Glenn Greenwald NSA The Daily Banter

The Positive and Negative Sides of the President’s NSA Commission Report

Guess what? I agree with Glenn Greenwald on something. Specifically, I agree that, overall, the report issued Wednesday by the president’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies is a positive event in this ongoing NSA saga.

That said, I believe it’s positive for different reasons than Greenwald does, but there it is. He believes it’s positive because, as he said to the BBC, it’s a rebuke of the NSA’s surveillance operations and, like the Larry Klayman court decision earlier this week, it’s a vindication of Edward Snowden. On the other hand, I believe it’s positive because it’s an important step toward having a rational, reasonable debate about how exactly to reform NSA and the FISA Court (FISC).

First of all, what exactly is in the report?

The commission, which includes Richard Clarke, Cass Sunstein and the former deputy director of the CIA Michael J. Morell, recommended the following steps, among others:

–Congress and the president should strengthen the background check system to prevent another Snowden-style leak, as well as to move the system back within the federal government. Positive, though predictable, news.

–The NSA director should become a Senate-confirmed post, and, preferably a civilian. Not a terrible idea.

–A “Privacy Czar” position should be established as part of the White House staff. Okay, not bad, though the Republicans will totally love the idea of another “czar.”

–A public advocate should be present during FISC deliberations. Again, fine, but will this idea trickle out to all courts and for all law enforcement requests for search warrants, since, at this point, such a post doesn’t exist anywhere in a similar context?

–The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversigh Board (PCLOB) should be replaced by the Civil Liberties and Privacy Protection Board (CLPP), which would enjoy broader oversight power. Sounds like a backstop for FISC. Oversight is good.

–The president should have to personally authorize eavesdropping on foreign leaders. Fine.

–And finally, but not least of all, the panel recommended that the notorious “bulk collection and storage” of phone metadata, based on Section 215 of FISA and revealed initially by USA Today would have to end… [CONTINUE READING]