NSA monitored ‘World of Warcraft’ players

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Last week, Mr. Obama promised reforms to restore Americans’ trust in the nation’s intelligence agencies, but the administration has yet to offer any details.

Neither an independent review by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, nor an inquiry by Mr. Obama’s own outside advisers is expected to report before January.

Congress, meanwhile, is moving forward with legislation.

One bill, the USA Freedom Act, seeks to end any collection of Americans’ data unless they are under suspicion of criminal conduct. It is backed by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and a member of the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Other bills would give tech companies the right to reveal to their customers the number of times they were compelled by law enforcement or intelligence agencies to hand over data.

Currently, recipients of the bulk-collection orders are generally prohibited from even disclosing that they have been ordered to turn over customers’ communications.

By contrast, bills backed by the leaders of the intelligence committees in both chambers seek to codify in law the government’s authority to continue bulk collection.

The Silicon Valley companies also are waging an attack in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, where they are fighting to be allowed to reveal more details about how frequently the NSA has been seeking user data. U.S. law prevents the recipients of national security orders from breaking down the number of demands they get under the Patriot Act. The companies contend that restriction fuels the erroneous perception that the government has a direct pipeline to their users’ data.

The government countered with a motion Friday arguing that it should be able to redact, or withhold from publication, parts of its justifications to the courts for barring such detailed reporting by the companies.

Technology companies also are concerned that governments outside the U.S. might set tougher rules for businesses to protect the privacy of their citizens, according to Joss Wright, a research fellow of the Oxford Internet Institute.

“It’s potentially huge,” Mr. Wright said. “Other countries around the world could make it harder for [the companies] to carry on with unrestricted data gluttony.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman

Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...

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