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Government Politics

Obama Announces Surveillance Reforms 359

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 @01:19PM (#45988013)

    I watched the whole thing. He chose to focus on phone meta data collection and not even address prism and the likes of the new utah data center. The speech and these new "reforms" are all about preserving the NSA ecosystem (read money) that spends billions of dollars of tax payer money on programs we don't want. For christs sake they are tapping domestic fiber lines and siphoning everything into storage (including phone calls) and the language in the law doesn't even consider it a search until the data (that they already stored) is queried. He won't address it because they already spend billions on it and he who upsets the flow of money in washington might as well tie their own noose. The dollar sign is the new swastika.

  • by mws1066 ( 1057218 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:45PM (#45988419)
    When Obama mentioned Snowden's name, you could see a bit of disgust and a sneer streak across his face for a brief moment. He then felt the need to point out that he was ahead of Snowden, planning to confront the system anyway.
  • by Morpeth ( 577066 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:00PM (#45988639)

    Regardless of one's feelings about Snowden, I think it's pretty clear these changes (IF actually implemented) are a result of him opening peoples' eyes to the extent of the surveillance and spying on the American people. We seriously owe him, big time imo.

    As an left-leaning independent, I was generally optimistic about Obama entering office, sadly, not so much any more --- NOT that I think things would be better under Republicans mind you, who seem to say 'less government' only in regards to their corporate overlords, but are heavy handed in wanting to legislate their personal morality (gay marriage/rights, religion, women's issues, etc)

    Many days I wish the US had a parliamentary system such as England or Canada, this two party sh*t if for the birds. At least in those countries, minority parties can actually gets seats and have some representation -- here, we are stuck with two lame ass parties.

  • BETTER! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:01PM (#45988661) Homepage Journal

    There! I feel the hot breath of reform already. Big brother is a subcontract.

    Now the secret courts will have to examine secret accusations with extra secrecy. The NSA building data centers will be reversed, so that the commercial sector can occupy this function. And send the bill for "services".


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

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:06PM (#45988769)

    Uh. Bush graduated from Yale and got his MBA at Harvard. Spying programs expanded under Obama. You are delusional.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:10PM (#45988827)

    So since the commercial entities will now be responsible for storing all of this data, care to guess as to how much the big carriers are going to charge us, the customer, for this now-mandatory requirement?

    One can only imagine the cost of storing the NSAs requirements for oversight. All I do know is the costs sure as hell won't come out of the executive bonus fund. The customer will foot that bill. I promise you.

    And forget deleting the data. Any of it. Ever. That's not an option.

    Then the US government, for the sake of "redundancy", will still contract with some other 3rd party to store all of the same data over again, so they can create a new "Federal Communications Security Act" tax or some other horseshit to bilk the American people out of even more money, and fund PRISM v2.0

    Oh...I'm sorry, did you actually believe they wouldn't do this again? Please. Besides, PRISM v2.0 has an app store, and the drone app I hear is killer.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:12PM (#45988847)

    I know I'll be modded down for this, but whatever.

    I just don't see the big deal over any of the surveillance going on. I guess that now the data is structured and easily searchable rather than having to stitch together random analog phone conversations. But in a country of 300 million people, no one is interested in your text messages, emails, etc. unless you're using them to actively plan something. The Internet is a collection of semi-public networks, always has been. And spying has always existed; that shouldn't be a surprise to anybody.

    Everyone loves to bash the president, but I'll bet it's not an easy job. Imagine what it was like for Cold War presidents...when the Soviet Union was actively planning our destruction and we were planning theirs. Coming back from the inauguration party, you meet with your top generals and are told of every threat that hasn't been made public. On top of that, you're ultimately responsible for nuclear weapons AND you somehow have to make everyone like you. I imagine something like this happened with Obama...once he got the job he was briefed on what's actually happening outside of the public eye, and chose to continue the spying programs. Post 9/11, there were many people who didn't want to see that relatively minor event repeated at any cost, which is why these programs were put in place to begin with. An entity that was determined enough and had enough resources would be able to cause way worse devastation if they wanted to.

    So call me an ignorant sheep or whatever -- I just don't see why so many people are up in arms. I'd expect the rabid anti-government crowd to be shouting their protests from within their mountaintop compounds, but not the average citizen.

  • Re:So the hell what? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:13PM (#45988873)

    I won't be happy until the senior NSA officials responsible for these programs are charged criminally and given public trials. With great power comes great responsibility and the people in charge at the NSA have forgotten that. They need a harsh reminder to prevent this from happening again.

    "We've changed just enough to mollify the public outrage" isn't acceptable and won't deter future transgressions.

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

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:15PM (#45988905)

    I am sure he did not change his mind. Many people are just suckers and believe what political candidates say when running for office. He was a groomed candidate by a major political party. He was elected for two reasons, vitriolic hate for the opposing party and the color of his skin. The content of his character was not evaluated or scrutinized.

  • by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:16PM (#45988927)

    ...all about preserving the NSA ecosystem (read money) that spends billions of dollars of tax payer money on programs we don't want.

    I think Obama's actions in office are disgusting, but remember that it is a bi-partisan (in this regard) Congress that continually votes more and more billions for black-budget agencies that have no congressional oversight.

  • by SirGarlon ( 845873 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:21PM (#45989025)
    I don't know. Look at the combination of elements here:
    1. 1. NSA will no longer store data. It will be stored at the source.
    2. 2. NSA will need a warrant to even look at the data. In contrast to today, where NSA has all the data at its fingertips and NSA employees make a hobby of poring through it for fun and profit.
    3. 3. Court orders will no longer be secret forever, and the companies that hold the data can report on how many times the NSA demands to look at it

    This is not everything I would hope for -- the secrecy of the FISA court remains a huge sticking point for me -- but I think these measures will improve things noticeably.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:51PM (#45990251) Journal

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

    Dead on.

    Obama learned politics in Chicago - the current record holder for corrupt big-city political machines. He is a classic example of a corrupt machine politician.

    The Clintons are also masters of the (less intense) state-level version of the form, having risen to the top in Arkansas, which has been run by a corrupt machine since a Mafia family from New York took it over when the big city got too hot for them. Obama beat them for the Democratic nomination. He has now remade the Federal government on the model of Chigago.

    This was predicted and announced by quite a large number of people well before the election. Nevertheless, he won. So how did this come about?

    There are a number of factors. But IMHO this is the most decisive: The Republican Party's organization, for well over a decade, has been solidly controlled by the Neocon faction (one of the four major and several minor factions of the party). In the last two presidential nomination battles, the Liberty wing (another of the big four), under the inspiration of Ron Paul and drawing members mainly from the young and/or Internet connected, made substantial inroads.

    Their successes in the 2008 nomination process threatened to eventually displace the Neocons' control of the party machinery, as the Neocons had displaced their predecessors (mainly the Christian Right) previously. So in the 2012 nomination the Neocons fought an extremely dirty battle, with large amounts of cheating, rule-breaking, and even incidents of violence (including broken bones). This so alienated the Liberty wing (and some members of other factions) that they refused to support the Neocon's nominee in the general election. Romney lost five states by margins substantially less than the number of people who voted for Ron Paul in those states' primaries, and those states' electoral votes would have swung the general election. It's a good bet that virtually none of the Ron Paul supporters voted for Romney, and even those would have been more that balanced by Republican voters for other candidates who were also appalled at the machine's treatment of their opposition.

    One circulating meme was: "If this is how they behave in the nomination process, how can we allow them to control of the machinery of the Federal Government?" Even KNOWING that Obama would run the Fed like a Chicago-style machine and use it to stomp on the people, letting the Neocon's machine continue to consolidate their control of the major opposition party and drive the big-government non-choice-election system into the foreseeable future could still look like a worse choice.

  • Re:So the hell what? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by anagama ( 611277 ) <> on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:24PM (#45991295) Homepage

    Blah blah bootlicking blah.

    Look at the Verizon order. The only calls it doesn't apply to are those that start and end in a foreign country. It is patently ludicrous to believe that there is probable cause to think that every call that starts, ends, or is wholly contained within the US borders, involves illegal behavior, nor is there any specificity about the evidence sought.

    Any court that would approve such an order in light of the 4th Amendment, is one made up of backbirths like yourself. That's really the heart of it, no matter how many voluminous pages of BS get generated.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @06:05PM (#45991807)

    I suspect that being president, he gets to hear mostly from security people, from the armed forces and the like - he has a daily security briefing at least ('s_Daily_Brief). Is the material in this scrutinized by anyone outside the mainstream security establishment? Does he have a daily economics briefing (if he does, I can only imagine what it consists of). Does he have a daily "we heard from the people" briefing? Or even a weekly ACLU briefing?

    No? Then don't be surprised when he tends to give the security folks what they want. They have the high bandwidth conduit to him.

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