News Release

Is NSA “Reform” a “Trojan Horse”?

The Guardian reports: “NSA Performed Warrantless Searches on Americans’ Calls and Emails — Clapper“. Glenn Greenwald recently wrote: “NSA Blows Its Own Top Secret Program in Order to Propagandize“.

TREVOR TIMM, trevor at, @trevortimm
Timm is executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation and recently wrote “Beware the Surveillance Reform Trojan Horse: What’s Not in the New NSA Laws?” in the Guardian, which states: “Stopping the government from holding onto of all Americans’ phone metadata would undoubtedly be a good thing for American privacy, but if you read between the legislative lines, the government might not be curtailing mass surveillance so much as permanently entrenching it in American law.

“Rep. Justin Amash, one of the NSA’s leading critics in the House, said of the Intelligence Committee bill: ‘It doesn’t end bulk collection but actually puts more Americans in danger of having their constitutionally protected rights violated.’ While the Obama plan is undoubtedly more promising, with court requests and much more, Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union has several important questions about the proposal that need to be answered before anyone will really be able to judge. And the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez detailed why neither of these proposals are as good as the USA Freedom Act, which may now be getting boxed out.

“To be sure, neither of the two new proposals would actually ‘end mass surveillance’, as this National Journal headline proclaimed, or even ‘end bulk collection’ entirely, as most of the other reports suggest. Even the authors know it: the title of the House Intelligence bill was the ‘End Bulk Collection Act’ for just one day before it was changed, perhaps because, as Techdirt’s Mike Masnick wrote, ‘[Rep. Mike] Rogers and his staff realized that … was so bogus that they couldn’t go forward.’

“Curiously, a large majority of the House bill focuses on new ways for the government to collect data from ‘electronic communications service providers’ — also known as the internet companies. Why is a bill that’s supposedly about ending bulk collection of phone-call data focused on more collection of data from internet companies? And then there’s this clause, pointed out by the eagle-eyed Marcy Wheeler, which seems to try to head off court challenges to the bill once it’s passed into law.”