The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies report, Liberty and Security in a Changing World, is now online. One of the chief recommendations is that the NSA no longer be allowed to monitor the phone calls of nearly every American. However, the panel did suggest that private companies hold that data which could be queried later by the NSA. Below are some preliminary assessments of it from various civil liberties advocates:
"The president's panel agreed with the growing consensus that mass electronic surveillance has no place in American society," EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl said. "The review board floats a number of interesting reform proposals, and we're especially happy to see them condemn the NSA's attacks on encryption and other security systems people rely upon. But we're disappointed that the recommendations suggest a path to continue untargeted spying. Mass surveillance is still heinous, even if private company servers are holding the data instead of government data centers." (emphasis added).
"We welcome this report, which advocates for many of the ACLU's positions, including an end to the government's dragnet collection of telephone metadata and its undermining of encryption standards," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "NSA's surveillance programs are un-American, unconstitutional, and need to be reined in. We urge President Obama to accept his own Review Panel's recommendations and end these programs."
In October, NSA Director Keith Alexander testified before Congress that stopping the mass surveillance of Americans "would result in this nation being attacked."
Starkly disagreeing with that assertion, Review Group panel member Michael Morrell told reporters:
"I do not believe, as a 33-year intelligence officer, that our recommendations will in any way undermine the capabilities of the US intelligence community to collect the information it needs to collect to keep the country safe."
In his ruling against the NSA surveillance program on Monday, Federal District Court Judge Richard Leon wrote:
"The government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA's bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature. I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism."
It's official. A lot of Congressoids are against domestic spying; the judiciary has ruled against it; and now the executive branch represented by Obama's handpicked review panel is (partially) against it. Time to stop. And, oh yes, thank you Edward Snowden.