The first-ever tech expert on Obama's NSA advisory board is *A*W*E*S*O*M*E*

The president's NSA advisory board grew teeth in the wake of the Snowden revelations, and they have done good service in identifying the civil liberties issues raised by the NSA's program of secret mass surveillance.

But they've been hobbled by the lack of high-caliber tech experts, the sort of person who could spot the mathematical errors used in the lethal big data projects used to identify candidates for assassination.

No more: as of this week, the board has a tech expert, the legendary Steve Bellovin. co-director of Columbia's Cybersecurity and Privacy Center, and author of such papers as Keys Under Doormats, a spectacular broadside against government backdoors in crypto.

The most important thing about the NSA's spy programs, Bellovin says, is not what gets stated openly about them, but what their implications are—implications that are often obscured to anyone who doesn't grasp the full technical capabilities of the spy tools the government uses.

Bellovin says his role will be not only to understand the implications of the tools, but also to determine if there is a better way to accomplish the government's intelligence goals while still preserving privacy and civil liberties.

Although he doesn't know yet the specific programs he'll be focusing on, the board has already told him he'll be looking at surveillance programs that have been authorized by Executive Order 12333, one of the least-understood and most wide-sweeping authorities the government uses for spying.

The President's NSA Advisory Board Finally Gets a Tech Expert [Kim Zetter/Wired]