Yesterday, The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, appointed by President Obama in August to recommend changes in U.S. intelligence collection, released its report. David Sanger and Charlie Savage of The New York Times report: Obama Is Urged to Sharply Curb N.S.A. Data Mining.
The panel recommended changes in the way the agency collects the telephone data of Americans, spies on foreign leaders and prepares for cyberattacks abroad.
But the most significant recommendation of the panel of five intelligence and legal experts was that Mr. Obama restructure a program in which the N.S.A. systematically collects logs of all American phone calls — so-called metadata — and a small group of agency officials have the power to authorize the search of an individual’s telephone contacts. Instead, the panel said, the data should remain in the hands of telecommunications companies or a private consortium, and a court order should be necessary each time analysts want to access the information of any individual “for queries and data mining.”
The experts briefed Mr. Obama on Wednesday on their 46 recommendations, and a senior administration official said Mr. Obama was “open to many” of the changes, though he has already rejected one that called for separate leaders for the N.S.A. and its Pentagon cousin, the United States Cyber Command.
The five-member advisory board consisted of:
Richard A. Clarke, a cyberexpert and former national security official under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush…,Michael J. Morell, a former deputy director of the C.I.A.; Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law School professor who ran the office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama White House; Peter Swire, a privacy law specialist at the Georgia Institute of Technology; and Geoffrey R. Stone, a constitutional law specialist at the University of Chicago Law School, where Mr. Obama once taught.
Mr. Obama is expected to take the report to Hawaii on his vacation that starts this week and announce decisions when he returns in early January. Some of the report’s proposals could be ordered by Mr. Obama alone, while others would require legislation from Congress, including changes to how judges are appointed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Some of the recommendations, as summarized by USA Today are as follows:
The NSA should cease keeping a massive phone record database that includes nearly every phone call made and received in the USA.
Tougher standards should be created for spying on foreign leaders.
The NSA should be prohibited from asking companies to insert back doors into their software so it can gain access to encrypted communications and networks.
A public interest advocate should be named to represent civil liberties and privacy interests before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
A civilian should be appointed to be the next director of the NSA.
Leadership of the U.S. military’s Cyber Command and the NSA should be split.
Legislation should be enacted requiring the intelligence community to report regularly to Congress and the American people on business records and metadata collected.
The NSA director should be confirmed by the US Senate, with civilians eligible for the role
The president should give “serious consideration” to ensuring the next NSA director is a civilian and separate the position from US Cyber Command, a military unit
Creation of a Public Interest Advocate to argue in favour of privacy and civil liberties interests before the FISC
More transparency at FISC
Halting spy agencies’ efforts to undermine commercial encryption methods
Limits on who can access information gained by the NSA
The president should personally approve all methods used by the intelligence community, including spying on foreign leaders
You can read the full report here (PDF).
I’m sure none of this will actually satisfy the Greenwald-Snowden cult (Charles Pierce summarizes some of their objections), but they are nevertheless crowing about it and claiming this is a “vindication” of Snowden’s stealing of classified information. Read the rest of this entry »