The Obama administration is preparing to unveil a legislative proposal for a far-reaching overhaul of the National Security Agency’s once-secret bulk phone records program in a way that — if approved by Congress — would end the aspect that has most alarmed privacy advocates since its existence was leaked last year, according to senior administration officials.You'll likely hear some folks respond by saying this isn't a big deal. In a way, they're right. One way to understand that is to remember how Mark Ambinder described the program months ago.
Under the proposal, they said, N.S.A. would end its systematic collection of data about Americans’ calling habits. The records would be stay in the hands of phone companies, which would not be required to retain the data for any longer than they normally would. And the N.S.A. could obtain specific records only with permission from a judge, using a new kind of court order.
One official likened the NSA's collection authority to a van full of sealed boxes that are delivered to the agency. A court order...permits the transfer of custody of the "boxes." But the NSA needs something else, a specific purpose or investigation, in order to open a particular box.The basics of the President's proposal will be that the NSA leave that van full of sealed boxes with the phone companies and get a warrant (currently the FISA court has to approve the searches) to obtain specific call content.
But this move is classic Obama. He set the tone for this early on in his interview with Charlie Rose about the surveillance programs.
I've got to tell you though Charlie, I think this is a healthy thing because its a sign of maturity that this debate would not have been taking place 5 years ago. And I welcome it...its useful to have a bunch of critics out there who are checking government power and who are making sure we are doing things right so that if we've triple-checked how we're operating any one of these programs, lets go quadruple-check it. I'm comfortable with that and I'm glad to see that we are starting to do that.I'm sure there will be some who will respond to the President's proposal by suggesting that Snowden/Greenwald attacked this administration and "won." That's because they've invested their personal ego in a win/lose game. That is not how President Obama approaches things. His ego is not involved. That allows him to follow the Aikido Way:
There are no kicks and no punches within Aikido itself...Instead, there is an emphasis on blending with a partner's attack and the use of techniques to lead that attack safely to a conclusion that is good for everyone.Well done, Mr. President.
Now, about that whole "if approved by Congress" thing. Paging Senator Paul...Senator Rand Paul to the white courtesy phone, please."
UPDATE: This morning we get Glenn Greenwald's response to the President's proposal. Given that it neutralizes Greenwald's line of attack on the metadata program, other than some nonsense about whether or not President Obama really means it, he decides to forgo his Obama Derangement Syndrome and go after Democratic partisans with: Obama's new NSA proposal and Democratic partisan hackery.
That puts hard-core Obama loyalists and pro-NSA Democrats – the ones that populate MSNBC – in an extremely difficult position. They have spent the last 10 months defending the NSA (i.e., defending Obama) by insisting that the NSA metadata program is both reasonable and necessary to Keep Us Safe™. But now Obama claims he wants to end that very same program. So what will they do?LOL! I can't speak for the other "hacks," but my response to the Snowden revelations about the metadata program were never about it being necessary to keep us safe. For me it has always been about the lies and spin Snowden/Greenwald perpetuated about it - like the time Snowden said this:
If they had even an iota of integrity or intellectual honesty, they would instantly and aggressively condemn Obama. After all, he’s now claiming to want to end a program that they have been arguing for months is vital in Keeping Us Safe™. Wouldn’t every rational person, by definition, criticize a political leader who wants to abolish a program that they believe is necessary to stop terrorism and preserve national security?
But that’s not what will happen.
I, sitting at my desk could wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email.That was NEVER true. As the President told Charlie Rose, these programs were triple-checked and now he's proposing a quadruple-check.
But I'm fine with Greenwald going after "partisans" like me. I've been watching the Aikido master take these kinds of things on for 6 years now. Time for me to demonstrate that I've learned a thing or two. So I'll just point out where Greenwald is 100% right and some in his "fan club" are needing correction:
Ending NSA's bulk collection program doesn't "put it in the telecoms' hands"- they *already have their customers' calling records, obviouslyYes, obviously.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) March 25, 2014