In a long-awaited action to begin much needed NSA reform, President Obama will punt on the more controversial aspects to the NSA spying programs and keep much of the data under executive branch authority.
Obama on Friday will call for ending the National Security Agency’s ability to store phone data from millions of Americans, but don’t get too comfortable yet. Instead, he will propose for Congress and the Justice Department — which is still under executive authority — to hold these records.
In essence, the NSA reform proposal will take power and authority over phone data from one man who lied to Congress under oath, James Clapper, and give it to another man who lied under oath to Congress, Attorney General Eric Holder.
After months of silence from the president on the issue, Obama will finally attempt to argue the need to store metadata, one of many programs exposed by leaker Edward Snowden. The announcement comes after a months-long review of the controversial spying practices by the White House.
However, Obama will punt on NSA reforms surrounding the most controversial aspects of the U.S. government’s data-collection programs, including those attacked by phone and Internet companies, whom of which complain American customers have lost faith in their ability to ensure their privacy is protected.
“They’re going to punt,”said James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “For many of the big issues, they’ll express an opinion but leave it up to congressional action,” he added.
And they did. But as far as monitoring world entities, Obama order changes to the current system, which may result in intelligence breakdowns. “Unless there is a compelling interest, we will not monitor heads of states” in friendly countries, Obama said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that the president believes the government can make surveillance activities “more transparent in order to give the public more confidence about the problems and the oversight of the programs.”
Yet, despite the White House promises, none of these reforms will address the storing of information through any other method outside of phone surveillance.
Proponents of the Fourth Amendment have been pressing for guidelines that significantly narrow the amount of data collected from Americans. As previously reported, libertarian-leaning Republican Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), is suing the Obama administration for the NSA spying on Americans in an effort to “protect the Fourth Amendment.”
In December, Obama’s own panel proposed moving the records to the phone companies or another third party, and requiring the NSA to get separate authority from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court each time it wants to access the data. But in Obama’s NSA reform proposal, the likelihood that information will still be stored separate of transparent, open authorities independent of the executive branch is very high.
The White House official did say Obama will not actually decide who should ultimately hold the data. He will call on the intelligence community and Congress Friday to consult on where it should be maintained, or another punt.
The NSA reform guidelines, however, will be effective immediately “so that a judicial finding is required before we query the database.”
The leaks from Snowden showed an ever-increasing polio state, with the practice of pushing privacy beneath “security” being institutionalized in unaccountable government agencies.
On Thursday, The Guardian reported that the NSA collects nearly 200 million text messages a day from people around the world as part of a program code-named “Dishfire.” The program allows the agency to collect data on people’s travel plans, phone contacts and financial transactions.
The latest disclosure came on the heels of a New York Times report claiming the NSA has implanted software on nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the U.S. to conduct surveillance on those machines using radio frequency technology.
The NSA explained by claiming the effort an “active defense,” claiming they have used the technology to monitor units of China’s Army, the Russian military, drug cartels, trade institutions inside the European Union, and sometime U.S. partners against terrorism like Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan, the Times reported.