WASHINGTON DC – President Obama met with his Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies — Richard Clarke, Michael Morell, Geoffrey Stone, Cass Sunstein and Peter Swire — to discuss the report they submitted to the President on December 13.
The report was on how to overcome problems in the National Security Agency and the efforts of that government agency in seeking to balance national security with the requirements of freedom and privacy in a democratic country.
There has been growing pressure on the United States Government following on the ruling by Judge Leon. On June 6, 2013, plaintiffs brought the first of two related lawsuits challenging the constitutionality and statutory authorization of certain intelligence-gathering practices by the United States government relating to the wholesale collection of the phone record metadata of all U.S. citizens.
In his sixty-eight page ruling, Judge Richard Leon states, “Turning to the efficacy prong, the Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time- sensitive in nature”.
“I cannot imagine a more “indiscriminate” and “arbitrary invasion” than this systematic and high- tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval.
“Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the Founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Indeed, I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware “the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power,” would be aghast”.
The actions by the National Security Agency, which were leaked to the public by Edward Snowden have shown widespread spying by the United States. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was one of the targets, and the relationship between the United States and Germany chilled following that disclosure.
This meeting at the White House, offered President Obama an opportunity to hear directly from the group’s members and discuss the thinking behind the 46 recommendations in their report.
The President noted that the group’s report represented a consensus view, particularly significant given the broad scope of the members’ expertise in counterterrorism, intelligence, oversight, privacy and civil liberties.
The President again stated his expectation that, in light of new technologies, the United States use its intelligence collection capabilities in a way that optimally protects our national security while supporting our foreign policy, respecting privacy and civil liberties, maintaining the public trust, and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosure.
The President expressed his personal appreciation to the group members for the extraordinary work that went into producing this comprehensive and high quality report, and outlined for the group how he intends to utilize their work.
In a statement from the White House Press Office, “Over the next several weeks, as we bring to a close the Administration’s overall review of signals intelligence, the President will work with his national security team to study the Review Group’s report, and to determine which recommendations we should implement. The President will also continue consulting with Congress as reform proposals are considered in each chamber.”