Obama Will Announce NSA Reforms Jan. 17

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We have been describing the technical, legal, constitutional and practical aspects of recent NSA surveillance activities — in particular the NSA’s bulk telephony meta-data program — here, here, here and here, by presenting the thoughts and analysis of Geoffrey R. Stone, one of the five members of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies.

This is the Group that meticulously examined and analyzed the NSA’s programs and made 46 recommendations to the President last month in a 300-page report on how our nation should continue to protect our security while “simultaneously upholding the liberties that are at the very core of our national identity.”

Professor Stone has yet to publish his fifth essay examining whether the bulk telephony meta-data program constitutes a “search,” and if so whether it is an “ “unreasonable” search — which is something that the Fourth Amendment forbids.

In the meantime, last week, President Obama expressed “an openness” to the recommendation made by the President’s Review Group that private companies, not the government collect and store telephone meta-data and would provide a “pretty definitive statement” once he returns from his Hawaiian holiday break.

And today the White House announced that President Obama will be unveiling his proposed reforms to the nation’s surveillance programs in what could be a speech to the nation next Friday, Jan. 17

According to the Hill:

[The Presiddnet] will be remaking remarks to discuss the outcomes of the work that has been done in the review process,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

The administration provided no details about a venue for the speech, where the president is expected to announce sweeping changes to the work of the National Security Agency (NSA).

Obama has spent recent weeks reviewing a series of 46 recommendations made by a White House review panel, which has called for additional transparency and privacy protections to be added to the controversial NSA surveillance programs.

According to early reports, the president is expected to call for a halt to the government collection of telephone metadata and ask phone companies or a third party to retain control of that information. Under that practice, the government would need to seek additional legal approval to review American’s phone histories.

The president will also reportedly call for additional oversight of the National Intelligence Priorities Framework, a document used to rank intelligence goals and used while making the decision on whether to surveil foreign heads of state.

Read more here.

The Washington Post had this to say:

President Obama will deliver his highly anticipated speech on reforms to the National Security Agency on Jan 17, White House press secretary Jay Carney said.

Carney did not elaborate on what the president will say when he lays out his vision for changes to the NSA’s vast surveillance activities, in the wake of the disclosures from documents stolen by former government contractor Edward Snowden.

As the Washington Post reported Friday, Obama and his aides have been focused behind-the-scenes this week on finishing its review of the spy programs and preparing for the president’s address to the nation. Privacy and civil liberty activists, along with top tech company executives, are calling on the president to adopt sweeping reforms to curb the NSA’s collection of phone call metadata and other personal information of online users.

But U.S. defense and intelligence agencies have argued fiercely that such information is necessary to keep the public safe, even though a White House advisory board found in a December report no evidence that such data prevented a terrorist attack.

Read more here,

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist