Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 26, 2013

Congressional prospects for NSA operations

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on July 26, 2013

As I explained in an early June post, I have mostly been reassured by the controversy over NSA domestic intelligence gathering.  So far the evidence I have seen indicates operations have been undertaken consistent with the law, with judicial authorization, and with Congressional oversight.

The close vote on Wednesday night to continue funding NSA operations is another example of the system working as it ought.  It is helpful and appropriate that policy of this sort be actively and critically examined by the people’s representatives.  Our security mavens have been forcefully reminded of their obligation to consult with Congress on policy and strategy.  (And I even hope against hope that those in Congress may have learned to listen more carefully.  I know I’m a glutton for disappointment.)

If some are tempted to “learn” from this experience that they need to be even more secretive, they are idiots.  If they instead recognize the benefit of proactive and principled engagement at the policy level, we will all be better off: both in terms of our tactical security and the preservation of liberty.

I am glad the funding was continued.  I am glad the vote was close.  I am glad that other efforts are underway to ensure legal constraints on domestic intelligence operations.  Yesterday reporting by ProPublica identified six proposals still under consideration by Congress:

1) Raise the standard for what records are considered “relevant”

2) Require NSA analysts to obtain court approval before searching metadata

3) Declassify Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions

4) Change the way Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges are appointed

5) Appoint a public advocate to argue before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

6) End phone metadata collection on constitutional grounds

Read more on each proposal by Kara Brandeisky at ProPublica

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2 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

July 26, 2013 @ 8:31 am

An important topic and time will tell how this problematic area develops.

What is clear is that collection technically of INTEL and its processing and dissemination is enshrouded in SECRECY and that controls are few.

As in the old old days who has access to the message traffic and how they can use or abuse that access required constant monitoring.

You would have to assume based on disclosures that all federal message traffic is monitored by NSA including WH conversations with the paramours of even the President if such takes place. Thus, the old days of an FBI file manually collected used by HOOVER to blackmail the leadership, politicians and others is long ago child’s play as compared to the present.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 1, 2013 @ 10:57 am

James Fallows is taking the point of view that the whole surveillance issue is about internet freedom and the business plans of USA internet provider corps. Apparently he believes the whole shebang is loaded with the implicit threat by the EU to prohibit those companies participating in government surveillance.

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