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Obama sigint speech

President Obama on January 17 gave a speech at the Department of Justice on a review of United States intelligence-gathering.

According to the White House the review examined how, in light of new and changing technologies, we can use our intelligence capabilities in a way that optimally protects our national security while supporting our foreign policy, respecting privacy and civil liberties, maintaining the public trust, and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosures.

President Obama issued a new presidential policy directive for US signals intelligence activities, at home and abroad.

That document says: “The collection of foreign private commercial information or trade secrets is authorized only to protect the national security of the United States or its partners and allies.”

Comment

Dwayne Melancon, chief technology officer for an IT security firm, Tripwire, said: “I think this is a good step, but we need to see convincing results to know that the changes are meaningful and concrete. This is a move in the right direction, since it imposes further barriers to limit the collection and use of surveillance data about US citizens. The big question is whether it will really make a difference or not. After all, many of the things that this new guidance is intended to prevent were already prohibited by the Constitution, what’s to make these new guidelines more effective?

“It’s unclear whether this will dramatically change what data is being collected and how that data is used. It’s also unclear what oversight will occur to ensure the new changes are effective. There is so much collection technology in place already it will be difficult to just ‘turn it off’ so that means there may still be a temptation to look at more data than is appropriate. That is definitely a concern. With mechanisms like National Security Letters and other means to keep surveillance activities from being known, it’s going to be very difficult to rebuild trust that civil liberties are being appropriately safeguarded.”


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