President Obama responded to the NSA scandal in typical fashion. He defended his administration, made sympathetic noises about privacy concerns, named a panel that made recommendations, made a lofty speech and delivered policy changes that donít go nearly far enough.
The panel Obama named was stocked with national security heavyweights and made some pretty good recommendations.† Obama followed a few of them partway. Access to the NSAís vast pile of phone data will be limited, spying on foreign allies will be halted and an unspecified public advocate bureau will have unspecified power to speak in some proceedings of the secret FISA court.
But the list of the steps Obama hasnít taken is long. Of particular interest are the policies sought by leading information technology companies. As the Times reports, Google, Microsoft and Intel wanted assurances the NSA wouldnít suck data from their servers, undermine their encryption programs or use their software to launch cyber-attacks. They came away dissatisfied.
Where does the story go from here? It ought to go to Congress. The intelligence committees are securely in the grip of the national security agencies, but there ought to be enough small government Republicans, civil liberties Democrats and supporters of the Silicon Valley interests with enough critical mass to offer an alternative set of reforms.
Unless partisanship gets in the way, with Democrats shrinking from a challenge to Obama and Republicans refusing to work with Democrats.† Iím looking for leaders to emerge and force further reforms and transparency on the NSA. How about you, Pat Leahy? How about you, Rand Paul? How about you, former chair of the House Privacy Caucus Ed Markey?