Meanwhile, back on the NSA, which Syria, oddly, or not, seems to have driven off the front pages
Here's a round-up. There's actually quite a lot going on
In supporting the American Civil Liberties Union's lawsuit, the NRA on Wednesday filed a supporting brief arguing the National Security Agency's datamining "could allow identification of NRA members, supporters, potential members, and other persons with whom the NRA communicates, potentially chilling their willingness to communicate with the NRA."
Well, much as I hate to admit it, they're right.
The excellent Bruce Schneier in the Atlantic:
It's time to start cleaning up this mess. We need a special prosecutor, one not tied to the military, the corporations complicit in these programs, or the current political leadership, whether Democrat or Republican. This prosecutor needs free rein to go through the NSA's files and discover the full extent of what the agency is doing, as well as enough technical staff who have the capability to understand it. He needs the power to subpoena government officials and take their sworn testimony. He needs the ability to bring criminal indictments where appropriate. And, of course, he needs the requisite security clearance to see it all.
We also need something like South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where both government and corporate employees can come forward and tell their stories about NSA eavesdropping without fear of reprisal.
Not a bad idea.
Politico, of all places:
When will President Obama get serious about NSA reform?
Well, what we've seen is Obama being serious....
If the president is serious about fixing the enormous overreach of U.S. surveillance that Edward Snowden helped to highlight, he should take these steps:
First, recognize 4th Amendment protection for our metadata. ...
Second, recognize the privacy rights of non-Americans outside the United States. ....
Third, treat privacy rights as implicated as soon as information is collected....
Fourth, revamp the FISA court. ....
Fifth, protect whistleblowers. ...
Finally, appoint a meaningful reform commission.
All of this will happen under an Obama administration when weasels fly out of my butt. That said, it's good to see this appear in Politico, when it would be so easy simply to drop the subject. It looks like the national conversation* Snowden wanted could actually happen.
Snowden didn’t hack the NSA because there was no security to be hacked. That he and thousands of other low-level contractors had unfettered, untraceable access to the entirety of NSA systems is a security hole that makes Windows look like Fort Knox. It should have resulted in firings. The fact that NSA Director Keith Alexander still has a job signals that the government doesn’t really take the Snowden leak that seriously. Instead, Alexander has announced plans to eliminate 90 percent of its contractor sysadmins posthaste—about 900 people—by “automating” their work. He fuzzily alluded to “transferring data [and] securing networks.” Since the NSA’s own network is not, as we have learned, secure, it will no doubt prove far more difficult to automate such a process than Alexander suggests.
Alexander’s plan does not seem to be a plan. It sounds more like frightened middle management trying to protect its position by saying, We don’t have anyone with Snowden’s job anymore. “The NSA actually employs people who could easily have identified the enormous gaps in its own security,” Grimmelmann says. “Were they consulted? Did anyone listen if they were? The NSA has the knowledge and the budget. But it can't deploy them to where they're needed on the most basic level.”
And not even the best-run organization can automate 90 percent of its IT positions without foundational changes to how its systems work. The NSA’s IT infrastructure is already a teetering Jenga tower, and Alexander just demanded that the agency remove 900 blocks simultaneously. It could well result in worse security, not better security.
There is one thing, it seems, the NSA can easily do to look good: collect even more data! Even if it lies unprocessed in a dusty drive, the top brass will at least see the big numbers of how many intercepts are being made.
Reminds me of body counts in Vietnam. Somebody must have decided the metric for success at NSA was data stored, and the NSA responded accordingly. Assuming this article isn't disinformation, of course; the tone strikes me as a little iffy, for some reason.
And Courthouse News:
Walter Mondale and another [Gary Hart,] who crafted the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act want to join in the fight against the National Security Agency's spying powers.
The so-called Church Committee, which published 14 reports on U.S. intelligence agencies and their operations, formed as members of Congress learned about the abuses of power in the Nixon administration.
NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden brought scrutiny to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), as it came to be known, this past June by disclosing a top-secret court order it issued that forces Verizon to "turn over, every day, metadata about the calls made by each of its subscribers over the three-month period ending on July 19, 2013." Critics have since pilloried FISC as a rubber-stamp for broad spying on U.S. citizens.
Litigation over the order has also taken root across the country, including an indictment against Snowden in Virginia, a swell of activity at the FISC in Washington, and lawsuits seeking to restrain the program in New York and California.
In Manhattan, the American Civil Liberties Union and its New York affiliate filed a federal complaint that asks a federal judge to declare the "dragnet" surveillance unconstitutional and issue an injunction to stop it.
Mondale, the Minnesota Democrat who served as vice president under Jimmy Carter, joined former U.S. Sen. Gary Hart, D-Colo., and more than a dozen law professors seeking to help the ACLU in court on Friday.
The 44-page filing contains a preview of the historical context they wish to share with U.S. District Judge William Pauley, whom they want to restrain the NSA's power.
Maybe the toothpaste won't go back in the tube after all.
NOTE * I hate the word "conversation," because Democrats use it to conceal power relations, but I imagine Snowden was using it innocently.