Obama Plans No Significant Changes to NSA Surveillance

| Wed Jan. 15, 2014 11:23 AM EST

Well, it looks as if our surveillance practices are going to be "reformed" in such a way that basically nothing changes at all:

Mr. Obama plans to increase limits on access to bulk telephone data, call for privacy safeguards for foreigners and propose the creation of a public advocate to represent privacy concerns at a secret intelligence court. But he will not endorse leaving bulk data in the custody of telecommunications firms, nor will he require court permission for all so-called national security letters seeking business records.

The emerging approach...suggested a president trying to straddle a difficult line in hopes of placating foreign leaders and advocates of civil liberties without a backlash from national security agencies....The decision to provide additional privacy protections for non-American citizens or residents, for instance, largely codifies existing practices but will be followed by a 180-day study by the director of national intelligence about whether to go further. Likewise, instead of taking the storage of bulk data out of government hands, as recommended by a review panel he appointed, Mr. Obama will leave it in place for now and ask lawmakers to weigh in.

I think it's safe to say that the director of national intelligence will not be recommending any serious changes after he undertakes his study. My read of this piece is that Obama will recommend a few cosmetic changes; mandate better security to prevent any future Snowdens; and punt the rest to Congress, knowing perfectly well they'll do nothing.

This is no surprise. But it's disappointing anyway. The military-surveillance complex has pretty obviously won this round.