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