NSA Review Panel to Advocate Real Reform?

Politico has an article on the now-completed report by the commission appointed by President Obama to make recommendations after Edward Snowden revealed just how intrusive and clearly illegal the NSA’s data mining operations have become. And the article claims that the commission may be recommending real reform, though not as much as critics would like.

The Review Group’s preliminary findings and recommendations are anything but cosmetic. The still-classified report of the five-person panel, whose official moniker is the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, recommends sweeping and far-reaching changes in the way the NSA conducts its electronic surveillance operations, from a greater degree of executive-branch oversight of the agency’s operations to the imposition of new limits on what data it can collect, especially inside the United States—a move almost certain to anger the NSA and its supporters inside the U.S. intelligence community. But the report also recommends that the agency be allowed to continue some of the most controversial of these operations, which will not please its critics on Capitol Hill and among privacy advocacy groups.

The result is that nobody in Washington will be entirely happy with the report’s findings. “There is something in this report for everybody to hate,” a weary White House aide who has read the classified version of the Review Group’s report told me.

But the intelligence community will likely be unhappiest of all.

U.S. intelligence officials I spoke with were clearly shocked by the Review Group’s recommendations, with one official admitting that he felt “slobbernockered” by some of the things the panel was reportedly recommending…

In my conversations, a number of senior American officials blamed the changed political climate in Washington for the report’s overall reformist thrust. Reflecting on the dramatic changes that have taken place since the first newspaper stories based on Snowden’s leaked materials began appearing back in June, one U.S. official noted that the NSA’s once-solid support inside the White House and on Capitol Hill has waned since the panel was created in August, and that the once cordial relationship between the White House and NSA has become distinctly “chilly” over the past two months…

Intelligence officials confirm that it is true that over the past two months, thanks to the steady drumbeat of shocking newspaper exposés about the agency’s activities, the NSA has lost a good deal of support in the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department, and on Capitol Hill.

Call me skeptical on this one. No, call me really, really skeptical. After 13 years of united support for a vast range of unconstitutional abuses by the leadership of both parties in the White House and in Congress, I’ll believe that we’ll have serious reform of the NSA’s activities when it happens. And maybe not even then, depending on the nature of the reforms. Anything less than the repeal of those provisions of the Patriot Act and the FISA amendments that have given both the NSA and the FBI unprecedented powers that are in clear violation of the 4th Amendment will be cosmetic changes. And there’s no way in hell that’s going to happen.

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  • daved

    Snowden’s and/or Greenwald’s decision to release one revelation after another, rather than doing them all at once, has, I think, been a factor here. I agree, however, that I’ll believe we have meaningful change when I see it, and even then, security people will cheat if they can.

  • Nick Gotts

    The NSA and its fanbois have an obvious political incentive to pretend to be unhappy with the report, even if they’re not; and since they are practiced and professional liars, nothing they say should be taken at face value.

  • dingojack

    and in related news – foxes to be put in charge of henhouse. Film at 11.



  • eigenperson

    The commission can ask for real reform.

    That doesn’t mean anyone actually has to reform.

  • Brandon

    Yeah, this will be utterly useless. People don’t get promoted through the ranks of spying by finding new ways to apply the 4th Amendment to not spy on people. The people that are in charge of intelligence agencies are the people that see absolutely no problem with an ever expanding spy network, which leaves them as the worst possible people to do reform.

  • matty1

    Anything less than the repeal of those provisions of the Patriot Act and the FISA amendments that have given both the NSA and the FBI unprecedented powers that are in clear violation of the 4th Amendment will be cosmetic changes.

    You are being positive about this. I’d say it would take disbanding both organisations and any others implicated together with criminal prosecutions of anyone involved

    Once that is out the way it may be time for a fresh discussion about setting up new bodies to take over the legitimate functions of the old ones but not before.

  • steve84

    Another piece of real reform would be to put a civilian in charge and not a military officer.

  • D. C. Sessions

    I’ll believe that there’s going to be real reform when Boeing loses more than chump change from the status quo.

  • Ed:

    I just looked at my calendar. It is NOT April 1st. What gives?

  • You’d think with all their capability they’d have seen this coming.

  • marcus

    “Anything less than the repeal of those provisions of the Patriot Act and the FISA amendments…

    Cosmetic changes it is then, because as you noted above this is fucking not going to happen. Too bad.

  • marcus

    ooops forgot to close.