NSA Reforms Ahead

Posted on January 17, 2014 by


NSA Data CollectionWe have more breaking news on the National Security Agency’s data collection programs. On the day that President Obama is set to announce an overhaul of how the Agency stores telephone data,  The Guardian has a story up on the agency’s global collection of text messages. One must assume the two events are related.

The Guardian, of course, still sits on mounds of secrets turned over by Edward Snowden, the former NSA employee who fled the U.S. I assume the publication decided to post the story to further the international pressure against the United States’ data collection programs. While the President hopes to deflect and counter ongoing domestic and international criticism, The Guardian undermines his efforts.

The President’s proposed overhaul, as it has been leaked, appropriately enough, is to have a third-party store the telephone data, which would then require a judicial directive for anyone to access the data. The downside is that third parties that store the data, like telephone companies, would probably struggle to protect the information as well as the NSA.

President Obama’s position is the result of competing demands he created. As he ran for the presidency against the ghost of George W. Bush’s foreign and security policies, Obama demanded and promised new and more transparent procedures. He stoked the civil libertarians’ hopes that the Patriot Act and other efforts to strengthen America’s surveillance abilities would be curbed, reformed, or repealed. Upon assuming the presidency, however, Obama has done little to reform Bush’s basic security apparatus. His rhetoric, so powerful, crashed into a reality so cruel.