- Release more information about surveillance programs.
- Work with Congress to reform the Patriot Act.
- Establish an opposition advocate on FISC.
- Establish a Civil Liberties officer at NSA.
- Set up a website as a “hub” for information on surveillance policies.
- Set up an NSA review panel to consider how we can maintain the trust of the people and ensure no abuse in how surveillance technologies are used.
In just two short weeks, he's made good on #'s 1, 5, and 6. Today the White House will announce the members of the review panel and yesterday they launched the web site - including the release of a whole trove of previously classified documents from NSA.
Among the documents released were 3 FISA court rulings - one of which (from Oct. 3, 2011) involved the court's opinion that procedures related to collecting internet data on foreign targets violated the 4th Amendment of the constitution because of the inadequacy of the minimization procedures used to protect the data of US persons. Here's how AP described what happened.
The National Security Agency declassified three secret court opinions Wednesday showing how in one of its surveillance programs it scooped up as many as 56,000 emails and other communications by Americans not connected to terrorism annually over three years, revealed the error to the court — which ruled its actions unconstitutional — and then fixed the problem.One of the other documents that was released yesterday is the FISA court ruling from Nov. 30, 2011 in which the court reviewed the proposed changes to the minimization procedures and declared them to be consistent with the 4th Amendment.
Problem solved...right? Not so fast. The poutragers decided to ignore the big picture of what happened and zero in on one footnote from the Oct. 3rd ruling.
For the "hair on fire" crowd, of course this demonstrates - not that the FISA court is way beyond a "rubber stamp" for NSA - but that nothing government officials say about NSA can ever be trusted (forget the fact that it was those same government officials who brought all this to the FISA court's attention).
But lets break it down, shall we? The court was reprimanding NSA for actions that occurred between May 2006 and March 2009. Anyone remember who was in charge during the bulk of that time? What we also know is that it was in 2009 in response to "serious violations" that the Obama administration quadrupled the number of NSA's oversight staff. That was very likely in response to this finding from the FISA court.
So what this footnote actually suggests is that the Obama administration has been very busy trying to fix yet another mess that was left to them from the Bush administration. Cue look of surprise from everyone.
What we can learn from this is that the more information the Obama administration makes public about these programs, the more the poutragers will pick through the minutiae until they find something to set their hair on fire about. It will be up to folks like us to get the facts out there for people interested in a reality-based look at these issues.