Democrat: Obama’s Spying Compromise Threatens Millions

Jay Rockefeller doesn’t trust the private sector to store phone data.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 03: Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) answers reporters questions during a news conference about funding for the Federal Aviation Administration at the U.S. Capitol August 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. Congressional Democrats blamed Republicans in the House of Representatives for refusing to pass a 'clean' bill to fund the FAA, leaving 4,000 agency employees out of work and relying on airport safety inspectors to continue working without pay. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
Add to Briefcase
Brendan Sasso
Jan. 29, 2014, 7:34 a.m.

For­cing the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency to give up con­trol over its massive data­base of phone re­cords would harm na­tion­al se­cur­ity and en­danger the pri­vacy of mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans, Demo­crat­ic Sen. Jay Rock­e­feller said Wed­nes­day.

“While the pres­id­ent has made it clear that he un­der­stands our in­tel­li­gence need for this data, I do not be­lieve we can come up with a bet­ter al­tern­at­ive,” Rock­e­feller said at a Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing.

“Here’s why: Prac­tic­ally, we do not have the tech­nic­al ca­pa­city to do so. And, cer­tainly, it is im­possible to do so without the pos­sib­il­ity of massive mis­takes or cata­stroph­ic pri­vacy vi­ol­a­tions.”

One of the most con­tro­ver­sial rev­el­a­tions from the leaks by Ed­ward Snowden is that the NSA col­lects re­cords — such as phone num­bers, call times, and call dur­a­tions — on vir­tu­ally all U.S. calls. In an at­tempt to ease the grow­ing out­rage over NSA sur­veil­lance, Pres­id­ent Obama an­nounced earli­er this month that he asked At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Eric Hold­er and top In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials to come up with a plan to give up con­trol of the phone data­base.

It’s un­clear how ex­actly the ad­min­is­tra­tion plans to con­tin­ue min­ing the phone re­cords while no longer con­trolling the data­base. One pos­sib­il­ity is that a new private en­tity will hold the re­cords and then give the NSA ac­cess to it. An­oth­er pro­pos­al would be to re­quire the phone com­pan­ies to main­tain the re­cords on be­half of the gov­ern­ment.

But Rock­e­feller said it is an “im­possib­il­ity” to cre­ate a new en­tity that could co­ordin­ate and handle bil­lions of sens­it­ive phone re­cords safely. He also noted that the phone com­pan­ies have no in­terest in be­com­ing “agents” of the gov­ern­ment.

“The tele­com pro­viders them­selves do not want to do this, and for good reas­on,” he said. “Tele­com com­pan­ies do not take an oath — they are neither coun­terter­ror­ism agen­cies nor pri­vacy-pro­tec­tion or­gan­iz­a­tions. They are busi­nesses, and they are fo­cused on re­ward­ing their share­hold­ers, not pro­tect­ing pri­vacy or na­tion­al se­cur­ity.”

Rock­e­feller, the chair­man of the Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee, which over­sees the tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions in­dustry, said he has dealt with the phone com­pan­ies enough to know not to trust them.

“I have served on the Com­merce Com­mit­tee for 30 years and know that tele­phone com­pan­ies some­times make empty prom­ises about con­sumer pro­tec­tion and trans­par­ency,” he said. “Cor­por­a­tions core profit motives can, and some­times have, trumped their hold­ing to their own pub­lic com­mit­ments.”

The sen­at­or wor­ried that keep­ing the sens­it­ive re­cords in the private sec­tor could leave them vul­ner­able to hack­ers. He ar­gued that the re­cent data breach at Tar­get shows that only the gov­ern­ment can be trus­ted with pro­tect­ing such a massive trove of private data.

Rock­e­feller also ar­gued that the NSA is sub­ject to “strin­gent” audits and over­sight to en­sure that ana­lysts don’t ab­use their power to ac­cess private in­form­a­tion without prop­er au­thor­iz­a­tion. The private sec­tor has no such pro­tec­tions, he said.

“I can’t tell you how strongly I feel about this,” Rock­e­feller em­phas­ized.

Sen. Di­anne Fein­stein, the chair­wo­man of the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, noted Rock­e­feller’s ex­tens­ive ex­per­i­ence deal­ing with tele­com­mu­nic­a­tions is­sues on the Com­merce Com­mit­tee.

“In my view, he knows what he’s talk­ing about,” she said.

What We're Following See More »
16 YEARS, $70 BILLION DOWN THE DRAIN
Report: U.S. Failed in Training Afghan Forces
15 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"The U.S. has invested 16 years and more than $70 billion to train Afghan security forces, but the effort has been undermined by poor planning, training and oversight, a government watchdog said in a report Thursday. The 259-page report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or Sigar, offered a critical assessment of one of the top goals of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan—to train local forces so they can secure Afghanistan on their own. The report details how unprepared the U.S. was to train local forces when the war began in 2001 and concludes many of the problems that hampered the early days of the war still exist."

Source:
WARNING ISSUED 2009, STILL PROBLEM
People Terrorist Ties Licensed to Fly, Repair Aircraft
18 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

In 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration warned that individuals with terrorist ties were licensed to fly or repair planes. Years later, it is still a problem. Researcher Mark Schiffer found several known terrorists have FAA licenses when testing an algorithm on public records. Part of the problem is the FAA does not use photos on licenses and does not completely vet information. But they claim pilot certificates are to show the pilot's training level—not security—and pilots have to have government-issued IDs.

Source:
OTHER OFFICIALS ALSO USED PRIVATE ACCOUNTS
Kushner Private Email for WH Business
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has corresponded with other administration officials about White House matters through a private email account set up during the transition last December, part of a larger pattern of Trump administration aides using personal email accounts for government business." His lawyer said Kushner and his colleagues usually forwarded news articles or political commentaries.

Source:
TO TALK ABOUT AGENDAS AND ELECTIONS
Trump to Dine with GOP Donors Tuesday
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Trump will meet with major GOP donors for a private dinner on Tuesday in New York as part of a fundraising effort for the Republican National Committee, according to three people briefed on his plans." Trump is expected to talk about the party's agenda on the Hill and the midterm elections.

Source:
VENEZUELA, NORTH KOREA ADDED
White House Announces Enhanced Vetting for Eight Countries
1 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
"President Trump is replacing his controversial travel ban with a targeted list of restrictions that will enhance vetting for nationals from eight countries, senior administration officials announced Sunday. The eight countries on the modified list of countries are Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen." The officials say these states failed to comply with the U.S. information-sharing requirements that aim to make vetting processes stronger.
Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login