Intelligence Task Force To Recommend Cosmetic Changes... While The White House Pre-Rejects The Biggest One
from the that's-the-punchline,-right? dept
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-mailSo, 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.