White House reveals ‘weak’ NSA reform nearly 2 years after Snowden scoops

The Obama administration has announced changes to the surveillance operations conducted by the United States intelligence community, but critics are already using words like “weak” to describe the so-called reform.

Adjustments to how US intel agencies collect and hold bulk data on Americans and surveillance records concerning foreigners are outlined in a report published on Tuesday this week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The report–released near the one-year anniversary of an address in which US President Barack Obama promised surveillance reform in the wake of an international eavesdropping scandal–is described by the ODNI as being the result of a “comprehensive effort to examine and enhance the privacy and civil liberty protections we embed in our signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection activities.”

Private information pertaining to Americans that is “incidentally” swept up by electronic surveillance programs intended to target foreigners must now be purged if they contain no useful intelligence, according to changes explained in the report, and records regarding foreigners that appear useless must be discarded after five years. Additionally, the report says that details about National Security Letters served to companies typically with a gag order can now be publically disclosed after three years, and an oversight board is being established to monitor how American agencies eavesdrop on foreign leaders.

The report “highlights substantial progress and reflects an ongoing commitment to greater transparency,” the White House said.

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