

David says:

Re: The same old, same old

Bush did not “start the whole ball of wax when 9/11 happened”. It was on long before that. 9/11 was just what was allowed it to shift gears.

Which may be why they chose not to act on the plentiful intelligence they had prior to the attacks. They might have underestimated their scope, but they certainly were not interfering “prematurely” with what looked like it could lead to vastly increased funding.

And they are certainly are not ashamed of making the most of their 30 silver pieces.

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