The NSA Meeting Everyone Wants to Attend But Nobody Will Talk About

The first rule of NSA reform meetings at the White House: Don’t talk about NSA reform meetings at the White House.

Obama promised at his end-year press conference last month to have a "pretty definitive statment" on NSA surveillance reform in January.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Jan. 8, 2014, 7:49 a.m.

Cap­it­ol Hill is hold­ing its own ver­sion of Fight Club Wed­nes­day, as a small num­ber of hand-picked in­tel­li­gence staffers are des­cend­ing on the White House this af­ter­noon for a top-secret meet­ing to talk about gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance re­form.

No one ap­pears to know ex­actly what the meet­ing will en­tail or wheth­er the ad­min­is­tra­tion will un­veil any of­fer­ings about re­strict­ing the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s much-ma­ligned tele­phone and In­ter­net data-gath­er­ing tech­niques. And at­tendees are be­ing warned to not di­vulge any of the sens­it­ive in­form­a­tion after the huddle-up, con­tinu­ing a trend of keep­ing NSA re­form talks in the shad­ows even as crit­ics de­ride the gov­ern­ment for fail­ing to be more trans­par­ent about the agency’s sur­veil­lance activ­it­ies.

The Situ­ation Room meet­ing, ahead of an even more tightly guarded one between Pres­id­ent Obama and se­lect law­makers Thursday morn­ing in the Oval Of­fice, has a TS/SCI (top secret/sens­it­ive com­part­men­ted in­form­a­tion) clear­ance rank­ing, mean­ing the con­ver­sa­tion is highly clas­si­fied. As re­cently as Wed­nes­day morn­ing, some in­tel­li­gence staffers said they were un­clear ex­actly who had been ex­ten­ded an in­vit­a­tion or if they would even be al­lowed in the room.

The meet­ings come as Obama is sig­nal­ing an in­terest in an­noun­cing some level of re­form meas­ures be­fore his State of the Uni­on Ad­dress on Jan. 28. Any re­stric­tions on NSA sur­veil­lance would be the first since rev­el­a­tions of the agency’s sweep­ing do­mest­ic and in­ter­na­tion­al data-gath­er­ing pro­grams began sur­fa­cing.

White House press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney said Monday that Obama had giv­en his sur­veil­lance re­view task force’s re­com­mend­a­tion “a great deal of con­sid­er­a­tion” and re­viewed its re­port dur­ing his Hawaii va­ca­tion.

Obama “has in­sti­tuted a re­view about the NSA pro­ced­ures and broad­er is­sues that en­com­passes both the re­view group as well as oth­er ele­ments,” Car­ney said. “We know with con­fid­ence that the pres­id­ent will have made some de­cisions about which re­com­mend­a­tions he wants to im­ple­ment, which re­quire fur­ther re­view, and which we will not im­ple­ment, and you will hear him dis­cuss those is­sues later this month.”

The Los Angeles Times re­por­ted last week that Obama in­tends to present a pack­age deal that would con­cede to some of the 46 re­com­mend­a­tions re­leased re­cently by the pres­id­ent’s hand-picked five-mem­ber in­tel­li­gence re­view board. Big-tick­et changes could in­clude pla­cing a pub­lic ad­voc­ate with­in the secret For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court and re­mov­ing the gov­ern­ment’s dir­ect con­trol of the NSA’s tele­phone metadata re­cords. In­stead, the data­base could be main­tained by tele­phone com­pan­ies or by some oth­er, as-yet un­defined, en­tity.

But pri­vacy ad­voc­ates re­main skep­tic­al that Obama in­tends to make any ser­i­ous changes to the NSA, as he re­upped his de­fense of bulk tele­phone and In­ter­net metadata col­lec­tion at his year-end press con­fer­ence last month as a “use­ful tool … to en­sure that if we have a thread on a po­ten­tial ter­ror­ist threat, that that can be fol­lowed ef­fect­ively.”

Obama’s sched­ule this week also in­cludes a meet­ing with the Pri­vacy and Civil Liber­ties Over­sight Board. In ad­di­tion, some tech­no­logy groups have been in­vited to the White House for a fol­low-up to Obama’s meet­ing in Decem­ber with high-wattage tech­no­logy ex­ec­ut­ives.

What We're Following See More »
PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
2 days ago
THE LATEST
MOB RULE?
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
3 days ago
THE LATEST

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
4 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
5 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
‘STRATEGY AND MESSAGING’
Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
5 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

Source:
×