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Obama Praises NSA But Promises To Rein It In 306

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Josh Gerstein writes on Politico that President Barack Obama told Chris Matthews in an interview recorded for MSNBC's 'Hardball' that he'll be reining in some of the snooping conducted by the NSA, but he did not detail what new limits he plans to impose on the embattled spy organization. 'I'll be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA. initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence,' said the President who insisted that the NSA's work shows respect for the rights of Americans, while conceding that its activities are often more intrusive when it comes to foreigners communicating overseas. 'The NSA actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people's emails, not listening to the contents of their phone calls. Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws.' During the program, Matthews raised the surveillance issue by noting a Washington Post report on NSA gathering of location data on billion of cell phones overseas. 'Young people, rightly, are sensitive to the needs to preserve their privacy and to retain internet freedom. And by the way, so am I,' responded the President. 'That's part of not just our First Amendment rights and expectations in this country, but it's particularly something that young people care about, because they spend so much time texting and-- you know, Instagramming.' With some at the NSA feeling hung out to dry by the president, Obama also went out of his way to praise the agency's personnel for their discretion. 'I want to everybody to be clear: the people at the NSA, generally, are looking out for the safety of the American people. They are not interested in reading your emails. They're not interested in reading your text messages. And that's not something that's done. And we've got a big system of checks and balances, including the courts and Congress, who have the capacity to prevent that from happening.'"
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Obama Praises NSA But Promises To Rein It In

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  • Chilling (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DFDumont ( 19326 ) on Friday December 06, 2013 @10:15AM (#45618117)

    "Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws"

    Uhm, I guess the laws of foreign countries, and international law don't apply to our spy organizations. I'm also sure the constraint of our laws (1st Amendment, 4th Amendment) can be ignored at will as well. After all we are just trying to find all the terrorists, right ?!? (You know like the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles -

    As Ben Franklin put it, "They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." -

    We need to simply shut down the NSA altogether, burn their records in effigy, and recall every elected official who ever voted in favor of their activities, or their funding.

  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Friday December 06, 2013 @10:33AM (#45618301)

    The actual spying isn't the biggest issue I have with the NSA (and GCHQ and ASIO and the others), the biggest issue is the way that these agencies are doing things that deliberately weaken computer security in the name of making it easier to spy on people.
    Things like backdoors in who knows what software. Or pressuring software vendors under the table not to fix things that the NSA is using to spy. Or their various proposals for "key escrow" over the years. Or the potential compromise of security related algorithms and protocols (dual-ec-drbg for example is suspect and going back there were questions when the key-length of DES was made shorter by the NSA)

    And lets not forget the cryptographic export controls (which still exist and can still be an impediment even if they have been wound back a bit) and what the government did to Zimmerman over PGP.

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Friday December 06, 2013 @10:37AM (#45618343)

    A have a friend who teaches political science and history at a state college. He has been asking his students how they feel about NSA surveillance and the majority opinion is summarized "I have nothing to hide, I'm not doing anything wrong, if it increases safety it's OK."

    It doesn't sound to me like a lot of "young people" are taking a very strong civil-liberties position on this. The school he teaches at is a smaller state school (ie, not the main, big-name state university) so the student body tends to be more "mainstream" than the more leftish bias you might expect at the "prestige" main campus.

    And when I raise the issue among my 40-something adult peers it's surprising how little people care and the "Where's your tinfoil hat?" look people give you.

  • Taking action (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Walterk ( 124748 ) <dublet@ac[ ]rg ['m.o' in gap]> on Friday December 06, 2013 @10:52AM (#45618475) Homepage Journal

    As a European, I did the one thing I could do, cancel the server I was renting in the US. Sorry to the very nice people who ran it but your government left me with no choice.

  • Re:Next time.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by killkillkill ( 884238 ) on Friday December 06, 2013 @11:07AM (#45618597)
    Well, while he was researching what the Tea Party is about on the google, he probably missed the analysis from the Yale professor that showed Tea Party supporters are slightly more scientifically literate than the non-tea party population. He probably thinks Tea Party members are only Tea Party because they lack the enlightenment that he, and those in his social bubble that all share his world view, have. Anyone who disagrees with him is clearly an idiot. I'd leave him a link for the mentioned analysis, but he knows how to use Google.
  • Re:Next time.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by anagama ( 611277 ) <> on Friday December 06, 2013 @12:15PM (#45619229) Homepage

    In case you didn't get the memo, Ron Paul and Rand Paul sold out to big business years ago.

    A month before the Snowden leaks began, Rand Paul proposed legislation to reform the Third Party Doctrine: []

    The 3PD is the principal that if you share information with a third party, even if that third party promises you confidentiality, and even if that confidentiality is never actually compromised, the 4th Amendment doesn't apply and the Feds can simply demand the information willy nilly. The 3PD totally guts the 4th Amendment -- it is the basis upon which politicians can say that the NSA's masspionage is "legal". Without the 3PD, everything the NSA is doing, at least with respect to people in America, is so unconstitutional a third grader could litigate and win the case against it.

    Fortunately, even Justice Sotomayer is questioning the wisdom of this rule in the modern world where everything a person does requires sharing information with third parties -- you cannot navigate the modern economy without such sharing. See the paragraph beginning on PDF page 19 for her thinking on this issue: []

    Whatever Rand Paul's faults are, he was aware of the eviscerating effect of the Third Party Doctrine and took action to protect the 4th Amendment PRIOR to the leaks. This is not the type of legislation that $megacorp loves and supports. It's a pure civil rights issue. However, I don't think his reforms don't go far enough because the only effect it would have is to exclude illegally obtained information at trial. Considering how the Feds engage in intelligence laundering [], it is clear that a mere exclusion is insufficient -- there must be personal and agency penalties for a violation. To be fair to Paul, he didn't have this information when he wrote the legislation, but without personal consequences, it won't be that meaningful.

    A decent example of such penalties is contained in the WA State statute regarding hidden mic recordings of conversations: See paragraphs 10 & 11 []: Violating the process for authorizing and recording a conversation surreptitiously, subjects the officers involved to personal prosecution for a class C felony and the agency to substantial fines ($25,000 per occurrence). The Feds need to have a little fear put into their hearts -- they need to ask themselves "If I can't do the time or pay the fine, do I really want to commit this crime?" And make no bones about it, the Federal government, due to its rampant lawlessness (e.g. collateral construction/intelligence laundering), is a criminal organization and needs to be treated as such.

    Finally, back to the original point, Rand Paul might be a dick, but if you will step out of your partisan political mindset and consider the possibility that he just might have a good idea, we can get America back. Same goes for the tribal GOP -- both of you, Demoplicans and Republocrats alike, quit being so fricken tribal. The two parties are basically fungible anyway -- latch onto the very few good ideas and push them no matter who makes the proposal.

  • by N0Man74 ( 1620447 ) on Friday December 06, 2013 @12:30PM (#45619395)

    And when I raise the issue among my 40-something adult peers it's surprising how little people care and the "Where's your tinfoil hat?" look people give you.

    You know, for years I've gotten looks from people that they thought I was too extreme in my views on rights, and my feeling that government is overstepping its limits. After everything that's happened, I've found that people lately have become slightly more receptive. I hope the trend continues.

    But still, most people are willing to let their rights slide if it gives them the illusion of safety from terrorists, drug dealers, predators, and whatever villain we need.

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham