There are more National Security Agency (NSA) spy news and changes. They have been in the news again, this time with revelations about tactics used in other countries, allegedly not domestically, to gather intelligence in its spying programs, a program in which President Barack Obama said he would reform. How much reform there will be or what kind is still unclear. The federal Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board recently ruled that the mass collection of data from Americans’ cellular phones is illegal, and CBS Radio reported that Obama says, “I’m allowed.” CNN pointed out that the White House rejected the claims by the watchdog group and others. The spy programs go beyond phone records, however.
The New York Times and Boston.com both highlighted the NSA program’s foreign intelligence gathering techniques, which include using software implanted in personal and business computers. The NSA, according to sources, is gathering data mostly from Chinese attackers who steal government and enterprise secrets from the United States. The NSA has stated that it does not use data to improve competitiveness among U.S. business. They are say they are more interested in national security objectives that keep Americans safe.
It is unclear how these programs actually do that, and President Obama spoke about possible reforms in national surveillance programs and the NSA. It isn’t clear what measures the President will take at this point, and many critics accuse the President of using too broad of power in regard to national security. The NSA news of spy rules and changes come just after the release of a book by the former secretary of defense. In fact, Robert Gates released a tell-all memoir about the Obama Administration’s centralized control of national security objectives.
There won’t be any major sweeping changes.
In fact, most of the program will stay the same but may leave room for change later. There may be a public advocate at secret court hearings, though FISA judges don’t approve of that measure. Bulk metadata collection may be reformed, but again it is unclear how. The backlash against the NSA is set among a backdrop of up-to-the-minute news reports online, a setting that was once used to the administration’s advantage.
This NSA problem has troubled many tech companies. Microsoft is now firing back by offering its foreign customers remote data storage in countries outside the United States. A Microsoft executive told FT that Microsoft wants their customers to be able to choose where to store their data, and that they have a right to know what governments are doing with their data.
Tech companies also say that customers domestically and abroad are not as confident as they once were because they fear that their data is being handed to the NSA or some other government agency in the name of national security. Privacy groups have come out in support of Microsoft’s decision. They are the first company to make such a bold move, and it remains to be seen what the other giants in the market will do next. They have been fairly uniform and united thus far. The NSA and spy rules news may give way to several changes in society, many possibly unforeseen.
By Rob Lawson