But now even the President is committed to going beyond that and giving the public as much information as possible about NSA activities and procedures. That is the new standard for transparency being placed on this administration.
The problem, as I see it, is that the American public is pretty dependent on the media to inform them about what is put out there for public consumption. Whether its the hyperbole and lies of omission practiced by people like Glenn Greenwald or what might be understood as lazy journalism by others, its frustrating to watch the story be twisted over and over again - giving the public a distorted view of what is happening. Let me give you an example.
Early on when the NSA story broke this summer, there was lots of talk about a FISA court order ruling that certain elements of the NSA program violated the 4th Amendment. Advocates went to court to get it declassified. Last month it was released. How many people do you suppose actually read it? Yeah, I'm pretty committed to this story, but even I couldn't get through the whole thing. The gist of it was that the court ruled that the minimization procedures NSA was using to protect the privacy of US persons when they collected bulk data from the internet were not sufficient. Here's how Kurt Eichenwald describes minimization.
Now, anyone who discusses this process without also mentioning minimization procedures is also either very uninformed or intentionally hyping the story. Minimization is a term of art in the world of NSA intercepts which essentially means “stay out of American citizen’s business.” If information about specific Americans (or even foreigners inside the United States) is captured, those details must be removed from all records and cannot be shared with any other entity in the government unless it is necessary to understand and interpret related foreign intelligence or to protect lives from criminal threats.What many in the media failed to report is that, along with releasing that particular FISA court ruling, the administration also released a ruling from the following month after they had gone back to the court with more stringent minimization procedures. The court ruled that those procedures met the standards of the 4th Amendment. The administration actually released the new minimization rules as well.
But then along comes the Washington Post with a misleading headline about all this: Obama administration had restrictions on NSA reversed in 2011. Here's how they describe the exact same story I just told.
The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.Nowhere in the entire article is the word "minimization" used nor is there any attempt to inform the reader that this was the very basis of the FISA rulings. We're once again fed lies ("permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans' communications") and omissions that go to the heart of the issue involved. Notice also the hyperbole of talking about how the administration "secretly won permission." Of course they fail to note that ALL FISA court rulings are secret - by the design of the Church Committee. And the fact that they know about this one is only because the Obama administration voluntarily declassified it.
If you've gotten this far in reading what I have to say about this, you are probably more diligent than about 99% of the American public. And that's the problem with transparency...it requires a media that tells the entire story accurately right up front. Its clear that we don't have that right now. Given that reality, the whole idea of transparency is nothing more than a fallacy.