Last week, I wrote about the dangers of tasks forces bearing gifts for civil libertarians and noted how Obama stacked the task force on NSA surveillance with hawks to guarantee the preservation of the program. One of those was former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell who served during the secret development and use of the program. Obviously, if he were to conclude that the program was illegal, it would have meant that he was part of the violations. Not only did the task force maintain the program was legal (in conflict with the recent ruling of a federal court), but now Morell has called not for the limitation of the program but its expansion. That is what President Obama considers a reformer in the national security field.
Morell gave an interview in the aftermath of the task force report that included a call for the expansion of the program to include emails. He also confirmed, as was stated in the earlier column, that the report actually did not include any substantial change for the program.
Morell stated “I would argue actually that the email data is probably more valuable than the telephony data. You can bet that the last thing a smart terrorist is going to do right now is call someone in the United States.” Well, yes, but the same discomfort is felt by citizens of the United States and others around the world. If you really want privacy, it appears that you had best use telepathy rather than telephony communications.
Morell also admitted that the telephone data program, conducted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, made “only a modest contribution to the nation’s security.” However that is no reason to end it and he insist that the “effectiveness we have seen to date is totally irrelevant to how effective it might be in the future.” Thus, remember that promise of how the panel balanced privacy and security? It turns out that even if a program is destroyed the expectation of privacy and not adding much to security, it should still be maintained in the possibility that it could produce better results some time in the future.
So Morell is saying that the reforms were not substantial, the program has not been that effective (consistent with the view of the federal court), and the program should be expanded. That is hardly what the media reported in the “sweeping” limits put on the NSA of course.
Reprinted with permission from author's blog.