Even Commission Which Obama Created Says We Should Rein In the NSA … and Shouldn’t Blindly Trust Government


The White House panel on NSA spying released its report today, slamming mass surveillance and vindicating what critics have been saying all along.

Specifically, the commission set up by President Obama – formally known as the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies – found (page 104):

Our review suggests that the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215 telephony meta-data was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional section 215 orders.

In other words, sucking up every American’s metadata is unnecessary.

The panel recommends that National Security Letters be reviewed by a real court before being approved (page 93):

The panel further warns that unchecked spying always leads to abuses (page 114):

We cannot discount the risk, in light of the lessons of our own history, that at some point in the future, high-level government officials will decide that this massive database of  extraordinarily sensitive private information is there for the plucking. Americans must never make the mistake of wholly “trusting” our public officials. As the Church Committee observed more than 35 years ago, when the capacity of government to collect massive amounts of data about individual Americans was still in its infancy, the “massive centralization of . . . information creates a temptation to use it for improper purposes, threatens to ‘chill’ the exercise of First Amendment rights, and is inimical to the privacy of citizens.”


And the Commission says that the government should stop industrial espionage … and undertake manipulation of financial systems (page 221):

(1) Governments should not use surveillance to steal industry secrets to advantage their domestic industry;

(2) Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems ….

Indeed, economic advantage has always been one of the main reasons for spying.

As one of the commissioners – former counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke – told the New York Times, the government shouldn’t do things just because they can:

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

The 9/11 Commission chairs agree.

As Senator Patrick Leahy said today on the Senate floor:

The message is very clear. The message to the NSA is now coming from every branch of government, from every corner of our nation, ‘NSA you have gone too far.’ [The report says] what many of us have been saying, that just because we can collect massive amounts of data doesn’t mean we should do so.

Category: Think Tank, War/Defense

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5 Responses to “White House Panel Slams NSA, Says Mass Spying Is Unnecessary”

  1. Herman Frank says:

    “Oh despicable me! I collected all that data in good faith, and now “they” tell me that I shouldn’t have protected them! Am I not doing all this for their own good! I’ll simply keep it, so that I have it for the moment that they come crying to me! They’ll beg me to protect them, and then I shall be redeemed and praised for having taken care of them!”

    And so it passed that the NSA went underground and became the power that it is today.
    (Reflections of a voter in the year of our NSA, December 19, 2048)

  2. theexpertisin says:

    The key phrase is “shouldn’t blindly trust government”.


  3. MidlifeNocrisis says:

    …but, but, but………while you’re at home sleeping in your bed at night, you WANT me on that wall! You NEED me on that wall!………..

    (Hat Tip to Col. Jessup)

  4. rd says:

    Clearly Obama is going to have to figure out who is in charge of the government to find out how to get them to order a change in protocols. At least W knew Dick Cheney was in charge.

    This is likely to be the typical outcome of major bureaucratic over-shoot and abuse. Everybody knows that you have to do some spying – they just decided to escalate that to spying on everyone 24/7 just because they could. As a result, they may lose the ability to do it a much more reasonable and targeted level at which it could actually provide some benefit without much cost.

  5. rd says:

    “Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilties to change the amounts in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate financial systems”

    Treasury, the Federal Reserve, The Bank of England, and the EU have all delegated the mission of manipulating the financial system to the TBTF banks and financial institutions. All rights regarding these manipulations are reserved to these private entities and they will withhold campaign contributions if they perceive that the NSA is also manipulating the financial system.