Big Brother Benevolence

President Obama last week announced four measures he said would reform National Security Agency surveillance activities to ensure that they do not violate US citizens’ civil liberties. His action comes after public concern that the government has overstepped those bounds based on the leaks of classified information by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and others. “If you are the ordinary person and you start seeing a bunch of headlines saying, ‘US-Big Brother looking down on you, collecting telephone records, et cetera,’ well, understandably, people would be concerned. I would be, too, if I wasn’t inside the government,” said Obama in remarks at the White House on Aug. 9. Accordingly, he said he’d work with Congress to reform Section 215 of the Patriot Act that deals with collecting telephone records and would improve the public’s confidence in the oversight conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that provides judicial review of certain intelligence activities. Third, he directed the Intelligence Community to make public as much information about the surveillance programs as possible. Finally, he called for a high-level group of outside experts to review intelligence and surveillance technologies and provide an interim report in 60 days and a final report by year’s end. (Obama transcript) (White House statement)