Monday, 24 March 2014

End of the NSA's bulk phone collection program?

Charlie Savage of the New York Times reports that the Obama administration will unveil a "far reaching overhaul" of the NSA's bulk phone records program, also known as the 215 program for the section of the Patriot Act ostensibly that authorizes it.  Instead of bulk collection by the agency, the records would remain with the phone companies.  The NSA would be required to obtain a court order to retrieve specific records.

Georgetown professor David Cole, writing at justsecurity.org, is cautiously optimistic about the proposal. He point to the lessons we can draw from this development:
Two lessons seem critical to draw at this juncture. First, there is no substitute for transparency in a democracy. The much-lauded three branches of government did nothing to rein in this program as long as it remained a secret (and at least one member of the executive branch, James Clapper, lied under oath to Congress about the program to keep it secret). And second, once surveillance is subject to public review and assessment, as it must be in any healthy democracy, dragnet surveillance is not likely to last long. By definition, such surveillance implicates us all. The only way to keep it in place is to keep it secret.

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