One of the top supporters of the National Security Agency is now calling for an end to the agency’s controversial practice of collecting data on millions of U.S. phone calls.
Under the proposal from Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, the phone companies, not the NSA, would hold the phone data. NSA analysts could access the records only if they first obtain an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
His proposal would not impose any mandate on the phone companies to maintain the data — an idea that would face fierce resistance from civil-liberties groups and the phone companies themselves.
In an interview with National Journal, Ruppersberger argued that a new data-retention mandate is unnecessary because the Federal Communications Commission already requires phone companies to maintain their records for 18 months in case there are disputes over billing.
Most NSA searches involve phone calls that are less than 18 months old, according to Ruppersberger.
The proposal is a shift for the Democratic lawmaker, who is one of the most vocal defenders of the NSA on Capitol Hill.
“I represent NSA,” said Ruppersberger, whose district includes NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. “NSA and the people who work there do an excellent job.”
But he acknowledged that in the wake of the leaks by Edward Snowden, there is now a widespread view that the agency is invading people’s privacy.
“We’ve got to find a way to get the confidence of the American people back so they will respect NSA as much as they respect the military,” he said.
He argued that his plan would bolster privacy protections while maintaining the NSA’s ability to uncover terrorist plots.
Ruppersberger proposal is in line with President Obama’s goal of giving up NSA control of the phone database while maintaining the program’s capability. The administration is currently reviewing several options for overhauling the program, including having phone companies hold the data and giving the data to a third-party group.
The White House is expected to announce its plan for the program before March 28.
But Ruppersberger warned that no matter what plan the White House comes up with, the program could expire next year when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is up for renewal.
He said he is working with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers on legislation that would revamp and extend the law.
“I’m not sure whether we could get the votes to pass another FISA bill,” Ruppersberger said. “Mike and I realize we have to make a change.”
But he acknowledged that the House Intelligence chairman is not on board yet with his proposal to limit the NSA phone sweeps.
In an emailed statement, Rogers said he continues to work with Ruppersberger and other lawmakers “to craft a proposal that will address the concerns around bulk data storage, protect civil liberties, increase transparency and confidence in the government’s intelligence-collection activities, and maintain a targeted capability for counterterrorism operations.”
Caitlin Hayden, a White House spokesperson, said the president hasn’t decided yet on his plan for the program.
Ruppersberger’s proposal would not strengthen the standard NSA analysts need to meet before reviewing phone records. Currently, the NSA collects millions of records, but only accesses the database if there is a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that a phone number is connected to terrorism.
Under the USA Freedom Act, a tougher bill from GOP Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, the NSA would need to show that a record is relevant to a terrorism investigation and pertains to an agent of a “foreign power.”
But Ruppersberger argued that the USA Freedom Act’s standard is too restrictive.
“In my opinion that would put our country at risk,” he said. The Maryland Democrat argued that intelligence agents are trying to thwart terrorist attacks and they shouldn’t be held to the same standard as police or prosecutors trying to obtain evidence for a trial after the crime has already been committed.
In a statement, Sensenbrenner applauded Ruppersberger for agreeing that bulk data collection should end and urged him to sign on to the USA Freedom Act.
“It strikes the proper balance between security and privacy, and I am confident it has the votes to pass,” Sensenbrenner said.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”