The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, appointed by President Obama to review NSA surveillance and offer recommendations, was stacked with insiders and had been widely expected to offer little to no substance.
Yet their 300+ page report has called for some major changes in policy and rethinks in general approach toward surveillance, much more than the administration or pro-surveillance Congressmen had suggested could even be considered.
The telephone metadata proposal, keeping the data under control of a third party, seems relatively minor a change, while other recommendations, including treating foreigners with the same standard as Americans unless there’s a specific reason not to in a specific case, are far afield from the administration’s stance that foreigners are everywhere and always fair game.
The report also recommends an end to using the NSA for industrial espionage or any other surveillance of foreign targets for economic reasons. They also urge an end to government undermining of private encryption.
It remains to be seen if the Obama Administration is going to take many, or indeed any, of the recommendations seriously, as another recommendation to put the NSA under civilian control and split it from the military’s Cyber Command has already been specifically disavowed by the White House, who intends to keep the positions merged.