Obama Plans Cosmetic Changes To NSA: Embraces 'The Spirit Of Reform' But Not The Substance
from the as-expected dept
The expectation all along was that the President’s intelligence task force was likely to recommend cosmetic changes while leaving the worst abuses in place. And, in fact, many of us were quite surprised to see the panel’s actual recommendations had more teeth than expected (though, certainly did not go nearly far enough). It was pretty quickly suggested that President Obama wouldn’t support the most significant changes, and now that he’s set to announce his plan on Friday, it’s already leaked out that he’s going to support very minimal reforms that leave the problematic spying programs of the NSA effectively in place as is.
Mr. Obama plans to increase limits on access to bulk telephone data, call for privacy safeguards for foreigners and propose the creation of a public advocate to represent privacy concerns at a secret intelligence court. But he will not endorse leaving bulk data in the custody of telecommunications firms, nor will he require court permission for all so-called national security letters seeking business records.
As the NY Times says, he’s taking the political way out, making sure not to upset the surveillance hawks:
The emerging approach, described by current and former government officials who insisted on anonymity in advance of Mr. Obama’s widely anticipated speech, suggested a president trying to straddle a difficult line in hopes of placating foreign leaders and advocates of civil liberties without a backlash from national security agencies. The result seems to be a speech that leaves in place many current programs, but embraces the spirit of reform and keeps the door open to changes later.
Yeah, but embracing “the spirit of reform” is not actually doing any reform. It’s a bullshit approach guaranteed not to win anyone’s approval, which seems to be the way the president often operates. Say you’re going to do something, then offer a weakly compromised version of the plan and pretend you’ve actually done something big. It’s not leadership, it’s “let’s talk big, and do little.”
As the NY Times says, this “largely codifies existing practices.”
Basically, this whole charade simply dumps the whole thing back into Congress’s hands to try to push through real reform — meaning that rather than letting President Obama decide what to do, we need to get things like the USA Freedom Act passed as a starting point, followed by more significant surveillance freforms.