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 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.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 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."
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.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.
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.