GNI welcomes the public release of the report by the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, an important first step from the Obama administration toward communications surveillance reform. The report makes 46 recommendations that add momentum to the push for reform, including significant changes to the surveillance programs operated pursuant to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, as well as to the use of National Security Letters.
Importantly, a number of recommendations address the concerns that GNI has raised regarding the lack of transparency on U.S. surveillance practices that make it difficult for companies operating in the U.S. to be transparent regarding their own efforts to protect free expression and privacy. These include changes that would place important limits on the gag orders that restrict discussion of national security demands, and permit companies to report on the requests they receive from the U.S. government under national security directives.
GNI welcomes the attention that the report gives to the privacy rights of non-US persons, a first step toward bringing this critical issue into the debate in the United States. More specific recommendations and commitments, however, are required to ensure that policy reforms address privacy rights for all people, wherever they reside.
The report also makes recommendations regarding a number of other issues, including cybersecurity, encryption standards, and the governance of global communications technology.
Although this report is an important contribution to the surveillance reform debate, what matters in the end is what recommendations the administration implements. GNI looks forward to President Obama’s response to the report in January 2014, and we will engage the administration to urge a response that effectively protects and advances free expression and privacy rights worldwide.