Taming the NSA – Reform Bills Fall Short

2013. október 31. 15:31

Dinah Pokempner
Human Rights Watch
So far, no bill requires a thorough and independent congressional review of all US surveillance programs.

The legislative wheels are spinning furiously on Capitol Hill, as US lawmakers put bills in play in response to the global fury over rampant surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA). These proposals go some way in placing surveillance under stricter controls. But none goes far enough. (...)

Congress is missing some critical points. First, none of these bills requires the US government to respect the privacy of foreigners abroad. Upholding universal rights means it’s not ok for one government to torture the citizens of another overseas, or forcibly convert them, or punish them for simply speaking ­– so why is it ok to violate their privacy without cause or redress? And so far, no bill requires a thorough and independent congressional review of all US surveillance programs, so they can know the scope of the problem they aim to fix. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone was probably monitored by the US in Germany under Executive Order 12333, which authorizes collection of any intelligence the administration requires, and not any of the laws these bills would reform.  That’s the same authority behind today’s revelation that the government is siphoning off massive data from Google and Yahoo communications links outside the US. The full extent of corporate involvement in US surveillance, or the US government’s efforts to weaken cyber security, are also unknowns. These issues need to enter the debate, and quickly, if Congress wants to act before Europe loses patience and takes its own measures to restrain US data collection.

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