Developments on the NSA Surveillance Front

The Case for NSA Reform – by Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner:

“[W]e were the primary authors of the USA PATRIOT Act . . . . [W]e strongly agree that the dragnet collection of millions of Americans’ phone records every day — whether they have any connection at all to terrorism — goes far beyond what Congress envisioned or intended to authorize. More important, we agree it must stop. [Today] we will introduce bicameral, bipartisan legislation that will put an end to the National Security Agency’s indiscriminate collection of personal information. Our proposal, the USA FREEDOM Act, provides stronger privacy safeguards with respect to a range of government surveillance programs. While the USA FREEDOM Act ends the dragnet collection of telephone records, it preserves the intelligence community’s ability to gather information in a more focused way, as was the original intent of the PATRIOT Act. Our bill also ensures that this program will not simply be restarted under other legal authorities, and includes new oversight, auditing and public reporting requirements. No longer will the government be able to employ a carte-blanche approach to records collection or enact secret laws by covertly reinterpreting congressional intent. And to further promote privacy interests, our legislation establishes a special advocate to provide a counterweight to the surveillance interests in the FISA Court’s closed-door proceedings.”

The USA Freedom Act: pdf

See also:

The White House on Spying: New York Times Editorial Board

Spycraft: how do we fix a broken NSA? – Reformers are still struggling to imagine an NSA that doesn’t overstep the constitution: Russell Brandon at The Verge.

Counterpoint: We Need an Invasive NSA by Harvard Law Professor Jack Goldsmith



Cyber Law, Tech and Policy

General Interest


Cyber Law, Tech and Policy

“[A] structural approach, which focuses on preserving an overall balance between state control and citizen autonomy, seems to me more appropriate for evaluating mass surveillance programs such as the NSA’s … . [T]he appropriate question is whether the creation of a system of surveillance perilously alters that balance too far in the direction of government control, whether or not we have problems with the current use of that system. We might imagine a system of compulsory cameras installed in homes, activated only by warrant, being used with scrupulous respect for the law over many years. The problem is that such an architecture of surveillance, once established, would be difficult to dismantle, and prove too potent a tool of control if it ever fell into the hands of people who—whether through panic, malice, or a misguided confidence in their own ability to secretly judge the public good—would seek to use it against us.”

Cyber Law + Tech: March 27, 2013

How much of an article or news report can an aggregator or clipping service copy under fair use? There’s no precise answer, but under the recent Meltwater ruling from a federal district court in the Southern District of New York, the answer in some cases may be “not much”. At AP wins big: Why a Court Said Clipping Content is Not Fair Use. The defendant Meltwater monitored the internett and ran a clipping service for its clients, sending newsletter alerts to its clients about articles in which they appeared. Meltwater included the relevant headline, lede and sentences in which keywords relevant to the client appeared. Key to the court’s decision was that Meltwater, by copying the headlines and ledes acted as a substitute to the underlying articles, rather than driving readers to the original article as a search engine might. As noted by PaidContent: “Cote’s rejection of Meltwater’s search engine argument was based in part on the ‘click-through’ rate of its stories. Whereas Google News users clicked through to 56 percent of excerpted stories, the equivalent rate for Meltwater was 0.08 percent …” The impact of the ruling outside the federal courts Second Circuit is unclear, but the result should be troubling for companies that scrape significant amounts of content from other sites in reliance on “fair use”.

The EFF’s critical take on the decision. The court’s decision (pdf).

FBI 2013 priority: obtaining new powers to surveil internet and cloud services in real time (Slate).

At ArsTechnica, news of new data transmission research: Fiber cables made of air move data at 99.7 percent the speed of light

TechDirt: Court Tosses Lawsuit That Said MMS Was An Illegal File Sharing Network”

Attackers generally benefit from new security technologies before defenders do … They have a first-mover advantage. They’re more nimble and adaptable than defensive institutions … They can evolve faster. And entropy is on their side — it’s easier to destroy something than it is to prevent, defend against, or recover from that destruction. For the most part, though, society still wins. The bad guys simply can’t do enough damage to destroy the underlying social system. The question for us is: can society still maintain security as technology becomes more advanced?

I don’t think it can.
Bruce Schneier writing at Wired: Our Security Models Will Never Work — No Matter What We Do on (i) the virtual certainty over time of successful large scale/mass casualty terrorist attacks due to weapons of mass destruction becoming cheaper and easier to produce, and (ii) creating resilient systems as an alternative to perpetually ratcheting up government surveillance and security. Read the whole thing.

Security expert (and self-described curmudgeon) Schneier’s monthly Crypto-Gram email newsletter is a great monthly read and personal favorite.

ArsTechnica: Judge Estimates 30,000 Secret Surveillance Orders Approved Each Year

ArsTechnica: Judge Estimates 30,000 Secret Surveillance Orders Approved Each Year