U.S. sets up intelligence surveillance technology review body

WASHINGTON Mon Aug 12, 2013 6:32pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Monday launched a formal review of its electronic intelligence gathering that has come under widespread criticism since leaks by a former spy agency contractor.

The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies will examine the technical and policy issues that arise from rapid advances in global telecommunications, the White House said in a statement.

The group will assess whether U.S. data collection "optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust," the statement said.

The high-level group of outside experts has 60 days to deliver its interim findings. A final report and recommendations are due on December 15.

A separate statement by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed the review. Neither the White House nor Clapper released details on the size or composition of the panel.

In a news conference at the White House on Friday, President Barack Obama vowed to improve oversight of surveillance and restore public trust in the government's programs.

The formal review is one of four measures unveiled by Obama, who said he had ordered a review of the surveillance programs before ex-National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked secret documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post.

Obama's other measures include plans to work with Congress to pursue reforms of Section 215 of the anti-terrorism Patriot Act that governs the collection of so-called "metadata" such as phone records, and reform of the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which considers requests from law enforcement authorities on intelligence-gathering targets.

Obama also vowed to provide more details about the NSA programs to try to restore any public trust damaged by the Snowden disclosures.

Civil liberty groups demanded more details on Obama's plans, but WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has called the announcement "a victory of sorts for Edward Snowden and his many supporters.

The Obama administration has vigorously pursued Snowden to bring him back to the United States to face espionage charges for leaking details of U.S. surveillance programs to the media. Snowden is now in Russia, where he has been granted a year's asylum.

(Reporting by Paul Eckert; Editing by Xavier Briand)

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Comments (5)
Laster wrote:
Thank you Edward Snowden, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian people.

Aug 12, 2013 6:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Laster wrote:
Thank you Edward Snowden, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian people.

Aug 12, 2013 6:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
usagadfly wrote:
At risk is the entire future of electronic technology within the reach and power of the US Federal Government. It is by no means certain that the people at large, especially the huge proportion currently engaged with US technology organizations, will continue to use American electronic and software products as well as US based telecommunications companies. A loss of, say, 25% of the market due to a lack of trust would put most US technology companies in bad shape. If 25% of the people do not vote “your way”, you can ignore them entirely under our current political system. But if they stop buying the products and services of your supporters you cannot afford to ignore them.

Confidence in communications security, for private individuals, has been severely damaged. Confidence in hardware products with US controlled companies anywhere in the production process is damaged. Telecommunications service providers are not only suspect, they are complicit with the spying to date. Why should anyone intelligent trust any of these entities, especially when the world is, indeed, a big place?

Furthermore, what about systems professionals currently practicing in the US technology industry? How many will conclude that cooperation with the powers that be, knowingly or not, is cooperation with “police state”? How many will leave the country? Beijing is, however, anxious to help out by sending talented Chinese technologists to take their places here. Would they be less trustworthy than our own Government? Probably so.

Altogether the lying, cover-ups, deceit, flimflamming of the meaning of “warrant” and the Fourth Amendment matter to many people more important to the future of our country than the entire legal profession. The loss of trust is poisonous. How can anyone believe anything the Government says?

Aug 12, 2013 8:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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