Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies Hears from USACM

By David Bruggeman
October 7, 2013

In light of the leaks surrounding U.S. national intelligence surveillance efforts, President Obama appointed a group to review those programs to determine if they are in the best possible balance with other national interests.  This Review Group requested comments from the public on its charge:

“[W]hether, in light of advancements in communications technologies, the United States employs its technical collection capabilities in a manner that optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust.”

On Friday USACM submitted comments to this group.  Expanding on the comments we submitted to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in August, USACM outlined the challenges involved with computing systems used in surveillance activities.  USACM recommends that the Review Group have an ‘independent systems-engineering analysis of the data structure(s) developed” as a result of current surveillance programs.  Such an analysis will make it easier to examine the trade-offs involved between technical capabilities, national security interests, privacy and civil liberties interests and other concerns.  This examination of tradeoffs should accompany a full and open public dialog.

Our comments go into additional detail about the limitations of computing, the potential risks of massive data collection programs, and the need for effective oversight mechanisms to address those risks and limitations. Programs of the size and scope suggested by recent leaks present notable data management challenges.  Addressing those challenges will require technical sophistication, strong oversight and rigid safeguards.

The Review Group is supposed to provide recommendations to the President no later than December 15.