NSA Privacy Chief Answers Question “Are US Spying Powers Safe With Donald Trump?”


From The Intercept:

A question about the potential of Donald Trump wielding power over the country’s eavesdropping capabilities evoked nervous laughter, and eventually a careful answer from the National Security Agency’s recently installed director of privacy and civil liberties.

Becky Richards, who was appointed to the newly created position in January 2014, insists the “checks and balances” on the intelligence community are strong — to protect employees so they can brainstorm new ideas without fear of reprisal, while also being properly monitored to prevent abuse.

At an event last week on Capitol Hill hosted by the Just Security law blog and NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, a reporter for The Intercept asked Richards, “Would you trust someone — such as, let’s say, a Donald Trump — to oversee these sorts of powers?”

I mean, you certainly — you want to keep your intelligence community as un-politicized as possible

“I’m going to edit that question,” said Deborah Pearlstein, associate professor at the Cardozo School of Law and a moderator for the panel.

“No matter who becomes president of the United States, you would want these exact same constraints in place?” she asked.

After grimacing and laughing, Richard replied: “I mean, you certainly — you want to keep your intelligence community as un-politicized as possible.”

NSA has “checks and balances associated with how we do business,” Richards said. She listed multiple government partners responsible for keeping an eye on the NSA, including Congress, the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Department of Justice.

“Each of those are different layers in sort of bringing a level of accountability to, and responsibility to, the intelligence community,” she said.

She didn’t mention any worries she had about future presidents wielding those same powers — like Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.

The event was focused on the NSA’s little-known but powerful overseas spying programs — authorized by Executive Order 12333. President Ronald Reagan issued the order in 1981, though most of what the NSA does under its guidance is still secret.

Despite Richards’s assurances, privacy advocates have long doubted the effectiveness of existing oversight, and there’s room for a future president to expand the NSA’s authorities. For example, a new president could issue new executive orders or directives to guide federal agencies, as well as adjust internal policy.

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