Who Should Be On The 'Independent' NSA Surveillance Review Board?

from the thinking-through-the-list dept

We've been pointing out that President Obama's "Surveillance Review Board" -- which is being put together to provide an "outside" review of the NSA's surveillance efforts -- doesn't inspire much confidence. All are barely "outsiders", having worked closely with President Obama in the past. There are no technologists on the panel at all. Beyond Peter Swire, it's not clear that any have that much experience or focus in civil liberties/4th Amendment issues. Oh, and it all "reports" to James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence who runs these programs, and a confessed liar to Congress about them. It's the kind of board that you put together when you want to pretend there's been an outside review.

Given all of that, Gordon Mohr suggested via Twitter that we put together our own "shadow" board, comprised of members who we'd love to see on the board instead of who they currently have. Who would we want reviewing these things if there were to be a real "outside" and "independent" review of the NSA's surveillance efforts? This is not an easy list to put together, because there are so many folks who would be good. But I'll suggest a few here and would like to hear from others in the comments. We'll start with the first five (to match the same number on the official board), followed by some potential alternates.
  1. Ed Felten. This one is a no-brainer. The Princeton computer science and tech policy professor, and the director (and, I believe, founder) of Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP). He has his feet firmly planted in both worlds, and a long history of doing security and privacy research (as well as a long history of not backing away from controversy to stand behind the results of his research). While he recently did a brief stint as the FTC's first CTO, he's still very much an outsider. Honestly, there's no reason he shouldn't be leading this review team.
  2. Bruce Schneier. Well-known and outspoken security guru. I've heard some folks in the security world grumble over the fact that he gets so much facetime when it comes to security issues compared to many other qualified security researchers, but he has a way of cutting through the crap and getting to the point in an easy and understandable way that few others possess. Furthermore, his special power is not being fooled by "security theater," but focusing in on not just what the actual risks are, but the actual probabilities associated with those risks. The least likely person to be subdued by "but everyone will die!" rhetoric that comes from defenders of these programs.
  3. Chris Soghoian. Another well-known security and privacy researcher, currently working for the ACLU (though also did a stint at the FTC). He's been focused on corporate "back doors" to government surveillance for ages.
  4. Dave Farber. Another engineering/CS professor with a very long and distinguished resume -- but who also has been deeply involved in a variety of public policy issues over the years, and tends to take a very careful, thoughtful approach to analyzing things. Over a decade ago, he was the CTO for the FCC for a brief period.
  5. Orin Kerr. Straddles the worlds of technology, law and law enforcement quite effectively. While the former prosecutor sometimes is a bit too quick to justify law enforcement actions, he does seem to approach these types of questions with a very careful and critical eye.
At least that would be my initial top five list -- all of whom have technology experience, some legal experience, and while every one has had some connections to government, they are generally considered "outsiders", while still clearly having the credibility to be taken seriously by the federal government. There are, of course, plenty of others who I think would be good as well -- including folks like Julian Sanchez, Marcy Wheeler, Jim Harper, Jennifer Granick and others who have spent a lot of time digging deep into NSA claims and related privacy issues -- but they have less of the technology background necessary. There are plenty of other good names out there, so feel free to suggest some in the comments.


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    out_of_the_blue, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 1:48pm

    Less use than your Fantasy Football.

    You are certain to be disappointed.

    Besides that, this is absolutely standard Beltway Fantasy of setting up a powerless board sheerly as publicity stunt.

    Just call for the criminals to be indicted by AG, Mike; may be equally fantasy, but at least don't look like you've fallen for one of the standard ploys.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 1:50pm

    Other names on the short list

    Gene Spafford, Marcus Ranum, Alex Halderman, Richard Forno, Steve Bellovin, Bill Cheswick, Paul Ferguson, Jacob Appelbaum, Dana Boyd, Dan Kaminsky, Susan Landau, Paul Vixie, Rebecca Mackinnon, Joseph Lorenzo.

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 12th, 2013 @ 1:58pm

      Re: Other names on the short list

      All good names. I initially had Appelbaum on my list, but later changed my mind as I tried to avoid people who the government would automatically discount. It's stupid, of course, but the government would argue that he doesn't belong on that list.

       

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        Ninja (profile), Sep 13th, 2013 @ 4:58am

        Re: Re: Other names on the short list

        He was my first thought as well. But I have to agree with you. I don't know all of the names mentioned but it seems wise to suggest the ones that are in good terms with the Government even if they criticize it reasonably. I sort of disagree that they must have technical and law knowledge though. If you form a multi-disciplinary group what one part lacks can be fulfilled by other part. So if you have 2 or 3 with deep knowledge of their area it should suffice. Sure, people that have a balanced knowledge may help providing an interface point of view.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 1:54pm

    I would also nominate Terry Winograd: link and Gordon Lyon: Wikipedia

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 2:19pm

    Ron Wyden?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 2:21pm

    You're missing something though, it's already been shown that the FISA courts have been critical and have acknowledged many wrongdoings by the NSA, those rulings have been kept from the public. There is no way that the government is going to allow more people who (rightfully) would also point out their other transgressions. They want people who will side with their views.

     

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    Charles (profile), Sep 12th, 2013 @ 2:32pm

    Larry Lessig

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 2:34pm

    John Gilmore

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 2:45pm

    Alex Jones

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 3:23pm

    Edward Snowden

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 3:24pm

    Darren Kitchen. He don't take sheet from anyone. And does it with a smile on his face.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 3:54pm

    you should have put together a list of people that you said you didn't want (but secretly did really). they would be drafted in straight away and perhaps do some good instead of being nothing other than part of Obama's army of stooges!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 3:55pm

    Richard Stallman? Anyone from EFF?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 3:56pm

    Brian Behlendorf? If we only got to pick one person from the EFF board of directors, I might even prefer him to Schneier.

     

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    Michael Donnelly (profile), Sep 12th, 2013 @ 3:59pm

    I second the #1 pick.

    Ed Felten is a "policy wonk" by his own words. He is exactly the guy that needs to be there.

    He's also (or was a few years ago) the administrators of the wireless network in Princeton's main comp sci building. I met him in 2007 when there talking to an expert witness about the Glider case. I had to get on the wifi because my crappy first-gen iPhone couldn't get any of T-Mobile's crappy EDGE in the building.

    He said, "Did you do the GeoHot hack on that where you have to jumper the pins on the memory controller while running a program?"

    Awww, yea. My kinda guy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 4:04pm

    Eric Corley

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 4:35pm

    Woody Woodpecker?

    We all know that if you put anybody else that "independent" review board will get defunded in the future and be left to rot.

     

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    Dan, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 4:37pm

    Ken "Popehat" White and Glenn Greenwald. Both are technology-aware lawyers. Maybe a few top lawyers from the EFF could help too.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 5:26pm

    Nuke it from orbit, its the only way to be sure

    The NSA does whatever they want, review board or not.

    So I nominate Out Of The Blue. Having a real job he won't have time to post here!

     

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    voline, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 7:05pm

    Needs a lawyer

    I nominate Eben Moglen: founder of the Software Freedom Law Center, former council of the Free Software Foundation, programmer. He has been warning for years that you cannot trust the "cloud" and you should keep your data locally where the 4th amendment still has some force.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 7:20pm

    huh?

     

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    Pixelation, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 7:45pm

    ME!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 8:27pm

    Some good names

    Add Mike Godwin to the list. But we need more technologists.

     

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    teksquisite, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 11:45pm

    Ditto #1-3

    When I saw the subject line in my Google alerts = I was thinking Schneier, Felton & Soghoian. You spying on me?

    Anyway, Dan Kaminsky was my 4th option.

    We all know they won't let any of these experts on the NSA surveillance review board.It's government by the government and not for the people...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2013 @ 9:41am

    agree 1000%

     

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