The USA Freedom Act, which is cosponsored by 102 House members, would correct some issues with the Patriot Act by curbing the National Security Agency’s ability to administer communication sweeps and ensuring that searches of data of Americans would not be performed without warrants.
In spite of the great support this bill has been receiving, President Obama recently decided to maintain a previous arrangement that allows a single military official to direct the National Security Agency while also directing the military’s cyberwarfare command. This follows a recent statement delivered by President Obama himself concerning his commitment to restrain the spying agency’s power.
The Obama Administration decided to maintain the controversial arrangement despite criticism, showing that it might not be inclined to restrain the NSA’s activities anytime soon.
Top U.S. intelligence officials urged the administration to maintain the Cyber Command and the NSA under separate leadership due to accountability concerns. The administration was also warned that problems could stem from the undue concentration of power in case it decided to uphold the arrangement.
The administration vaguely described its decision to maintain one person as the NSA director and the Cyber Command commander as “the most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies’ missions.”
While the fifteen-member Intelligence Committee was created to keep the intelligence community under “vigilant legislative oversight,” lawmakers who are directly involved with the committee often treat intelligence hearings as an opportunity to showcase what agencies like the NSA are doing right, in spite of the lack of evidence sustaining their spirited support. During the March 12, 2013 hearing, James R. Clapper, the director of the National Security Agency, was urged by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) to respond whether the NSA collects any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans, to which Clapper responded with a dry “no, sir.”
After Edward Snowden provided leaks concerning NSA surveillance information, Clapper admitted his answer to Sen. Wyden’s question had been erroneous.
Recently, Intelligence officials have been expressing their disappointment concerning the White House’s unwillingness to keep the NSA and Cyber Command under the command of different people. Some have even deemed the administration’s move “a mistake.” Critics suggest that President Obama could have maintained the coordination between both organizations without putting the same person in charge. We have seen While one agency performs surveillance programs, the other agency performs military missions.
Having both agencies under the same director could mean that surveillance missions could be combined with war fighting missions with greater ease. While some believe that both agencies must be under the same leadership, some fear that the undue concentration of power in the hands of one person might create further issues like the recent lawsuit filed against the government by civil liberties groups.
The White House is expected to reject a recent recommendation made by the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology panel that consists of having phone companies or a third party retain the phones’ records until the NSA is able to manage to transmit numbers associated with terrorism suspects back to them in order to have access to any information.
Whether the request for restraining the NSA comes from members of Congress, officials, or the public, the Obama Administration seems dead set on ignoring these requests in order to allow the agency to carry own with its unchecked and unconstitutional surveillance programs.