On Friday, President Obama will announce a slate of reforms aimed at the National Security Agency’s surveillance operations, as well as the FISA Court that oversees it. These changes are expected to be closely related to the recommendations published by the administration’s NSA review panel last month.
From what we know now, the president will announce the following:
1) He’ll reform bulk collection of metadata by limiting NSA’s access to it. A source told The Washington Post that the president will say that “NSA’s bulk collection of phone data — which includes numbers dialed but not call content — is not something that the government should rely on except in limited circumstances.”
2) He’ll call for privacy measures to foreign intelligence gathering.
3) He’ll create a public civil liberties advocate on the FISA Court as a counter-point to NSA requests.
But the president is wisely not planning to unilaterally turn over bulk collection to private sector corporations, as the panel had proposed. Instead, he’s going to leave this in the hands of Congress to decide. I’ll come back to this point.
At the time, the panel’s recommendations were applauded by a practically giddy Glenn Greenwald and his supporters who believed the findings vindicated the national security leaks by Edward Snowden. Here’s Glenn Greenwald on CNN after the recommendations were made public:
“It’s extremely important especially in the wake of the federal court ruling earlier this week that found that the bulk collection program is unconstitutional or likely so, and now you have a panel of the White House’s hand-picked advisors concluding that the program in its current form should stop, that it poses a serious danger to core liberties…”
But now that the president has decided to implement most of the panel’s top shelf recommendations, including (and to repeat) limiting the bulk metadata program, which is arguably the Greenwald crowd’s primary gripe, the president is evidently not changing anything. Literally nothing, says Greenwald.
The president is “keeping everything the same.” Even though he’s, you know, not.
And here’s Greenwald’s reaction to a rather misleading headline from Mother Jones:
Bashing the president for his oratory is the pundit equivalent of a stand-up comic telling airplane peanut jokes, but okay, we get it. Nevertheless, the president is doing nearly all of the things which Greenwald applauded last month, yet this also amounts to doing nothing… [CONTINUE READING]