Late last week, CCIA submitted a set of comments to the President’s Review Group on Intelligence Collection and Communications Technologies in response to their call for feedback on September 4th. This group was formed by the President in August and tasked with examining our current surveillance practices and reporting on how they can be improved to protect privacy and reestablish Americans’ trust in government while maintaining national security.
In our comments we reemphasized the importance of transparency in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, including the release of secret legal opinions that interpret the law, and permitting our member companies and others like them to report aggregate statistics on how many FISA and related orders they receive. We also advocated for an institutional opponent to the government which would provide an alternate viewpoint for the court, as well as hopefully a source of technological expertise in an era when so much intelligence gathering relies is deeply wrapped up in modern technology.
CCIA also took this opportunity to emphasize to the Administration the effects of talking about US surveillance only in terms of US citizens. Too many times the government has responded to questions about surveillance powers by focusing on the protections for Americans under the current system. While that is no doubt important, in our comments we made clear that, on a global network and in a globalized age, that kind of thinking just isn’t enough. All of our members have users around the world, and refusing to discuss the impact of these policies on that population risks alienating a large portion of the world’s Internet users. We believe that would be a great blow to the charge of Internet freedom and to American commerce.
Finally, our comments took the first step of calling for an evaluation of substantive changes to the laws governing national security surveillance. While there is still so much we don’t know due to a lack of transparency, it would be a shame if America did not take this opportunity to reevaluate the authorities we give to the government, how those are used, and whether there are better ways to preserve privacy without hampering national security.
We are eager to see the result of the Review Group’s initial work and to continue contributing to the ongoing national discussion of national security surveillance in the future.