Surveillance Court Digs in Over Planned NSA Reform

Obama's plan due Friday
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Jan 15, 2014 9:40 AM CST
President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(Newser) – President Obama is preparing to announce plans to rein in NSA intelligence-gathering on Friday, the New York Times reports. As expected, he'll tighten rules on telephone data collection, extend privacy protections to non-citizens, and urge the creation of an independent privacy advocate for the government's secret surveillance court. He won't back all ideas previously put forward, however, including giving telecoms full control over collected data and requiring court approval of FBI "national security letters."

A judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, John D. Bates, has written to lawmakers to express distaste for the privacy-advocate idea. Such a figure "would substantially hamper the work of the courts without providing any countervailing benefit in terms of privacy protection," he writes, per the Los Angeles Times. Bates also says the court's 11 judges opposed boosting the body's transparency and opening up its judicial selection process, which is currently in the hands of the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The intelligence community, the New York Times notes, is mixed on the plans: "Is it cosmetic or is there a real thumb on the scale in a different direction?” asks a former official. "That’s the question." (Read more NSA stories.)

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