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The NSA Report: Liberty and Security in a Changing World Paperback – April 20, 2014
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"A remarkably thorough and well-reasoned report calling on the government to end its bulk phone-data collection program and to increase both the transparency and accountability of surveillance programs."--New York Times
"[The] recommendations take aim at some of the most controversial practices of the intelligence community."--Washington Post
"Within the 300-page report are 46 recommendations that would dramatically curtail the National Security Agency's surveillance powers. While the proposals are specific and varied, they all echo one theme: The government's reach can no longer be limited by technological capacity alone. It must be reined in with laws and institutional reform."--Atlantic
"The report is a brilliantly readable guide to the world [Edward] Snowden revealed; its clarity of analysis, proceeding from fundamental principles, impeccable. . . . Governments around the world would do well to reflect on the principles that underpin The NSA Report and relate them to their own intelligence-gathering activities."--Kieron O'Hara and Nigel Shadbolt, Science
"The Review Board's recommendations on protecting the civil liberties of non-US persons--a relatively new aspect of the policy discussion--are incredibly welcome."--Jennifer Granick, Stanford Center for Internet and Society blog
"Fascinating insight . . . into how the nation's data-mining apparatus works--and how it's supposed to work."--Kirkus Reviews
From the Back Cover
"The NSA Report tackles some of the most important civil liberties issues of our era. Whether or not you agree with all of its recommendations, it is simply an outstanding introduction to the subject."--Jack M. Balkin, Yale Law School
"The Snowden revelations have prompted many people to wonder about what is going on, and what could be done to stop the surveillance infrastructure without crippling the nation's ability to interdict acts of terror. This report, written by world-class experts, provides a valuable explanation and assessment of the situation--and how best to address it. It could turn into the seminal report on the issue--an issue central to liberal democracy."--Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, University of Oxford
"This is an extraordinarily important report, reflecting a synthesis of viewpoints from luminaries in the fields of law, privacy, and national security. The report's recommendations are serious and extensive and will continue to influence the U.S. and other governments as they grapple with the problems and opportunities raised by all-pervasive surveillance."--Frank Pasquale, University of Maryland
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If you are an American citizen, and are not reading this book, I think you're not holding up your end of the bargain our Founders expected of future Americans when they formed this nation.
You may agree or disagree with what our government is doing, but you at least should know as much as you can about what is being done.
Security recommendations necessarily extend beyond the NSA to relations with CIA, DOS, FBI and other agencies. There are now 17 security agencies under the aegis of DOS, DOT, DoD, DoE, DHS, joint oversight commissions and the DNI. Does any agent know who his boss is? The book makes no recommendations for reducing overlap or obsolescence, probably because that would not be consistent with administration objectives.
The book is very respectful of the rights of foreigners, even though not covered in the Constitution. It acknowledges probability of accidental monitoring of US citizens and works to restrict usage, while threading the tightrope trade-off between providing government with keys and access to any traps.
Most interesting is the discussion of encryption as the authors consider allegations of a possible back door trap in AES and implications of cloud computing. One puzzlement is in the issue of key escrow with “alleged” back doors in government sponsored encryption algorithms. In the early 1990's the NSA sponsored the 'Clipper' chip to implement supposedly known traps. The project was abandoned later, perhaps because it didn't work. Or did government develop a crisis of conscience due to objections to a restrictive and expensive requirement? My ignorance of the issue is one thing, but lack of knowledge in an expert panel dilutes the credibility of this report.
Clearly, safeguarding Fourth Amendment rights with the requirement of warrants does not work anymore. It seems that is the primary justification for study panels like the authors of this book. Can FISA warrants be nameless? Does that safeguard rights? Public key encryption is not mentioned. A central location repository doesn't enhance security. It makes government monitoring easier. There is no consideration of how to pay for initiatives, nor is there any mention of eliminating obsolete departments. There is no denying that the Internet is a weapon requiring some degree of military cognizance, despite one sided liberal conscientiousness desiring removal of the NSA from military jurisdiction.
There are recommendations of organization reform. The authors recommend civilian oversight of the DNI, already an additional layer of bureaucracy. Legal reform is mainly directed at Section 215 of the Patriot Act which most progressives want repealed. There is reform for intelligence gathered on US persons and foreigners determining what should be gathered and how, including
creation of software to target specific information instead of bulk gathering (easier said than done). Limiting need to know is nothing new. Neither is the need to better protect what is collected. The observation that Intel gathering requires cost-benefit analysis is not consistent with government protocol although the governments other monopolies are directed towards wealth redistribution rather than communication.
Partially an antidote for the Snowden and WikiLeaks breaches, with only vague references to prior NSA leaks, the book was written too early to consider the damage caused by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mixing private and security breaking emails. In recommending more layers of control, the response to insider problems is to add more insiders. It recommends rules for vetting those with highly classified access. That does not include Secretary of State or other political appointees. There is no definition of responsibility for CIA and NSA in the event of a breach as occurred by Hillary mixing personal and DOS emails. What else?
The book is somewhat inconsistent in admitting some efficiencies in the current system. At the rate government moves relative to cyber changes, this report will be obsolete and long forgotten before anything is done about the recommendations. There are possibly some observations that are useful to someone. They are well buried. It's not clear to me who this was written for.
It is very likely that I will rewrite this review as I learn more about these complex technical and political issues.