The NSA report
So the President's NSA review report is out and it isn't pretty. There's a lot to say about it and a lot of people are saying it. I'll just hit a couple of the highlights:
A full rundown is here.
It's a tougher report than people may have expected and it's extremely helpful in terms of shifting the conversation in a civil liberties direction. But as I've written many times here, I'm skeptical of "reforms" to our surveillance state apparatus. Even the deepest of them rarely add up to much. Nonetheless, it's important to at least make the secret government types pull back and pause from time to time and recognize that they don't have free rein to operate in whatever way they've convinced themselves is necessary to do their jobs. We have a bill of rights for a reason.
The NSA program defenders are, shall we say, nonplussed. I guess they assumed they'd be rubber stamped as usual:
Whether you read this as a rejection of bad policy by an independent group that did exactly what Obama asked it to do or less favorably will probably depend on where you started on the issues. But this presumably was not the report Obama was imagining when he asked this group to take this on. The White House’s press release accompanying the report declares that: “The President expressed his personal appreciation to the group members for the extraordinary work that went into producing this comprehensive and high quality report, and outlined for the group how he intends to utilize their work.” He must have gritted his teeth while doing so. For Obama knows that—whatever the merits of the issues in question—his job just got a lot harder because of a review he commissioned and empowered.
To put the matter bluntly, there is no way the administration will embrace a bunch of these recommendations. And from this day forward, any time the White House and the intelligence community resist these calls for change, the cry will go out that Obama, in doing so, is ignoring the recommendations of his own review panel. And the cry will be right. The White House declares that “Over the next several weeks, as we bring to a close the Administration’s overall review of signals intelligence, the President will work with his national security team to study the Review Group’s report, and to determine which recommendations we should implement.”
Good luck with that.
Oh heck. Now they're going to have to put up with yet more cranks yammering on about civil liberties when they have to protect the babies from the terrible people who are trying to kill us in our beds. Except for the fact that these programs don't do jack to protect us from the terrible people who are trying to kill us in our beds, I suppose that's a really important point.
I'm sure you'll all be shocked to learn that John Yoo believes the 4th Amendment clearly allows for warrantless spying on everyone. (But only if pain to the point of organ failure doesn't elicit the information first.)
It's holiday fundraiser time ...