Wednesday, November 29, 2006

NSA Privacy Protections

Caught site of this at Captain's Quarters as well.

Looks like the NSA placed far more protections in place than the MSM led anyone to believe. Bet this bit of news will be quietly ignored by those most vehemently against the program. This article refers to the NSA "eavesdropping" specifically.
The briefing for the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board had been delayed because President Bush was concerned -- after several media leaks -- about widening the circle of people who knew exact details of the secret eavesdropping program.

The board, created by Congress and appointed by Bush, focused on other classified work since it was named in spring 2005, but continued to press for a formal briefing by the National Security Agency.

A breakthrough was reached in recent days, and the five members were briefed by senior officials last week.

Board members said that they were impressed by the safeguards the government has built into the NSA's monitoring of phone calls and computer transmissions, and that they wished the administration could tell the public more about them to ease distrust.

"If the American public, especially civil libertarians like myself, could be more informed about how careful the government is to protect our privacy while still protecting us from attacks, we'd be more reassured," said Lanny Davis , a former Clinton White House lawyer who is the board's lone liberal Democrat.

Let's see. Informing the public of a secret program to make the civil libertarians more reassured is stunningly stupid. The reason for the secrecy was to keep the program effective. The fact that the protections that were in place reassures this knee-jerk liberal should be reassuring to all that the government was doing its job in protecting citizen's privacy. Will it be seen that way? I doubt it.

This article discusses another briefing with regards to bank transaction monitoring. That's the SWIFT stuff.
The program, which gives American intelligence officials access to large volumes of banking data through a Brussels consortium known as Swift, has been attacked by regulators in Europe, who view it as illegal and have threatened sanctions. But the administration gave no indication at Tuesday’s briefing that it was rethinking the program, defending it as a vital tool in tracking terrorist financing.

The briefing, lasting nearly two hours, was held at the Treasury Department for the five members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created at Congress’s direction in 2004 to examine privacy issues related to the war on terror. The board received a similar classified briefing last week on the National Security Agency’s domestic wiretapping program, created by President Bush soon after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The board’s only Democrat, Lanny J. Davis, who was a senior aide to President Bill Clinton, said that before the latest briefing he had had doubts about the Swift banking program. But “I was impressed with the lengths to which these people have gone to avoid infringing on people’s civil rights,” Mr. Davis said in an interview. “It was less of a concern than I expected.”
Alan C. Raul, a Reagan White House adviser who is vice chairman of the panel, said that given what he heard at Tuesday’s briefing, the government appeared to have tight controls to ensure that only people with clear terrorist links were made targets of the banking program.

“When you hear program operators tell you how carefully they make these judgments, it’s striking, and you’d have to say impressive,” Mr. Raul said. “The execution seems to be done with scrupulous attention to the privacy and civil liberties implications.”

Mr. Davis, the board’s Democratic member, echoed that assessment. “Based on what I’ve seen so far in both programs,” he said of the banking and N.S.A. efforts, “I think they have struck the right balance” between detecting terrorist threats and ensuring Americans’ civil liberties.

“But there’s a big caveat,” he added. “I don’t know what I don’t know, and we are looking forward to getting more information.”

Love that big caveat statement. Now just imagine what would happen if the workers in this secret agency could keep a secret.

Wonder where the leak investigation is going. Probably the same way the BATFE investigation of Mayor Bloomberg is. (See next blog entry.)

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