Advisory intelligence panel report

The New York Times has additional information on the recommendations of Obama’s intelligence panel. Obama has already stated that he would not accept one of the recommendations (that is, the recommendation that the NSA should have a civilian leader). However, some of the additional recommendations actually sound as if they would go a long way to curb the NSA. For example, the panel recommends that the telephone metadata program should be changed to block the NSA from collecting and holding the metadata. Rather, either the phone companies or a private agency should hold the data, and the NSA would be allowed access only after identifying a specific person and securing a court order.

However, the report ignores other problems, like the massive collection of emails, chats and other online communications. And in the case of the metadata program, it seems that the massive collection of data will continue, albeit by private entities. Why that is necessary is not made clear. If access to the data requires a court order, then why not leave the management of the metadata to the telecommunication companies would would deliver targeted information in response to the required court order.

In addition, the Times writes a powerful editorial today entitled “Turn off the data vacuum.” Excerpt:

The 300-plus-page report was written by a five-member advisory panel of intelligence and legal experts that was commissioned by the president himself and made 46 recommendations for reform. The recommendations demonstrate how far afield the National Security Agency has wandered in its zeal to vacuum up the phone and Internet data of virtually every American, not to mention world leaders and other non-American citizens.

They also show the lack of regard for the Constitution that has led those efforts, and the virtual absence of supervision and restraint by Mr. Obama and his predecessor, President George W. Bush.

The most far-reaching recommendations are also the most common sense. For example, the report calls for legislation requiring the government to meet a higher standard before it can order a company to turn over private customer records. As it stands, the law puts “extremely broad discretion in the hands of government officials,” the report said.

It also calls for an end to the government’s mass storage of those records, recommending that they be kept by the companies themselves or a private third party in order to prevent government abuse. Otherwise, the report warns, “high-level government officials will decide that this massive database of extraordinarily sensitive private information is there for the plucking.”

“Americans must never make the mistake of wholly ‘trusting’ our public officials,” the authors write.

I think this tweet summarizes an important point:

You can read the full text of the report here.