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Published On: Sun, Aug 11th, 2013

Obama ‘white paper’ explains how NSA surveillance is ‘consistent with the Constitution’, press conference offers ‘reforms’

The Obama administration, in an attempt to get the heat off the National Security Administration (NSA) surveillance program, released a “white paper” that details the justification for the broad program and makes claims of it’s constitutionality.

President Barack Obama holds a press conference in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 9, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama holds a press conference in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 9, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The report claims the information collected via the telephony metadata collection program is limited to those who may be engaged in terrorist activities, including persons and activities within the United States.

They also say that Congress was well aware of the program, although many members appeared clueless. “and Congress reauthorized Section 215 without change after this information (the collection telephony metadata in bulk was provided)”.

Concerning the constitutionality, the paper says:

The telephony metadata collection program also complies with the Constitution.Supreme Court precedent makes clear that participants in telephone calls lack any reasonable expectation of privacy under the Fourth Amendment in the metadata records generated by their telephone calls and held by telecommunications service providers. Moreover, any arguable privacy intrusion arising from the collection of telephony metadata would be outweighed by the critical public interest in identifying connections between terrorist operatives and thwarting terrorist plots, rendering the program reasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.The program is also consistent with the First Amendment, particularly given that the database may be used only as an investigative tool in authorized investigations of international terrorism.

The white paper also details the authorization of queries of the bulk records, the use of the data, the oversight controls in place and the relevance of the data.

In addition, the President announced a series of new, vague reforms to increase public confidence in the NSA’s surveillance program  during a press conference Friday.

These include creating a public advocate to argue in front of the secret court that grants the NSA authority to target suspects (both foreign and domestic), creating a website detailing what the NSA does–and does not–collect on Americans and foreigners, in an effort to increase transparency and creating an independent agency that reviews cybersecurity processes and produces timely reports.

Although the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) say this is a good first step, it hardly goes far enough. ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said after the press conference, “While the initial reforms outlined by the president are a necessary and welcome first step, they are not nearly sufficient.

“The bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is only one of several troubling programs disclosed over the last two months. The president must work with members of Congress to reform all of these surveillance programs, including those authorized by Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which collect, monitor and retain the contents of Americans’ communications without a warrant.

“We also urge the president to release the relevant FISA Court opinions and agency memos that have created a body of secret law that is far removed from public oversight and adequate congressional review. We must ensure that the government’s surveillance programs once again adhere to the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment.”

However, the White House press corp failed miserably on questioning the President on the NSA programs during a press conference, according to a Tech Crunch.com’s Gregory Ferenstein, ” The White House Press Corps just completely botched the one opportunity we had to learn details about the National Security Agency’s spying program, and the rationale for sweeping government surveillance. During the hour-long press conference (transcript here)President Obama held specifically to answer questions about the NSA,not a single journalist asked him details about the NSA. As a result, we learned precisely zero information from something slated to be critically informative.”

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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