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President Obama's plan to end bulk NSA data collection of American phone conversations is a welcome start, but more must be done to restore America's standing in the world. As quoted in the Guardian, Obama said:

“We have got to win back the trust not just of governments, but, more importantly, of ordinary citizens. And that's not going to happen overnight, because there's a tendency to be skeptical of government and to be skeptical of the US intelligence services,” Obama said at a news conference in The Hague, where world leaders are gathered for a summit on nuclear security.
Edward Snowden endorsed the President's remarks. The reforms, however, only focus on surveillance on American citizens. The President must go much further in order to significantly restore the reputation of this country abroad. The problem is that these NSA spying revelations not only undermined our Constitutional protections against illegal searches and seizures, they seriously undermined our relationships with other countries right as we needed to present a united front against Russia's seizure of Crimea, in violation of its 1994 treaty with Ukraine. And the revelations of the NSA spying on one of China's biggest companies enraged China right as we were trying to get them to support our position condemning Russia's actions.

Snowden said that these conversations are a turning point.

Snowden said none of these reforms would have happened without the disclosures he precipitated. “I believed that if the NSA's unconstitutional mass surveillance of Americans was known, it would not survive the scrutiny of the courts, the Congress, and the people,” Snowden said.

"The very first open and adversarial court to ever judge these programs has now declared them 'Orwellian' and 'likely unconstitutional.' In the USA Freedom Act, Congress is considering historic, albeit incomplete reforms. And President Obama has now confirmed that these mass surveillance programs, kept secret from the public and defended out of reflex rather than reason, are in fact unnecessary and should be ended.

"This is a turning point, and it marks the beginning of a new effort to reclaim our rights from the NSA and restore the public's seat at the table of government."

Not only must the goal be to restore the public's seat at the table of government, the goal has to be to restore relationships with Germany, France, and other allies that the US has spied on through NSA as well as nations like China, who we need to develop strong ties with as well. Cooperation and intelligence sharing accomplishes the same objective of stopping terrorism without alienating friends and allies like the NSA's tactics have. There are far too many problems in the world today like poverty, inequality, and climate change that cannot be solved by any one country. They must be solved by a collective effort.

The problem is that certain proposals could actually encourage more NSA spying. Trevor Timm of Freedom of the Press Foundation explains:

While the full draft of the bill isn’t yet public, the Guardian has seen a copy, and its description does not inspire confidence. Under the Rogers and Ruppersberger proposal, slyly named the “End Bulk Collection Act”, the telephone companies would hold on to phone data. But the government could search data from those companies based on "reasonable articulable suspicion" that someone is an agent of a foreign power, associated with an agent of a foreign power, or "in contact with, or known to, a suspected agent of a foreign power". The NSA’s current phone records program is restricted to a reasonable articulable suspicion of terrorism.

A judge would reportedly not have to approve the collection beforehand, and the language suggests the government could obtain the phone records on citizens at least two “hops” away from the suspect, meaning if you talked to someone who talked to a suspect, your records could be searched by the NSA. Coupled with the expanded “foreign power” language, this kind of law coming out of Congress could, arguably, allow the NSA to analyze more data of innocent Americans than it could before.

Mike Rogers is the GOP chair of the House Intelligence Committee while Ranking Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger is a corporate democrat, the kind that our movement has struggled against almost as much as the GOP. The purpose of Russia Today is to present news slanted in favor of Putin. Let's use them as an example. They still have freedom of the press here in this country, regardless of their stated intent. The concern here is that the NSA could use this bill to spy on RT employees in the US for political purposes, instead of trying to catch terrorists and collect accurate intelligence. Or, they could deem Al-Jazeera an agent of a "foreign power," Qatar, because they published news that was too pro-Palestinian, for instance and eavesdrop on their employees in the US. Not only would this expand the NSA's ability to spy on people, it would serve to undermine freedom of the press by creating a chilling effect.
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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "The cost of liberty is less than the price of repression." - W.E.B. Du Bois Be informed. Fight the Police State.

    by Eternal Hope on Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 03:03:06 PM PDT

  •  Obama has no such plans (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ipracticedissent, River Rover

    ... and he has made no such statements.  He isn't ending anything.  He is shifting bulk collection to the private sector and removing any pretence of requiring judicial oversight.

    The reason it's going to be hard to win back trust is because he has lied to us repeatedly and consistently right through his big dopey smile.  It stuns me to say this but I preferred Bush.  At least GWB was a snake in snake's clothing.

  •  Trojan horse Obama wants befriends telecom biz. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope

    Eternal Hope, thanks for building this diary.

    Marcy Wheeler, in various statements of her emptywheel postings, skillfully presents many problems with the distractions we and POTUS suffer as well as mistakes we are liable to be making if we just default data storage to private, for-profit telecom companies. Read her points of view & see if you agree.




    Trevor Timm has serious insight to offer on 3-25-14:

    I do not feel comforted by the cheesy smiles of POTUS as we are delivered this trojan horse.  Nationalize all the telecoms. Hire the government workforce necessary to run them and do not let any so-called "private contractors" anywhere near them. These jobs are working on big needs that only big government can meet. Big government electrified the continent, linked Atlantic & Pacific oceans for direct timely and secure shipping, atomized two cities, put humans on the moon and well educated several generations of citizenry. Some problems are so big that only big government can treat them. Restoring decorum to the commons in which the global data dragnet proceeds is another such problem that is too big to leave to privateers.

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