President Obama has reportedly met with the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. The five person review board is responsible for overseeing the NSA and related agencies, in order to enact new policy and create oversight for the unchecked surveillance branch.
The group has been looking into available records and practices of the National Security Agency to determine what can be done to regain public trust. First on their list of recommendations? That the NSA give up their massive phone database.
More than a trillion records and estimated to be part of the stored data, encompassing US citizens both in the States and abroad. But the review group doesn’t think they should be trashed, just transferred to a third party.
While it would be a start to keep the records out of government hands and in the care of a more transparent authority, there are still problems with this suggestion. Namely that the records would still exist. As their aim is to reinstate public trust in the system, they seem to not be going in quite the right direction.
However, some of their other suggestions in the 200-page report, which includes 40 requested policy changes, are better. For example, they want it to be made illegal for the NSA to ask companies to create backdoor access into their programs, and would limit their ability to seek encryption breaks. It would also move oversight of the actions of the agency to another source, so the process of monitoring their work would not be internal.
There is no word yet on whether or not the White House will agree to any of the proposed changes. But it seems unlikely, and already experts are suggesting that any shifts in the phone surveillance currently happening are almost certainly going to be rejected.
Companies are now facing an especially difficult time as more information filters out about the NSA’s antics. Reports have claimed that vulnerabilities have been placed in unknown software that creates a way to break through encryption. These “zero day” contingencies are right now causing an array of industry speculation and paranoia. The report didn’t address solutions.
As for providing real oversight into their programs as a whole? Well, we have known about this for months. We have known about the Patriot Act for years, since the Bush era. And let’s face it, country to country spying is as natural to politics and diplomacy as fake smiles and clammy handshakes.
In other words, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Source: Washington Post