NSA Reform To-Do List: Fire James Clapper

NSA Reform To-Do List: Fire James Clapper

The most truthful or least untruthful” are words that will forever mark the year of 2013. James Clapper’s words hit number 5 on a list of top quotes defining 2013, but it’s not the kind of recognition that people would want for themselves. If there’s going to be NSA reform or any sort of restoration of American trust, James Clapper has to go. Senator Paul is absolutely definite on that point.

“Clapper has damaged the credibility of the entire intelligence apparatus… I don’t know how you can have someone in charge over intelligence who has known to lie in a public forum to Congress, to lie without repercussions,” Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.”

“When you’re doing this and when you have the ability to completely destroy people’s lives — you have the ability to actually kill people overseas — I would think that you really have to have the utmost trust,” Paul said back in June. “And I think he’s lost our trust by lying to us.”

But Clapper’s still there, folks. If the Obama adminstration wants to restore any trust with the American people, Clapper should be on the to-go list for any sort of proper NSA reform. Philip Bump of The Wire suggests that he’s probably getting some hints in Washington that the gig’s up:

Buried in an article in The New York Times was this paragraph, suggesting that the administration is trying to give Clapper, who served as undersecretary of the DNI under Bush, a hint that his time in Washington is nearing its end:

“The only way the president is going to get a fresh start with the allies,” one of his advisers said last week, “is to present them with a new team.”

As far as NSA reform goes, what’s currently going on? Well, the President recently received a list of 46 recommendations from a White House review panel. The main bullet on that list addresses the warrantless searches that the NSA has freely enjoyed so far. Obviously, barriers need to be placed to prevent American records from being so easily retrievable without a court approval.

One suggestion being that data is held by phone companies “or a private third party” only accessible by a FISC court order. Phone companies would be free to dictate their own terms for how long data is kept which varies “from as little as six months to 10 years.” (The NSA currently holds daily phone records for five years.)

Complaints have been made that “moving custodianship of the records outside the NSA would diminish the agency’s agility in detecting terrorist plots, supporters of the current arrangement say. With companies holding data for different periods and in different formats, searching across them would become complicated, they argue.” (Washington Post)

A complaint that has been negated by the sheer lack of evidence showing how “telephony metadata” has prevented any short notice attacks, according to The Washington Post. There simply is no excuse for not taking the time to get a proper court order.

Overall, as more than one media source has pointed out, the panel “did not propose a wholesale scaling back of domestic spying by the National Security Agency and other intelligence branches. (NPR)” Just more oversight. In order for true NSA reform to take place, what will it take?

(Photograph courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard Senior Leadership, via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0)



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