At the January 29, 2014, U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence open hearing on “Current and Projected National Security Threats Against the United States” Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), both members of the Committee, issued statements regarding National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance data collection program.
Senator Rockefeller spoke out against the President’s proposal to change the NSA surveillance data collection program and contract the storage of telephony metadata to private telecom companies.
“I am concerned any change of our current framework will harm both national security and privacy. While the President has made it clear that he understands our intelligence need for this data, I do not believe we can come up with a better alternative. Here’s why. Practically, we do not have the technical capacity to do so. And certainly, it is impossible to do so without the possibility of massive mistakes or catastrophic privacy violations.
There are hundreds and hundreds of telecommunications companies in this country. They do not want to become agents of the government. They do not want to become the government’s guardians of vast amounts of intelligence data.
The telecom providers themselves do not want to do this, and for good reason. Telecom companies do not take an oath – they are neither counter-terrorism agencies nor privacy protection organizations. They are businesses, and they are focused on rewarding their shareholders, not protecting privacy or national security.”
He went on to say that “[f]urther involving the telecom providers in the extended storage of this data for intelligence purposes would not only make that data subject to discovery in civil lawsuits, but it would also make it more vulnerable to theft by hackers or foreign intelligence organizations. Another powerful reason to be against private companies taking responsibility for an inherently governmental function.”
See Senator Rockefeller’s press release here.
Senator Ron Wyden expressed his concerns in a statement delivered prior to the hearing. Wyden provided the following example of what he strongly stated were bad policy choices and violations of the liberties of the American people:
“The director of the NSA said publicly that the NSA doesn’t hold data on U.S. citizens. That was obviously untrue. Justice Department officials testified that section 215 of the Patriot Act is analogous to grand jury subpoena authority. And that deceptive statement was made on multiple occasions. Officials also suggested that the NSA doesn’t have the authority to read Americans’ emails without a warrant but the FISA court opinions declassified last August showed that wasn’t true either.”
See Senator Wyden’s published statement here.
See archived video of this hearing here.
Please note that in TMI’s blog New Reporting Methods for National Security Orders Announced we summarized Department of Justice (DOJ) reporting procedures permitting communications providers to make more detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests they received and the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders and requests.
TMI’s telecom regulatory Bulletin Service sample available via the button below.