US President Barack Obama last Friday issued new directions for the government's intelligence to follow. Among the items released were an official Presidential Directive and a Fact Sheet on the details of the new policy.
Here are full text versions of both:
FACT SHEET: Review of U.S. Signals Intelligence
In the latter half of 2013 and early 2014, the United States Government undertook a broad-ranging and unprecedented review of our signals intelligence programs, led by the White House with relevant Departments and Agencies across the Government. In addition to our own intensive work, the review process drew on input from key stakeholders, including Congress, the tech community, civil society, foreign partners, the Review Group on Intelligence and Communication Technologies, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and others. The Administration's review examined how, in light of new and changing technologies, we can use our intelligence capabilities in a way that optimally protects our national security while supporting our foreign policy, respecting privacy and civil liberties, maintaining the public trust, and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosures. On January 17, 2014, the President delivered a speech at the Department of Justice to announce the outcomes of this review process.
In that speech, the President made clear that the men and women of the U.S. intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow those protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people and are not abusing authorities. When mistakes have been made, they have corrected those mistakes. But for our intelligence community to be effective over the long haul, we must maintain the trust of the American people, and people around the world. To that end, the Administration has developed a path forward that we believe should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, while preserving important tools that keep us safe, and that addresses significant questions that have been raised overseas. Today the President announced the Administration's adoption of a series of concrete and substantial reforms that the Administration will adopt administratively or seek to codify with Congress, to include a majority of the recommendations made by the Review Group.
New Presidential Policy Directive
Today, President Obama issued a new presidential policy directive for our signals intelligence activities, at home and abroad. This directive lays out new principles that govern how we conduct signals intelligence collection, and strengthen how we provide executive branch oversight of our signals intelligence activities. It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances; our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of our companies; and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis, so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by the President's senior national security team.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)
Since the review began, we've declassified over 40 opinions and orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which provides judicial review of some of our most sensitive intelligence activities including the Section 702 program targeting foreign individuals overseas and the Section 215 telephone metadata program. Going forward, the President directed the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Attorney General, to annually review for the purpose of declassification any future opinions of the Court with broad privacy implications, and to report to the President and Congress on these efforts. To ensure that the Court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, the President called on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside the government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Court.
Section 702 of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
Section 702 is a valuable program that allows the government to intercept the communications of foreign targets overseas who have information that's important to our national security. The President believes that we can do more to ensure that the civil liberties of U.S. persons are not compromised in this program. To address incidental collection of communications between Americans and foreign citizens, the President has asked the Attorney General and DNI to initiate reforms that place additional restrictions on the government's ability to retain, search, and use in criminal cases, communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702.
Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act
Under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act the government collects meta-data related to telephone calls in bulk. We believe this is a capability that we must preserve, and would note that the Review Group turned up no indication that the program had been intentionally abused. But, we believe we must do more to give people confidence. For this reason, the President ordered a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists, and establish a program that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding the data.
This transition has two steps. Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of three. The President has directed the Attorney General to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that during this transition period, the database can be queried only after a judicial finding, or in a true emergency. On the broader question, the President has instructed the intelligence community and the Attorney General to use this transition period to develop options for a new program that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address without the government holding this meta-data, and report back to him with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28. At the same time, the President will consult with the relevant committees in Congress to seek their views, and then seek congressional authorization for the new program as needed.
National Security Letters
In investigating threats, the FBI relies on the use of National Security Letters (NSLs), which can be used to require companies to provide certain types of information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation. In order to be more transparent in how the government uses this authority, the President directed the Attorney General to amend how we use NSLs to ensure that non-disclosure is not indefinite, and will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a need for further secrecy.
We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders they have received to provide data to the government. These companies have made clear that they want to be more transparent about the FISA, NSL and law enforcement requests that they receive from the government. The Administration agrees that these concerns are important, and is in discussions with the providers about ways in which additional information could be made public.