While many of us were surprised
at the details of the White House's intelligence task force's proposals on reforming the surveillance system, Marcy Wheeler is already wondering if part of the reason for the White House to release this now, ahead of schedule, is to try to cut off the judicial reviews
of the constitutionality of the various programs, as well as the legislative reforms winding their way through Congress. She argues that the report gives the President cover to delay many of these things, and even, potentially, ward off a full constitutional review in the courts -- such that things like the "third party doctrine" (allowing the government to get data from third parties without a warrant) never fully get tested again in court:
So long as the President deliberates on whether to accept these recommendations (which make changes but have obvious loopholes), he'll also buy time for DOJ to decide how to respond to these suits. Most important, for them, will be to protect the Third Party doctrine (which allows them to get information from telecoms and banks and other businesses), even if it means mooting the lawsuits by shifting the phone dragnet back to the providers.
I also think the first half (or so) of these recommendations are designed to moot the Leahy-Sensenbrenner bill (FREEDOM). Even if Obama accepted all the recommendations that parallel Leahy-Sensenbrenner (that would affect the phone dragnet, other bulk collection, National Security Letters, back door searches, and other use of incidentally collected US person data), it would still preserve Executive prerogative to resume such practices. They're not going to do that, mind you, but this will likely stall the debate over Leahy-Sensenbrenner until after Obama makes his decision on what to accept and reject.
All of that may be true -- and is a concern to monitor. But, at the very least, we're seeing increasingly mounting pressure for President Obama to enact real changes to these programs, rather than just defending them blindly.