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
Add to Briefcase
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 »
SANS PROOF
NRA Chief: Leftist Protesters Are Paid
1 days ago
UPDATE
NEW TRAVEL BAN COMING SOON
Trump Still on Campaign Rhetoric
1 days ago
UPDATE
“WE’RE CHANGING IT”
Trump Rails On Obamacare
1 days ago
UPDATE

After spending a few minutes re-litigating the Democratic primary, Donald Trump turned his focus to Obamacare. “I inherited a mess, believe me. We also inherited a failed healthcare law that threatens our medical system with absolute and total catastrophe” he said. “I’ve been watching and nobody says it, but Obamacare doesn’t work.” He finished, "so we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare."

FAKE NEWS
Trump Goes After The Media
1 days ago
UPDATE

Donald Trump lobbed his first attack at the “dishonest media” about a minute into his speech, saying that the media would not appropriately cover the standing ovation that he received. “We are fighting the fake news,” he said, before doubling down on his previous claim that the press is “the enemy of the people." However, he made a distinction, saying that he doesn't think all media is the enemy, just the "fake news."

FBI TURNED DOWN REQUEST
Report: Trump Asked FBI to Deny Russia Stories
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."

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