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Lawmakers Say Devil in Obama’s NSA Reform Plan Is in the Details — Or Lack of Them

Moving metadata to the private sector, stopping world leader snooping -- and leaving Dems and GOPs asking why he's not coming to Congress.

by
Bridget Johnson

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January 17, 2014 - 2:24 pm
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WASHINGTON — Not long before President Obama unveiled his plans for NSA reforms today, a senior White House official stressed that “we have not determined that there has been abuse in these programs.”

Still, the administration is going forward with a package to revise signals intelligence programs due to “the risk of potential abuse.”

That includes several recommendations of the Review Group on Intelligence and Communication Technologies formed after the fallout from NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s revelations on the mass collection of metadata. Reforms include an annual review of FISA court opinions to potentially declassify those with broad privacy implications, restrictions on the government’s legal ability to collect communications between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, and a “transition” away from the bulk collection of metadata to “only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of three” while exploring storing the data with a third party. Communications providers will be able “to make public more information than ever before about the orders they have received to provide data to the government.”

The White House is also promising to stop spying on world leaders’ communications, something that has rankled heads of state from Brazil to Germany and beyond. An officer at the State Department will be appointed to “coordinate our diplomacy on issues related to technology and signals intelligence.”

In his speech at the Justice Department today, Obama claimed, “I maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became president.”

“What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale, not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in that initial review and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens,” he said.

However, the president added, “It was clear to me in observing our intelligence operations on a regular basis that changes in our technological capabilities were raising new questions about the privacy safeguards currently in place.”

“In fact, during the course of our review, I’ve often reminded myself I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Dr. King, who were spied upon by their own government,” Obama said. “And as president, a president who looks at intelligence every morning, I also can’t help but be reminded that America must be vigilant in the face of threats.”

Obama also issued a new presidential directive today to “clearly prescribe what we do and do not do when it comes to our overseas surveillance.”

“To begin with, the directive makes clear that the United States only uses signals intelligence for legitimate national security purposes and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the e- mails or phone calls of ordinary folks,” Obama said. “I’ve also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity, or race, or gender, or sexual orientation or religious beliefs.”

“In this directive I have taken the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas. I have directed the DNI, in consultation with the attorney general, to develop these safeguards, which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information, while also restricting the use of this information. The bottom line is that people around the world — regardless of their nationality — should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security, and that we take their privacy concerns into account in our policies and procedures. This applies to foreign leaders as well.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Obama took “a measured and thoughtful approach” that was “focused on striking the right balance” between privacy and intelligence.

“As intelligence professionals, we have historically preferred to avoid the spotlight, but we know that for the foreseeable future, the public will remain focused on what we do and how we do it,” Clapper said, promising to “work with our oversight committees to implement the president’s reforms” in the coming weeks. “To build on and maintain the trust of the American people and our international partners, we must embrace the president’s call for transparency.”

The leaders of the congressional intelligence committees, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), said in a joint statement that they “strongly agree” with Obama’s approach.

“We are also pleased the president underscored the importance of using telephone metadata to rapidly identify possible terrorist plots, a gap that existed on September 11, 2001, and which has been closed through the NSA’s collection of telephone metadata under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.  As the president said, this is a capability that is ‘critical’ and must be ‘preserved,’” Feinstein and Rogers said.

“The president announced his intent to seek approvals from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court prior to querying the Section 215 database. If instituted, that approval process must be made faster in the future than it was in the past—when it took up to nine days to gain Court approval for a single search. We encourage the White House to send legislation with the president’s proposed changes to Congress so they can be fully debated.”

Three other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who have been critical of the privacy implications of NSA surveillance welcomed the proposals but said they don’t go far enough.

“In particular, we will work to close the ‘back-door searches’ loophole and ensure that the government does not read Americans’ emails or other communications without a warrant. We will work to ensure that intelligence activities do not recklessly undermine confidence in American IT products and American IT employers. We will also continue to press for meaningful reforms of the outdated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court process. This should include the establishment of a strong, independent advocate to ensure that the Court hears both sides of the argument,” Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said in a joint statement.

“We take seriously Ben Franklin’s admonition that a society that trades essential liberties for short-term security risks losing both. Today’s announcement does not include all the reforms we have sought. The president has listened to some of the advice of his independent panel of experts and endorsed some of the reforms we have long advocated. The fight to protect liberty and increase security is far from over.”

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the author of the Patriot Act who has said that the government is now twisting the law’s intention, said “the bottom line is real reform cannot be done by presidential fiat.”

“Some of his proposals I agree with, others I don’t,” Sensenbrenner said. “The president and intelligence community have repeatedly misled Congress and the American people and lack credibility for reform. The most effective way for the president to restore trust in the intelligence community is to endorse the USA FREEDOM Act, which strikes the proper balance between privacy and security. This bill would make permanent the good intentions of the president and address some of the omissions in his speech where Americans’ liberties need greater protection.”

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Top Rated Comments   
Attention passengers! Welcome to the fundamentally transformed U.S. of A. As you work your way through the current state of America, for you own safety please make sure that any inconvenient facts and associated criticisms are stored neatly within yourself. Otherwise, Pharaoh Hussein Louie Obamalini , the IRS SS, the BIG STASI NSA, and the dedicated TSA Gropestapo, and if necessary the ever expanding DroneForce, will come to help you reorder your priorities. You are welcome to file a complain via the soon to be Islamic regulated Internet. We apologize if your federal officials cannot respond to every inquiry. They may merely be previously committed to representing other more lucrative interests more relevant to their own pocketbooks and their own secrecy. And as always, have a nice day and think happy thoughts as because of your wonderful and caring government you are safe and protected and all of your thinking is being done for you.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
When Obama leads with something like "I've also made it clear" or "let me be clear" or a number of other "tells", that usually means whatever follows is the opposite of what he's stating. In that regard, the following is particularly troublesome.“I’ve also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity, or race, or gender, or sexual orientation or religious beliefs.”
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why has he ignored Congress again? Because he's a DICK!!!
Tater.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (22)
All Comments   (22)
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33 weeks ago
33 weeks ago Link To Comment
REVISED & REPOSTED IN TWO PARTS - PART I

The scandal is MUCH WORSE than we imagine, for THREE MAIN REASONS:

1. Subject PROFILES - Everything about You, Your Family and Everyone You Know

The NSA computers crunch vast illegal data troves to derive subject PROFILES (explained below). Remember that the NSA harvests emails, texts, phone calls, snail mail addresses, financial transactions, cellphone locations, car license plates, CCTV cameras with facial recognition, etc. (BTW, trained terrorists have long been well aware of these practices.)

We will soon hear solemn assurances from the NSA and its masters in the White House and in Chicago that all DATA has been “destroyed” and collection has been curtailed. However, the individual profiles derived from the data will be RETAINED INDEFINITELY by the NSA and will be shared with favored organizations such as Organizing for America, and sold to corporate customers and foreign powers such as China, Iran, Russia, Muslim front organizations, etc.

WHAT ARE PROFILES?

We know that Target can tell whether a shopper is pregnant from analyzing NON-PREGNANCY related purchases over time. Based on much broader data it has hoovered up over years, the NSA computes highly personal PROFILES for every American woman, man and child. The real aim is to create an atmosphere of blackmail and general intimidation to smooth the way for a Nazi-inspired totalitarian regime.

NSA profiles comprise HUNDREDS of highly personal ATTRIBUTES including those listed below. The NSA will loudly proclaim that its data collection has been destroyed etc., but the profiles will be kept and sold to the well-connected or well-heeled parties.
NSA Profile attributes include, for example, the following:

* Non compliant political attitude: Libertarian, Tea Party, Christian, Orthodox Jewish, etc.

* Dissing Sacred Beliefs: insufficiently slavish devotion to government as highest g-d, Islamophobia, "right wing" "conservative" beliefs, etc.

* Sexual orientation and practices:, gay/bisexual orientation, paraphilia, infidelity, anything that can be used to keep a person quiet and scared

(NOTE: being gay may well become MORE of a blackmail issue in the next ten years as Muslim doctrines gain ground.)

* Sensitive health issues: cancer, AIDS, STD, diabetes

* Mental health issues: e.g. depression, bipolar, attention issues, schizophrenia, etc.

* Tax issues: undeclared side job, under-the-table income, property and income outside U.S., etc.

* Other legal issues: You may not remember getting too close to a federally protected wetland during a hike, but your cellphone does, and so does the NSA.

* Dangerous information sources: subject reads foreign-language news reports, shares information with friends and acquaintances, etc.

The list of profile attributes of interest to some user or other is endless. Ask yourself what YOU would like to know about your boss, your own family, personal enemies, friends, business competitors, business partners, politicians, etc. Then ask yourself what you could learn with unlimited access to ALL data generated by a person in interactions with the world.

Almost by definition, all the secret information accumulated by the NSA and other government agencies is intended to and will be used for NEFARIOUS PURPOSES to oppress the individual and strengthen collective power. Meanwhile, ideological corruption means that readily available data will NOT be used to, e.g. screen out KNOWN Muslim activists from sensitive government positions. (Witness the active promotion of Major Nidal Hassan by strings of politically correct superiors.)
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
REVISED & REPOSTED IN TWO PARTS - PART II

2. NSA Data Feeds Enemy Subversion

With about 40,000 NSA employees and a large number of external contractors, the question to ask is not how many NSA staff are foreign agents. The real question is how many HUNDREDS or THOUSANDS of NSA personnel are active or sleeping AGENTS FOR VARIOUS FOREIGN GOVERNMENT AGENCIES, including those of China, Russia, Iran, etc., or for corporate interests.

History documented since at least the 1930s shows that foreign subversion and espionage up to the highest levels of government is a fact of life. Top-secret organizations including the Manhattan Project and the CIA are KNOWN to have been infiltrated by multiple moles. The unknown or unpublished instances of penetration are no far higher.

With raw data and subject profiles readily available from the NSA at the click of a mouse, foreign secret services, terrorist organizations, corporations etc. can readily and with little risk mount blackmail operations against large numbers of U.S. citizens in sensitive government and private positions. Using traditional means, an op against a single target would have taken months of painstaking, expensive and error-prone gumshoe work on the ground.

3. Law Enforcement Creep

It has been known for some time that the NSA has “leaked” information based on its warrantless searches to the FBI and other agencies in certain cases with an important government interest. The FBI then “launders” the information by seeking out admissible information, after which all references to the original leak would be deleted.

It is very tempting to ACQUIESCE to such practices where the end result is the capture of a serial rapist, murderer etc. to “KEEP US SAFE”. However, the experience of our 100 year “war on drugs” shows that well-intentioned exceptions from constitutional requirements invariably take on a life of their own. Once such practices take root, INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS VANISH, and only the personal preference of a political prosecutor stands between liberty and enslavement in a government penal colony.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ahem!! This is the same guy; Obama ... that missed his intel meetings 5 days in a row before the Al Qaeda jihad attack on Benghazi; did not give CBA (Cross Border Authority) and went campaigning instead.
How in THE hell can we believe a WORD this guy says?
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
“I’ve also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity, or race, or gender, or sexual orientation or religious beliefs.”
There it is ... plain as day. That's a direct admission in Obamaspeak that he's been collecting data for nefarious purposes all along ... thanks to Maxine Waters for ratting him out. Why would he even feel the need to say those words above?? He did nothing about the IRS doing the same!!
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Why go to Congress at all? Caesar Augustus Obama already has sufficient laws to implement whatever he wants in international and domestic spy operations. Oh, yeah, that's right! He never, never wants to be blamed for whatever may go wrong next. Might reflect badly on his "legacy."
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think it is SO CUTE that some of our lawmakers are looking for details in Obama's "plan."

Obama has no freaking plan, folks. He gave a speech. For his base, that's enough. He has no concern about anyone else.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama has no credibility left ... and any lawmaker worth a damn can see that.
But, we gave Obama the authority to be POTUS; and here we are. That authority can be used however Obama wishes; good or bad; it's too bad congress doesn't exercise its authority throw out the DIC (Dictator In Chief); which would have handily happened if the constitution (remember the law?) is honored. We have acted just as lawlessly as Obama.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Every action proposed by the President appears to me to be a positive step forward.

Does anyone disagree? If so, please explain, but assume you are speaking to someone who doesn't personally hate the President.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh I agree that every move is positive in that it helps measure the decreasing time we have to deal with his criminal administration... every sound byte and meaningless platitude measures one more moment closer to the end of his presidency and real hope that we can somehow recover from the wreckage it has caused.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Whereas I see that it can a fine line between criticizing the POTUS's actions and harboring feelings of hate for the man ... Obama only has himself to blame for his deliberate deception in furthering his political ambitions. When Maxine Waters let slip the very telling tale of Obama assembling the biggest database of people's personal information; something so big "it has never been seen before"; the NSA "spying" takes on a whole new worry. My position is this: if Obama feels the need to give the NSA cover (to continue spying) by making a speech and proposing minute changes that mean absolutely nothing in terms of curbing NSA overreach - there's a big problem. This cover is no different to the, "you can keep your insurance lie".
Obama pretends that he doesn't know about what's going on; but this is a ruse to buy time in order to complete what has obviously become a constitution-trashing agenda. This guy, has at this point; gone rogue.
No more excuses.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Attention passengers! Welcome to the fundamentally transformed U.S. of A. As you work your way through the current state of America, for you own safety please make sure that any inconvenient facts and associated criticisms are stored neatly within yourself. Otherwise, Pharaoh Hussein Louie Obamalini , the IRS SS, the BIG STASI NSA, and the dedicated TSA Gropestapo, and if necessary the ever expanding DroneForce, will come to help you reorder your priorities. You are welcome to file a complain via the soon to be Islamic regulated Internet. We apologize if your federal officials cannot respond to every inquiry. They may merely be previously committed to representing other more lucrative interests more relevant to their own pocketbooks and their own secrecy. And as always, have a nice day and think happy thoughts as because of your wonderful and caring government you are safe and protected and all of your thinking is being done for you.
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
Every step you take
Every move you make
Obama's perverts at the N-Stasi-A will be watching you

Every word you write or say
Every night and day
Obama's perverts at the N-Stasi-A will be watching you
34 weeks ago
34 weeks ago Link To Comment
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