Benjamin Wittes wrote a piece for Lawfare blog about President Obama’s upcoming speech on NSA surveillance reforms, in which he says that while so much attention has been paid to the NSA’s bulk metadata collection program, the “215 program,” the “702 program is orders of magnitude more important than the 215 program, as is collection under Executive Order 12333.” You can read the complete item on the blog; here are some highlights:
First, tone is everything. … Obama’s tone will matter hugely both to how much his speech resonates with civil libertarians and how it plays in the intelligence community.
… Second, while everyone will be listening for what Obama says about bulk metadata collection, the far more important question is what he does or doesn’t say about changes to 702 collection.
… Third, structural reform of the FISA Court system is the low-hanging fruit politically for an administration seeking reform.
… Fourth and finally, it will be very interesting to see who the President thinks his audience for this speech is. … The speech will sound very different depending on which audience Obama considers the primary one.
Wittes joins other Brookings experts in an event today following the president’s speech that will be webcast live starting at 2:00 p.m. (EST).
At the end of the day, as we all know thorny national security issues don’t just involve the military; political-military considerations invariably bleed into them. If the senior military’s leadership views are going to be just constrained to military advice … who is thinking about issues from that broader perspective?