White House to release report on surveillance reform efforts: Don't expect much to change

The White House on Wednesday will release an outside report into the U.S.' mass spying efforts with recommendations for change. But they will be just that: recommendations.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor
Image: National Security Agency

An outside panel's report on U.S. surveillance practices and programs will be released later on Wednesday, White House spokesperson Jay Carney confirmed.

The report, which was set up in the wake of the U.S. mass surveillance leaks that began in June from former U.S. government contractor Edward Snowden, includes 46 recommendations for overhauling the U.S. intelligence gathering machine, the Wall Street Journal reports.

It will outline how the National Security Agency operates in order to allay fears over alleged mass spying of American citizens, while balancing privacy and national security.

President Barack Obama has already met members of the panel — which includes Richard Clarke, Michael Morell, Geoffrey Stone, Cass Sunstein and Peter Swire — in the White House Situation Room, and is set to announce plans to scale back the U.S. government's surveillance efforts in January.

But here's the kicker. Carney said the administration is still reviewing the report and will decide in due time. "[The President] is not going to make snap judgments," he said. "He's going to look at it and assess it."

Which, ultimately could make this on the most part a pointless exercise.

One of the records, according to The Washington Post, is the scrapping of the phone metadata database, which is slated to include more than 1 trillion records, including millions of records of Americans.

Others include preventing the NSA from asking companies to include "backdoors" in hardware and software, as well as stockpiling exploits that can be used to access machines and devices.

The proof will be in the pudding, as the saying goes. Because right now, the leaks have shown the NSA can do one thing while bending and flouting the law in other areas, and is about as untransparent as it gets. Arguably the White House wants the NSA to continue doing what it's doing — if it wasn't for the leaks, the likelihood of this review wouldn't have even been considered.

As the government goes into public relations panic mode, it has to at least look as though it's doing something — even if the end result is a slap on the wrist and a toning down of intelligence gathering. The NSA still has a job to do at the end of the day. So, don't hold your breath for any sweeping changes that alters the NSA's core mission. 

We'll bring you more as it comes in.

Editorial standards