January 20, 2014

Token NSA Reforms Coming

Barack Obama’s proposed reforms to NSA surveillance do little to fix the problem.

With the controversy over the NSA’s mass surveillance programs still simmering, Barack Obama did what he always does: He gave a speech. In Friday’s remarks, the president tried to straddle the fence, saying, “I believe it is important that the capability that this program is designed to meet is preserved. Having said that, I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives, and open the door to more intrusive, bulk-collection programs. I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists, and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk meta-data.”

Obama didn’t specify who would keep that metadata or where it would be kept, leaving those minor details for Attorney General Eric Holder and the intelligence community to determine by March 28. But the data collection and analysis will continue – the data just won’t be kept at the NSA’s giant storage facility. Will all the data then be transferred to a federal contractor like the one that built Healthcare.gov? If so, that clearly doesn’t improve the situation. Moreover, the proposed reforms only cover collected telephone metadata, not emails, texts, financial information or any other data collected by the federal government.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a prominent critic of the NSA’s programs, quickly fired back, “I think what I heard was if you like your privacy, you can keep it.” Paul’s comment strikes at the most fundamental issue here, and that is one of trust. Obama has not earned our trust in any way, shape or form, making the NSA’s collection of data on every single American more than disturbing. As Investor’s Business Daily adds, “The real problem is that our government can’t admit that Islamofascist extremists are the threat – and should be the exclusive focus of concern.” That would be politically incorrect.

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