A number of people are asking why I’m so shocked that President Obama appointed no technologists for his NSA Review Committee.
Here are three issues that should be central to the Committee’s discussions that are, in significant part, technology questions. There are more. But for each of these questions, the discussion should not be whether the Intelligence Community thinks the current solution is the best or only one, but whether it is an appropriate choice given privacy implications and other concerns.
- Whether the Intelligence Community can accomplish the goals of the Section 215 dragnet without collecting all US person metadata
- Whether the NSA can avoid collecting Multiple Communication Transactions as part of upstream collection
- How to oversee unaudited actions of technical personnel
There are just three really obvious issues that should be reviewed by the committee. And for all of them, it would be really useful for someone with the technical background to challenge NSA’s claims to be on the committee.
Whether the Intelligence Community can accomplish the goals of the Section 215 dragnet without collecting all US person metadata
One of the most contentious NSA practices — at least as far as most Americans go — is the collection of all US person phone metadata for the Section 215 dragnet. Yet even Keith Alexander has admitted — here in an exchange with Adam Schiff in a House Intelligence Committee hearing on June 18 — that it would be feasible to do it via other means, though perhaps not as easy.
REP. SCHIFF: General Alexander, I want to ask you — I raised this in closed session, but I’d like to raise it publicly as well — what are the prospects for changing the program such that, rather than the government acquiring the vast amounts of metadata, the telecommunications companies retain the metadata, and then only on those 300 or so occasions where it needs to be queried, you’re querying the telecommunications providers for whether they have those business records related to a reasonable, articulable suspicion of a foreign terrorist connection?