Under the reforms Obama announced Friday, metadata will still be collected on all telephone calls but, eventually, will no longer be stored by the NSA but under some third-party arrangement to be worked out with Congress. Access to the data will require the approval of the secret Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has been so supportive of government requests for surveillance as to be a rubber stamp.
Snowden also revealed, embarrassingly to the government, that we are monitoring the calls of foreign leaders, even those of our allies.
“The bottom line is that people around the world — regardless of their nationality — should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security, and that we take their privacy concerns into account,” Obama said. “This applies to foreign leaders as well.”
In other words, the intelligence gathering will continue, as long as it serves our national security interests.
Most Americans probably don’t care if we are spying on foreign leaders and governments. After all, these governments are likely gathering all the data they can on our leaders.
But it is gratifying to know that most Americans are bothered by the idea of such sweeping data collection in our own country.
Some in Congress on both sides of the political divide are indicating they believe Obama’s reforms have not gone far enough.
“Congress must do what the president apparently will not: end the unconstitutional violation of Americans’ privacy, stop the suspicionless surveillance of our people, and close the era of secret law,” Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan told CNN.
Surely there is a need to monitor the activities of suspected terrorists and to try to stop them before they strike. But doing so by collecting data on every telephone call made by Americans goes too far. Congress should act to set further limits on the NSA’s data collection program.
Such extensive data collected on the telephone activities of all Americans is too open to abuse and incompatible with the maintenance of a free society.