The Wall Street Journal and New York Times are reporting that draft recommendations to the president from the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology would constitute sweeping reform efforts that would generate pushback. Among the proposals they report are a civilian leader for the NSA, a team of advocates to argue against the government before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and a recast phone-records program to improve privacy. These would undoubtedly change current practice significantly, but they are mere pointillist dots on a canvas, not a complete painting.
The disclosure of cyber intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism programs by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden generated a wide range of challenges for government and the public to address. More comprehensive assessment of those challenges is needed from a variety of viewpoints over time. As legislators continue to debate these issues and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board completes its own assessment the public will gain valuable additional perspective. But more will be required. President Obama and Congress should begin laying the groundwork for a joint, multi-year strategic review to address issues that short-term studies cannot reach.
I will offer more on this topic in the coming weeks.