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Government Politics

Obama Announces Surveillance Reforms 359

Posted by Soulskill
from the knowing-which-way-the-wind-is-blowing dept.
In a speech today, U.S. President Barack Obama announced changes for the operations of the country's intelligence agencies. He says the current program will end "as it currently exists," though most of the data collection schemes will remain intact. However, the data collected in these sweeps will not be stored by the U.S. government, instead residing with either the communications providers or another third party. (He pointed out that storing private data within a commercial entity can have its own oversight issues, so the attorney general and intelligence officials will have to figure out the best compromise.) In order for the NSA to query the database, they will need specific approval from a national security court. Obama also announced "new oversight" to spying on foreign leaders, and an end to spying on leaders of friendly and allied countries. Further, decisions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will be annually reviewed for declassification. A panel advocating for citizen privacy will have input into the FISC. There will be chances to national security letters: they will no longer have an indefinite secrecy period. Companies will be able to disclose some amount of information about the NSLs they receive, something they've been asking for. Another change is a reduction in the number of steps from suspected terrorists that phone data can be gathered. Instead of grabbing all the data from people three steps away, it's now limited to two.
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Obama Announces Surveillance Reforms

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:14PM (#45987925)

    And the intertwining of corporation and state increases.

    Remember, libertarians: power will always find a vacuum. So there will always be strong government - the only thing we can influence is who controls the strings.

  • I don't know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:16PM (#45987961)

    ...this sounds to me like rebranding.

  • Money Talks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Noryungi (70322) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:17PM (#45987973) Homepage Journal

    In other words:
    1) A private enterprise will store secret data: What could possibly go wrong?
    2) More secret court oversight: as if the secret court that exists right now is not rubber-stamping everything the NSA passes its way.
    3) Companies will be able to talk about the secret court orders: Google and Facebook signed a big check for the future Obama Presidential Library?
    4) Rest assured this is a true reform! Nothing to see here, folks, move along...

  • by killhour (3468583) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:18PM (#45987993)
    It's pretty obvious what's going on. The administration knows it needs to do something to save face, and wants to do it on their own terms preemptively before they have to respond to proposals by people that AREN'T working for the NSA's best interests. If Obama cared, he would have done something about it BEFORE it was a PR nightmare.
  • Doubtful (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:18PM (#45988001)

    "If you like your privacy, you can keep it, period."

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:19PM (#45988009) Homepage

    So, aside from a few window dressing changes and a toss to the big Internet companies - the biggest difference is that another company is going to 'store' the info and the government is going to have to ask itself if it can get access to it?

    Another nice contract to somebody. No real change in the Status Quo.

    Gotta love that hope and change.

  • by afidel (530433) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:21PM (#45988053)

    Since they have to go through the FISA court for warrants to do the searches now the bandwidth of the court will limit their ability to dragnet like that. I have my own problems with the FISA court system but at least it does add an additional party looking over the requests and the small size of the court reduces the amount of work that can be done requiring the NSA to actually focus their work to real suspects. This change is good for American freedom from a surveillance state and it's probably good for our security as well as the analysts will be looking at sets of data with a higher signal to noise ratio.

  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:26PM (#45988133)

    But he PROMISED that all they data they're going to gather on you will never be looked at. Doesn't that make you happy?

  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:27PM (#45988155)

    Since they claim they have to go through the FISA court for warrants to do the searches now

    FTFY

  • Not only no ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chromium_One (126329) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:28PM (#45988163)
    ... but also go fuck yourself, Barry. Can't believe I voted for you. Ah well, let me look over the protest options next cycle.
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:28PM (#45988169)

    "Since they have to go through the FISA court for warrants to do the searches now the bandwidth of the court will limit their ability to dragnet like that."

    Sorry, but no. The FISA court already approved all that in the past. So why would this make any difference?

    This is a joke. A distinction without a difference. You know very well that Obama has been in favor of expanding surveillance -- because he DID. This is just another of his many lies. He's pretending to address the issue without making any real, substantive changes.

  • Re:I don't know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TWiTfan (2887093) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:29PM (#45988187)

    Sure, we're still going to spy on your web history and every phone call, email, text, etc. that you send or receive. But this time WE PROMISE not to look at it! Satisfied, assholes?

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:32PM (#45988219)

    What about oversight? They say they're going to stop doing this and that, but how will we ever know whether they're being honest about it? How will we know whether the next president decides to turn the bus back around? Congressional oversight is a joke, as members of Congress (e.g,, Feinstein) are as much in favor of running roughshod over citizens' rights and allies' respect as Gen. Alexander is. FISC oversight is likewise pointless, and several of those judges have argued against even having an opposing side arguing for the privacy protections of the people. Short of another Snowden, there's no way to know.

  • by robinsonne (952701) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:42PM (#45988357)
    I don't see any of the "changes" they've made or have talked about making as protecting American freedom from a surveillance state. All I see is Washington trying to sweep things under the rug and bury things deeper.

    We made a change, won't you please forget it ever happened now? OOooooh look over there!!! Shiny!!!
  • by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:43PM (#45988387)

    But he PROMISED that all they data they're going to gather on you will never be looked at. Doesn't that make you happy?

    Just as happy as the families of every detainee released when Gitmo closed five years ago, and the families of troops that all came home from Afghanistan and Iraq five years ago when we ended those wars.

  • Re:Not only no ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rolfwind (528248) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:44PM (#45988407)

    Next time don't vote for a guy with no real trackrecord. For a politician, actions always speak louder than words.

  • by EMG at MU (1194965) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:45PM (#45988423)
    How about U.S. citizens can query the database and receive a report on what data the NSA has collected?
  • Re:Money Talks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by robinsonne (952701) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:47PM (#45988439)
    So people with Ivy League degrees never lie? He definitely tries more at being smooth-talking and glib but I trust him even less than Bush. Which is more dangerous, an incompetent crook that is blunt and makes mistakes or a competent one that doesn't?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:47PM (#45988441)

    I calculate the odds that this Politician is lying about this to be 100%.

  • Re:Money Talks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Antipater (2053064) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:48PM (#45988451)

    That's what scares me the most.

    Obama is a very smart man. He's a scholar who taught Constitutional Law for twelve years. He campaigned on a reduction of surveillance and spying. Then, once President, he did a 180.

    Something happened to make him change his mind. Was he corrupted by power? Are the monied interests that powerful that they made him deny what he'd been teaching for years? Or is there something else afoot?

  • by hazeii (5702) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:02PM (#45988679) Homepage

    Notice how this is a curb on the *use* of the collected data - not on collecting it in the first place.

    In other words, politicians have realised how much power this level of information can give them - and that is why control of it is far too important to be left in the hands of the NSA.

    So what we have is just a power struggle over the strings of control - and not over the real issue of overbearing intrusion into the private lives of the people of this planet.

  • Re:Money Talks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:05PM (#45988749)

    No, and how did this get modded 'insightful'?

    You're missing the simplest explanation: during his campaign, Obama lied.

  • Re:Money Talks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:15PM (#45988909)

    He campaigned on a reduction of surveillance and spying. Then, once President, he did a 180.

    As he did on many issues... wars, economic policy, etc.

    But go back and listen to some of those campaign speeches sometime, though. You'll find a lot of "YES WE CAN" and a lot of "we can do better" and "this needs to be fixed," but a lot of vagueness about detailed policies. I still remember talking to fans after the election (and that's what many of them were: fans), and they thought ANYTHING was possible. I kept saying, "Well, I'll believe it when I see it... everything was kept so vague except for the cheerleading speeches," but I was told that I was just being cynical. And I should shut up because I was ruining the party-time atmosphere and celebration.

    There were already a lot of clues in the campaign that the actual content was TBD when it came to what Obama would do in office.

    Something happened to make him change his mind. Was he corrupted by power? Are the monied interests that powerful that they made him deny what he'd been teaching for years? Or is there something else afoot?

    Nah. There's no grand conspiracy. This happens with most politicians when they get elected. Obama was mostly a "blank slate" that just kept cheering "YES WE CAN," which allowed his fans to believe anything they wanted to believe about him. We heard a lot more about problems that needed to be solved than details about the solutions.

    And it turns out the details were pretty much similar to any other politicians from the two-party oligarchy.

    Obama is a very smart man. He's a scholar who taught Constitutional Law for twelve years.

    I do not dispute that he's a very smart man. I've always found calling him a "scholar" to be stretching it a bit: yes, he was a lecturer who taught Constitutional law for a number of years, but he wasn't permanent faculty at a law school. He didn't spend his days writing scholarly articles for legal journals. He was -- first and foremost -- a politician... and still is.

    This is not at all to disparage his knowledge of the Constitution. I'm sure he can read it just as well as most of us can, and -- regardless of whether he's a Constitutional "scholar or not -- if he merely passed the bar, I would hope that he could understand the plain meaning of things like the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

    But the Bush administration clearly didn't, and they had a lot of lawyers working for them too. So... why should it be different again?? If we just keep saying "YES WE CAN" enough times over and over, will things magically get better?

  • Re:Money Talks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by s.petry (762400) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:18PM (#45988967)

    Wholly load of delusional bullshit Batman!

    Obama has a history of lying. It does not matter what a persons school was, or what race they are, or what religion they are. A proven liar is a liar. There are web sites that keep track of the major lies, and Obama in 4 years topped any previous president by at least double. We are not talking wishy-washy things like "close Gitmo" but big things like prosecuting bankers, ending wars, and repealing the Patriot act that he's lied about.

    As to him not expanding the TSA, this is another blatent lie. The TSA is now not just in airports, but bus and rail stations and sporting events. Fuck, even the Michigan State Fair has had a TSA presence for the last few years.

    To claim a Constitutional Scholor will review things is your third blatant fallacy. First it's a red herring, second nobody has determined who would be the watcher, and third relates directly to item 1. Obama claims to be an expert at Constitutional Law, and he is a liar. So no matter what the person studies or claims to be an expert in, you may end up with another liar sitting in an appointed office simply spreading more lies.

  • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:20PM (#45989011) Homepage

    You're reading is FAIL --- has Gitmo ended(1)? Is Afghanistan over(2)? Did Iraq linger and linger(3)? A passing familiarity with recent events makes it sarcasm as obvious as a cement truck barreling down the freeway.

    (1) Obama did have a plan to close the Gitmo facility, and transfer its practices to the Thomson SuperMax in Illinois, aka Gitmo North. Anyone who can't see the how Obama used the word "close" there in a deceptive manner needs to take some reading comprehension courses. http://www.salon.com/2009/12/15/gitmo_3/ [salon.com]

    (2) Obama at one point tripled the number of troops in Afghanistan over GWB's numbers. That's the opposite of ending it. http://afghanistan.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/22/chart-u-s-troop-levels-over-the-years/ [cnn.com]

    (3) Obama quit Iraq only when the Iraqi government wouldn't extend SOFA. SOFA prevents US soldiers from being tried for crimes committed in Iraq, in Iraqi courts. When Iraq wouldn't extend it and thereby extend the official troop presence, Obama pulled out and everyone gave him credit for peace, when really, he merely failed to make more war.
    http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/10/23/obamas-revisionist-history-on-ending-the-iraq-war-a-lesson-from-the-3rd-presidential-debate/ [foreignpolicyjournal.com]

  • Re:Not only no ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hondo77 (324058) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:21PM (#45989019) Homepage
    Which ruled out both McCain and Romney.
  • I gotta love it! (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:24PM (#45989051)

    Obama has these Executive powers because...??

    Maybe a previous administration or two of another political party who fought tooth and nail to get these powers from a Congress of the same party??

    And the next Administration, regardless of party, will have these powers. That's why folks when one party gets control of the Executive and the Legislative, We the People get screwed - see 2001 - 2008. (Yes, I'm trying my best to be a bit more than Bu..bu..bu...t Bush! But let's face it, it was his administration who got these obscene executive powers. And now Obama has them.)

    Ya know, we can all bitch and moan here on Slashdot, but the MAJORITY of people out there only care about the issues that are spoon fed to them. Abortion, Gay Marriage, insisting on teaching Creationism in science class, getting rid of Obamacare ...

    That last one is Obama's wet dream. He can pull this shit and just go - "Let's talk about the Affordable Care Act" and the attention just shifts.

    The media has been been corrupted and turned into mindless entertainment for those of us who like to delude ourselves into being informed.

    CNN will run with the story for a few hours in the background and then they'll move on to something else - most likely a Republican doing something to get attention - like try to defund Obamacare.

  • by OhPlz (168413) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:28PM (#45989127)

    Sure. Let's pass a law that says it's illegal to disobey the law.

    The problem is that there are no penalties. The DOJ under Holder is not going to go after the NSA or any political entities that fall in line with the administration. Holder himself has been caught lying to congress, no penalties. If nothing can hold these people accountable, they're not going to change their ways. In theory, elections would serve this purpose, but the people running are all the same. It's not even like the people weren't paying attention. We had the TEA Parties, we had Occupy.. what changed?

    I really don't know where we go from here.

  • by OhPlz (168413) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:30PM (#45989145)

    Perhaps he was studying it to learn best how to kill it. Know your enemy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:38PM (#45989291)

    what annoys me about this is obama is focusing on the phone data collection stuff.

    That is deliberate. He'll be seen doing something about that NSA spying that's been in the news without actually doing anything meaningful.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:00PM (#45989571)
    It's the wishful thinking that the NSA will somehow disappear that I consider foolish and childish.
  • Re:Money Talks (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slinches (1540051) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:09PM (#45989713)

    You make the mistake of assuming that because he studied the constitution that he admires or at least respects the values and motivations that it codifies. Wouldn't someone looking to find a way to bring it down do the same? Or he may have no direct interest at all and just thought it a good thing to have on the resume as an aspiring politician.

  • Sigh.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ApplePy (2703131) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:18PM (#45989813)

    "Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic" is the only phrase that comes to mind.

  • Pragmatism (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MacAndrew (463832) on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:24PM (#45993043) Homepage

    I think what's missed is that "no drama" Obama is a pragmatist first. I think he feels genuine empathy and believes (for obvious reasons) in civil rights, but in office has been willing to sacrifice little in the name of idealism. Guantanamo, for example; I think he would have liked to close it but found out how political impossible it was unless the detainees disappeared somehow. In fairness, in the wake of 9/11 and a ridiculously reactionary right it's been pretty hard to do much for civil liberties without an avalanche of criticism for beign soft and withering blame for any terrorist acts (Benghazi). But at bottom I think pragmatism, political and leadership, explains most of his choices. I wish he'd tried to be more inspirational and led in a direction that might last for generations, but I settle for (partially corrupt but historically huge) health-care reform.

    I can imagine better alternatives, but I worked for Obama because I saw considerably worse. You don't have to pick sinners and saints in these things, sometimes both sides are deficient. Just try for what's best for the time being. If I tried to confront the true enormity of what we're doing out there rather then try for incremental change, i think I'd implode. I don't think much of the "idealists" attacking Obama on morally correct grounds but without a realistic path to improvement. That's just ego.

    Obama won't make any grand stands on privacy or civil rights generally (gay marriage is an exception, but I think the financial incentive there was pretty big). It's a rare politican who would, unfortunately. I hope the people will.

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