Wednesday, March 26, 2014

House Introduces Legislation To Curb NSA Surveillance or Does It?

Commentary by Kirby Harris

treadnsaToday, I read an article that said the US House of Representatives introduced a bill that supposedly would Curb NSA spying. I read it and though “It’s about time”.

But then I read another article that said it would cause more NSA spying than ever. Also, author of the Bill Congressman Mike Rogers Rogers and other members of the committee support the NSA Spying  Program AS IS, but because of “perception issues” following revelations of leaks by the NSA by Edward Snowden, and the American People want it.

Oh yeah, I trust the people who support the NSA Spying to stop or cure the NSA spying.

I have posted both articles below. First the Straight News Article, then the Opinion-News piece:


House Introduces Legislation To Curb NSA Surveillance

March 25, 2014 by UPI - United Press International, Inc.

(UPI) — The two top members of the House Intelligence Committee announced the introduction of new legislation meant to halt the bulk collection of cellphone data by the National Security Agency, while strongly defending the existing program’s usefulness and legality.

“We think that we have found a way to end the government’s bulk collection of telephone metadata and still provide a mechanism to protect the Untied States and track those terrorists who are calling into the United States to commit acts of terror,” said Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), unveiling the bill Tuesday.

Rogers emphasized that he and other members of the committee supported the program as is, but were aware they had a “perception issue” following revelations from leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, and that the changes were meant to prevent any potential future abuses.

“Basically what we are doing is we’re listening to the American people,” said Representative Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Maryland), the committee’s ranking member.

The bill, which is co-sponsored by six Republicans and three Democrats, would require the NSA to seek court approval before accessing data held by phone companies. It would have to pass the “RAS test” — that it has a “reasonable and articulable suspicion” before the intelligence committee could follow through on a foreign number calling into the United States.

Phone companies would still be required to hold the call metadata — phone number and duration of the call, only — for 18 months, but the NSA would no longer store the data at all.

The bill comes a day after President Barack Obama signaled his decision Monday to seek moving the storage of phone metadata from the government to the phone companies.



The House's NSA bill could allow more spying than ever. You call this reform?

By Trevor Timm -

When Rep Mike Rogers claims a bill does something particular – like, say, protect your privacy – it's a fairly safe assumption that the opposite will end up true. Photograph: Chris Usher / AP

The White House and the House Intelligence Committee leaked dueling proposals last night that are supposedly aimed at ending the mass collection of all Americans’ phone records. But the devil is in the details, and when it comes to the National Security Agency’s unique ability to twist and distort the English language, the devil tends to wrap his horns around every word.

The House proposal, to be unveiled this morning by Reps Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger, is the more worrying of the two. Rogers has been the NSA’s most ardent defender in Congress and has a long history of distorting the truth and practicing in outright fabrication, whether in touting his committee’s alleged “oversight” or by way of his attempts to impugn the motives of the once again vindicated whistleblower who started this whole reform debate, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

As a general rule, whenever Mike Rogers (not to be confused with incoming NSA director Michael Rogers) claims a bill does something particular – like, say, protect your privacy – it's actually a fairly safe assumption that the opposite will end up true. His new bill seems to have the goal of trading government bulk collection for even more NSA power to search Americans’ data while it sits in the hands of the phone companies.

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.

President Obama’s reported proposal sounds more promising, though we have even fewer details than the Intelligence Committee proposal. The administration’s plan would supposedly end the collection of phone records by the NSA, without requiring a dangerous new data retention mandate for the phone companies, while restricting analysis to the current rules around terrorism and, importantly, still requiring a judge to sign off on each phone-record search made to the phone companies – under what the New York Times described as "a new kind of court order".

This phone plan, apparently, represents Obama coming full-circle as his self-imposed deadline on NSA reform arrives Friday, when the court order authorizing bulk collection runs out. But there’s no indication that the president's plan would stop other types of bulk collection – such as internet or financial records – and there’s still a big question about what the NSA could do with the data they receive on innocent people two "hops" away from a suspect.

Critically, neither proposal touches the NSA’s under-reported and incredibly dangerous “corporate store”, at least that we know of. For years, the NSA has been allowed to search phone numbers up to three “hops” away from suspect, so long as it had “reasonable articulable suspicion” that the suspect was involved in terrorism. This was recently ratcheted down to two hops, but the hop-scotching method inevitably pulled millions of innocent people into the NSA’s dragnet.


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