Minority of One blog

Obama stalls on NSA reform

It's too bad Peggy Lee isn't still alive to make an appearance after President Obama's speech today on the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. She could have followed him on stage to sing her hit, "Is That All There Is?"

It's been seven months since Edward Snowden leaked the news that our government has been carrying out massive collection of domestic phone records and eavesdropping on the communications of foreigners abroad. But this speech showed that the president still hasn't figured out what to do to resolve concerns about privacy -- except to assure us he takes them seriously.

One useful change is to require NSA to get approval from the FISA court before doing searches of the records database to find out what numbers suspected terrorists are calling. But this requirement may not last. The White House tells me it hasn't been decided what will happen after a 60-day "transition" period.

The 60 days are supposed to give the administration time to figure out where all the records will be stored, since the president more or less rules out letting the NSA keep them or letting private phone companies do so. It's not encouraging that he still has no good third option.

What Americans had a right to expect today was a plan for a genuine overhaul of the surveillance. What they got was a fog of words that leaves us wondering if Obama still hasn't decided what he wants or just isn't ready to say.

CHICAGO

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