UPDATE 2014-01-19: Marcy Wheeler (@emptywheel) wrote a critique: The Tech Back Door in Obama’s New Spying Policy. James Oliphant (@jamesoliphant) of the National Journal wrote a critique: Obama’s NSA Proposals Fall Far Short of Real Change.
UPDATE 2014-01-17: The Register ‘translated’ it to plain English: Those NSA ‘reforms’ in full: El Reg translates US Prez Obama’s pledges – Filleting fact from fiction.
On January 17th 2014, the U.S. Presidential Policy Directive (PPD-28) on Signals Intelligence Activities (.pdf) was published and Obama gave a speech. Guardian has a piece on this, and ACLU commented on the speech. Here is an excerpt from PPD-28 (emphasis is mine):
The United States, like other nations, has gathered intelligence throughout its history to ensure that national security and foreign policy decisionmakers have access to timely, accurate, and insightful information.The collection of signals intelligence is necessary for the United States to advance its national security and foreign policy interests and to protect its citizens and the citizens of its allies and partners from harm. At the same time, signals intelligence activities and the possibility that such activities may be improperly disclosed to the public pose multiple risks. These include risks to: our relationships with other nations, including the cooperation we receive from other nations on law enforcement, counterterrorism, and other issues; our commercial, economic, and financial interests, including a potential loss of international trust in U.S. firms and the decreased willingness of other nations to participate in international data sharing, privacy, and regulatory regimes; the credibility of our commitment to an open, interoperable, and secure global Internet; and the protection of intelligence sources and methods.
In addition, our signals intelligence activities must take into account that all persons should be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their nationality or wherever they might reside, and that all persons have legitimate privacy interests in the handling of their personal information.
In determining why, whether, when, and how the United States conducts signals intelligence activities, we must weigh all of these considerations in a context in which information and communications technologies are constantly changing. The evolution of technology has created a world where communications important to our national security and the communications all of us make as part of our daily lives are transmitted through the same channels. This presents new and diverse opportunities for, and challenges with respect to, the collection of intelligence – and especially signals intelligence. The United States Intelligence Community (IC) has achieved remarkable success in developing enhanced capabilities to perform its signals intelligence mission in this rapidly changing world, and these enhanced capabilities are a major reason we have been able to adapt to a dynamic and challenging security environment. [Footnote 1: For the purposes of this directive, the terms “Intelligence Community” and “elements of the Intelligence Community” shall have the same meaning as they do in Executive Order 12333 of December 4, 1981, as amended (Executive Order 12333).] The United States must preserve and continue to develop a robust and technologically advanced signals intelligence capability to protect our security and that of our partners and allies. Our signals intelligence capabilities must also be agile enough to enable us to focus on fleeting opportunities or emerging crises and to address not only the issues of today, but also the issues of tomorrow, which we may not be able to foresee.
Advanced technologies can increase risks, as well as opportunities, however, and we must consider these risks when deploying our signals intelligence capabilities. The IC conducts signals intelligence activities with care and precision to ensure that its collection, retention, use, and dissemination of signals intelligence account for these risks. In light of the evolving technological and geopolitical environment, we must continue to ensure that our signals intelligence policies and practices appropriately take into account our alliances and other partnerships; the leadership role that the United States plays in upholding democratic principles and universal human rights; the increased globalization of trade, investment, and information flows; our commitment to an open, interoperable and secure global Internet; and the legitimate privacy and civil liberties concerns of U.S. citizens and citizens of other nations.
Presidents have long directed the acquisition of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence [Footnote 2: For the purposes of this directive, the terms “foreign intelligence” and “counterintelligence” shall have the same meaning as they have in Executive Order 12333. Thus, “foreign intelligence” means “information relating to the capabilities, intentions, or activities of foreign governments or elements thereof, foreign organizations, foreign persons, or international terrorists,” and “counterintelligence” means “information gathered and activities conducted to identify, deceive, exploit, disrupt, or protect against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassinations conducted for or on behalf of foreign powers, organizations, or persons, or their agents, or international terrorist organizations or activities.” Executive Order 12333 further notes that “[i]ntelligence includes foreign intelligence and counterintelligence.”] pursuant to their constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. They have also provided direction on the conduct of intelligence activities in furtherance of these authorities and responsibilities, as well as in execution of laws enacted by the Congress. Consistent with this historical practice, this directive articulates principles to guide why, whether, when, and how the United States conducts signals intelligence activities for authorized foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes. [Footnote 3: Unless otherwise specified, this directive shall apply to signals intelligence activities conducted in order to collect communications or information about communications, except that it shall not apply to signals intelligence activities undertaken to test or develop signals intelligence capabilities.]
Section 1. Principles Governing the Collection of Signals Intelligence.
Signals intelligence collection shall be authorized and conducted consistent with the following principles:
- (a) The collection of signals intelligence shall be authorized by statute or Executive Order, proclamation, or other Presidential directive, and undertaken in accordance with the Constitution and applicable statutes, Executive Orders, proclamations, and Presidential directives.
- (b) Privacy and civil liberties shall be integral considerations in the planning of U.S. signals intelligence activities. The United States shall not collect signals intelligence for the purpose of suppressing or burdening criticism or dissent, or for disadvantaging persons based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. Signals intelligence shall be collected exclusively where there is a foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purpose to support national and departmental missions and not for any other purposes.
- (c) The collection of foreign private commercial information or trade secrets is authorized only to protect the national security of the United States or its partners and allies. It is not an authorized foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purpose to collect such information to afford a competitive advantage to U.S. companies and U.S. business sectors commercially.
- (d) Signals intelligence activities shall be as tailored as feasible. In determining whether to collect signals intelligence, the United States shall consider the availability of other information, including from diplomatic and public sources. Such appropriate and feasible alternatives to signals intelligence should be prioritized.
Section 2. Limitations on the Use of Signals Intelligence Collected in Bulk
In particular, when the United States collects nonpublicly available signals intelligence in bulk, it shall use that data only for the purposes of detecting and countering:
- (1) espionage and other threats and activities directed by foreign powers or their intelligence services against the United States and its interests;
- (2) threats to the United States and its interests from terrorism;
- (3) threats to the United States and its interests from the development, possession, proliferation, or use of weapons of mass destruction;
- (4) cybersecurity threats;
- (5) threats to U.S. or allied Armed Forces or other U.S or allied personnel; and
- (6) transnational criminal threats, including illicit finance and sanctions evasion related to the other purposes named in this section.
In no event may signals intelligence collected in bulk be used for the purpose of suppressing or burdening criticism or dissent; disadvantaging persons based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion; affording a competitive advantage to U.S. companies and U.S. business sectors commercially; or achieving any purpose other than those identified in this section.
The DNI shall maintain a list of the permissible uses of signals intelligence collected in bulk. This list shall be updated as necessary and made publicly available to the maximum extent feasible, consistent with the national security.