Obama's empty surveillance promises

A year after the president's promise to rein in warrantless, illegal mass surveillance, he's revealed a plan that does nothing to fix the most egregious elements of American spying.

The president has the power and the time in office to do something meaningful about NSA spying — will he back up words with deeds?

His reform plan:

Fails to fix the problem of unconstitutional National Security Letters: The President's reform proposes a three-year limit on the gag order that accompanies each NSL, but even a three-year limit fails to cure the constitutional problem. Only a prompt and fully considered decision by a judge that a provider should remain gagged is sufficient.

Doesn't stop the bulk collection of data on innocent Americans' digital communications: If the Intelligence Community was serious about protecting privacy, it could end the bulk collection of Americans' communications data—under Section 215 of the Patriot Act or under any provision of law—tomorrow. The President's proposals do not curb the mass collection of phone records under Section 215, and the proposals affirmatively allow bulk collection to occur for six, broadly defined categories of intelligence collection.

Continues "backdoor" surveillance on Americans without a warrant:
When the intelligence community performs surveillance under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, it sweeps in the communications of millions of Americans without a warrant. The President's Review Group recommended the government obtain a warrant before it searched for communications of US persons contained within its vast database. The President rejected that proposal.

Fails to provide non-US persons with the same privacy protections afforded US persons: On a daily basis, the United States intelligence community collects vast amounts of information about millions of people around the world. While the President's proposals take a step forward in unifying the retention requirements applicable to collected non-US person information, they fail to afford the same privacy protections afforded US persons, and they fail to rein in bulk collection in the first place.

One Year Later, Obama Failing on Promise to Rein in NSA
[Mark Rumold/EFF]

(Image: Barack Obama – Caricature, Donkey Hotey, CC-BY)