World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


US: Adopt Key Surveillance Reform Proposals

Review Panel Recommendations a Good Starting Point

January 7, 2014

Washington, DC) – The report of the five-member group appointed by President Barack Obama to review US surveillance practices cast doubt on the claimed necessity for some US government surveillance programs, and underscored the need for urgent change. With their report released on December 18, 2013, the panel joined a growing chorus of policymakers, rights organizations, and security experts calling for critical reforms to US government surveillance programs.

The panel recommended an end to government bulk metadata collection, more robust judicial review of government surveillance requests, and increased transparency. While the review group went farther than any other US government entity in urging greater privacy protections for foreigners abroad, its recommendations still leave the door open to continued surveillance of people with no genuine connection to terrorism or wrongdoing.

“Both the President and Congress can use the report’s recommendations in crafting new policies and laws, but it’s only a starting point for change,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Until President Obama takes tangible steps to protect the rights of everyone, no matter where they are, he’ll have a hard time restoring global trust in US support for Internet freedom.”

President Obama is expected to make a statement about his plans to respond to the review group’s report in early January 2014. The following are important aspects of the panel’s findings:

Unnecessary bulk phone metadata collection: One of the panel’s more striking findings was that the metadata collection program being conducted under section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act had not been essential to preventing any terrorist attacks. The panel concluded that information derived from that program could have readily been obtained in a timely manner through other means. The panel found “no sufficient justification for allowing the government itself to collect and store bulk telephony metadata” and recommended terminating the program “as soon as reasonably practicable.”

Foreigners’ privacy rights: The panel recognized that the right to privacy is a basic human right, “central to human dignity,” enshrined in international treaties to which the US is party. The panel proposed limiting surveillance to what is “directed exclusively at the national security of the United States or [its] allies” and said it shouldn’t be used for illegitimate ends such as commercial gain. However, the panel ultimately endorsed an unnecessary, two-tiered approach, with much weaker safeguards against surveillance for foreigners and unclear recourse against overbroad collection of their data overseas.

National Security Letter reform: The panel recommended critical changes to the use of National Security Letters (NSLs). Federal authorities have used NSLs to force companies to disclose user information, but without judicial intervention and under weak standards and strict gag orders. The review group effectively called for an end to that practice, saying NSLs should be subject to judicial authorization.

Increased transparency: The review group embraced transparency measures that human rights organizations and companies have asked for, including proposing legislation to require greater reporting to Congress and the public about use of intelligence gathering powers, and allowing technology companies to report on the number of orders they receive for user data.

Strengthening judicial review: The panel supported creating an institutional advocate at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to represent the public’s privacy interests.

Oversight and whistleblower protections: The panel made a number of suggestions for strengthening the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent oversight agency. It also suggested empowering the board to receive whistleblower complaints, which would improve existing reporting mechanisms for national security whistleblowers. It would not adequately address the need for whistleblower reform that Human Rights Watch has previously identified, however.

Encryption and online security: Finally, the panel said that the US should not undermine efforts to create strong encryption standards or weaken the security of generally available software and online services by asking companies to make it technologically easier to spy on users. While the panel did not directly address media reports that the NSA had deliberately weakened encryption technology and asked companies to build in secret “back doors” into their products, this recommendation was clearly aimed at addressing these allegations.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

'Very Concerned' After Court Ruling: UNHRC On Transfer Of 267 People From Australia To Nauru

Most of these people were reportedly brought to Australia from Nauru to receive medical treatment and are in a fragile physical and mental state. The group includes more than 12 women and at least one child who have allegedly suffered sexual assault or harassment while in Nauru. The group also includes 37 children born in Australia. More>>

ALSO:

Sanctions To Be Lifted: NZ Welcomes Implementation Of Iran Nuclear Deal

Duty Minister Nikki Kaye has welcomed the next stage in the historic nuclear deal between Iran, the Five Permanent (P5) members of the United Nations Security Council, and Germany... “New Zealand has now started the domestic process for removing the UN sanctions." More>>

ALSO:

Pre-Davos Reports: 62 People Own Same Wealth As Half The World

Runaway inequality has created a world where 62 people own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population – a figure that has fallen from 388 just five years ago, according to an Oxfam report published today ahead of the annual gathering of the world’s financial and political elites in Davos.. More>>

ALSO:

Jakarta: UN Secretary-General On Attacks

The Secretary-General condemns the bombings and gun attacks in Jakarta today... there is absolutely no justification for such acts of terrorism. He hopes the perpetrators of today's attacks will be swiftly brought to justice. More>>

ALSO:

Werewolf: America, The Gated

How, in a global metropolis like New York, do you write about immigration as a problem to be solved? And yet immigration is a hot button issue among those fighting to break away from the unruly clump of starters in the race for Republican nominee. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news