[cryptome] Re: Geoff Stone, Obama's Review Group

  • From: John Young <jya@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: dan@xxxxxxxx,cypherpunks@xxxxxxxxxx,<cryptography@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <cryptome@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 03 Apr 2014 06:42:29 -0400

Stone's is a good statement which correctly places responsibility
on three-branch policy and oversight of NSA, a military unit obliged
to obey command of civilians however bizarre and politically self-serving.

ODNI and NSA have been inviting a series of critics and journalists
to discussions. Most have resulted in statements similar to
Stone's. No such discussions were held after 9/11.

Incorrect to compare NSA to rogue, dirty work, civilian-led CIA
which will attack the three branches if riled. That is the blackmail
looming since 1947.

Greater public oversight of the three-branches is needed, for they
are the rogue, dirty work, civilian-led three LS, protecty by highest

If this can be helped by these invited discussions and statements,
that would be a true advance beyond mere futile debate so far
generated by shallow journalisitic reporting and polemics.

Release of far more of Snowden's documents will be needed
for this to happen, hopefully the whole wad by a means that will
put the technology in the hands of those who can understand
it. So far, the journalists have released only the most useful
to arouse indignation and refuse to release what could make
a lasting difference. Not that journalists should be expected
to make a lasting difference.

At 10:56 PM 4/2/2014, you wrote:

[ disclaimer, Geoff Stone is a friend of mine ]


What I Told the NSA

   Because of my service on the President's Review Group last fall,
   which made recommendations to the president about NSA surveillance
   and related issues, the NSA invited me to speak today to the NSA
   staff at the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, about my
   work on the Review Group and my perceptions of the NSA. Here,
   in brief, is what I told them:

     From the outset, I approached my responsibilities as a member
     of the Review Group with great skepticism about the NSA. I am
     a long-time civil libertarian, a member of the National Advisory
     Council of the ACLU, and a former Chair of the Board of the
     American Constitution Society. To say I was skeptical about
     the NSA is, in truth, an understatement.

     I came away from my work on the Review Group with a view of
     the NSA that I found quite surprising. Not only did I find
     that the NSA had helped to thwart numerous terrorist plots
     against the United States and its allies in the years since
     9/11, but I also found that it is an organization that operates
     with a high degree of integrity and a deep commitment to the
     rule of law.

     Like any organization dealing with extremely complex issues,
     the NSA on occasion made mistakes in the implementation of its
     authorities, but it invariably reported those mistakes upon
     discovering them and worked conscientiously to correct its
     errors. The Review Group found no evidence that the NSA had
     knowingly or intentionally engaged in unlawful or unauthorized
     activity. To the contrary, it has put in place carefully-crafted
     internal proceduresto ensure that it operates within the bounds
     of its lawful authority.

     This is not to say that the NSA should have had all of the
     authorities it was given. The Review Group found that many of
     the programs undertaken by the NSA were highly problematic and
     much in need of reform. But the responsibility for directing
     the NSA to carry out those programs rests not with the NSA,
     but with the Executive Branch, the Congress, and the Foreign
     Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorized those programs
     -- sometimes without sufficient attention to the dangers they
     posed to privacy and civil liberties. The NSA did its job --
     it implemented the authorities it was given.

     It gradually became apparent to me that in the months after
     Edward Snowden began releasing information about the government's
     foreign intelligence surveillance activities, the NSA was being
     severely -- and unfairly -- demonized by its critics. Rather
     than being a rogue agency that was running amok in disregard
     of the Constitution and laws of the United States, the NSA was
     doing its job.  It pained me to realize that the hard-working,
     dedicated, patriotic employees of the NSA, who were often
     working for far less pay than they could have earned in the
     private sector because they were determined to help protect
     their nation from attack, were being castigated in the press
     for the serious mistakes made, not by them, but by Presidents,
     the Congress, and the courts.

     Of course, "I was only following orders" is not always an
     excuse.  But in no instance was the NSA implementing a program
     that was so clearly illegal or unconstitutional that it would
     have been justified in refusing to perform the functions
     assigned to it by Congress, the President, and the Judiciary.
     Although the Review Group found that many of those programs
     need serious re-examination and reform, none of them was so
     clearly unlawful that it would have been appropriate for the
     NSA to refuse to fulfill its responsibilities.

     Moreover, to the NSA's credit, it was always willing to engage
     the Review Group in serious and candid discussions about the
     merits of its programs, their deficiencies, and the ways in
     which those programs could be improved. Unlike some other
     entities in the intelligence community and in Congress, the
     leaders of the NSA were not reflexively defensive, but were
     forthright, engaged, and open to often sharp questions about
     the nature and implementation of its programs.

     To be clear, I am not saying that citizens should trust the
     NSA.  They should not. Distrust is essential to effective
     democratic governance. The NSA should be subject to constant
     and rigorous review, oversight, scrutiny, and checks and
     balances. The work it does, however important to the safety
     of the nation, necessarily poses grave dangers to fundamental
     American values, particularly if its work is abused by persons
     in positions of authority. If anything, oversight of the NSA
     -- especially by Congress -- should be strengthened. The future
     of our nation depends not only on the NSA doing its job, but
     also on the existence of clear, definitive, and carefully
     enforced rules and restrictions governing its activities.

     In short, I found, to my surprise, that the NSA deserves the
     respect and appreciation of the American people. But it should
     never, ever, be trusted.

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