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Hullabaloo


Thursday, December 19, 2013

 
The list of important items in the NSA report

by digby

Kevin Drum does a nice job of highlighting and distilling the most important recommendations of the NSA report:
  1. Phone records should be stored privately, not by the government. If the NSA needs phone records, it should get a warrant for them. Like a subpoena, the warrant should be "reasonable in focus, scope, and breadth."
  2. More broadly: "As a general rule and without senior policy review, the government should not be permitted to collect and store mass, undigested, non-public personal information about US persons for the purpose of enabling future queries and data-mining for foreign intelligence purposes."
  3. The FBI should no longer be allowed to issue National Security Letters on its own. NSLs should be issued only if a warrant is approved. Nondisclosure orders should be more restricted; should last no more than 180 days; and should not prevent the target of the NSL from challenging its legality in court.
  4. Generally speaking, companies that are ordered to produce information should be allowed to "disclose on a periodic basis general information about the number of such orders they have received, the number they have complied with, the general categories of information they have produced, and the number of users whose information they have produced in each category."
  5. Surveillance of non-US persons "must be directed exclusively at protecting national security interests....[and] must not be directed at illicit or illegitimate ends, such as the theft of trade secrets or obtaining commercial gain for domestic industries."
  6. If a US person is inadvertently surveilled, that information cannot be used as evidence in any court proceeding.
  7. The NSA should be headed by a civilian. Leadership of the NSA should be separated from leadership of the military's Cyber Command.
  8. "Congress should create the position of Public Interest Advocate to represent the interests of privacy and civil liberties before the FISC." In addition, more FISC decisions should be declassified.
  9. The government should commit itself to stop trying to undermine public encryption standards.
All of that sounds pretty good.  I've been particularly worried about number 6, which seemed to me to be a huge danger, basically providing the US government with a data base they could use to "find" evidence any time they needed it. (Of course, we also need to ensure they can't hide the fact that they relied on this evidence by considering the data storage the same thing as a confidential informant.)

But what should gain everyone's attention about all this is the fact that the hand-picked White House commission pretty much confirmed that the government has been doing all these things, or at the very least has the unfettered capability of doing it if if chooses. Number five should make everybody wake the hell up, because it confirms the fact that the government is working on behalf of commercial interests which, by the way, does not mean the same thing as working on behalf of American workers.

It seems to me that this should mean "game over." All the sturm und drang about Snowden being a traitor who sold out America and made us all vulnerable to boogeymen who are trying to kill us in our beds was always nonsense or, at the very least, beside the point.  Now it's obvious that this was information that needed to come out and that there was no other way for it to happen except through an act of whistleblowing and brave journalism. The people on this panel are not dirty hippies or libertarian cranks. They are members in good standing of the establishment with credentials that should make any skeptic feel comfortable with their findings.

Unfortunately, politics plays an important role in how we deal with civil liberties and as Drum points out, congress is likely to water all this down (in concert with the administration.)I'm hearing a lot of new talk about how "expensive" these fixes will be (which is funny considering the insanely expensive new headquarters the NSA has been building in Utah) and the usual stenographers are wringing their hands over how impossible this is going to make the NSA's job. But it's important that the people understand that these NSA capabilities are not business as usual.  And this report went a long way toward making that clear to even the most obtuse commentators.



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