1. Obama’s NSA reforms
  2. Obama handsover over ICANN to world

D1: Obama’s NSA reforms

Interview Questions:

  1. What do you know about NSA snoop gate?
  2. How is President Obama planning to fix it?
  3. What do you know about Patriot Act and Freedom Act?
  4. Do you think we too need these type of acts- to fight against anti-national elements and misuse of social networking media by them?
Timeline International relations-April 2014- Week1 IR

click to enlarge


Agency falls under
NSA: National security agency defense department
FBI: Federal bureau of Investigation Justice department
CIA: Central Intelligence agency Independent.

What is NSA controversy?

There are two separate controversies here:
215 program Project PRISM
  • 2001: after 9/11, Patriot Act enacted.
  • Under section 215 of this act, NSA/FBI could order phone companies such as Verizon and AT&T to provide call records (without court order).
  • They can even store it for five years.
  • Later stage, NSA systematically stored almost all call records on ‘mass-scale’, then to filter out the sensitive talks between terror cells.
  • From the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, it appears that NSA-walla made (powerpoint) presentations to facebook, google, AT&T and other giants.
  • NSA told these executives, “We have powers under section 215 to intercept not only telephones but also chats, emails, VoIP, email attachments-everything- both within USA and even outside USA! Therefore you must help us.”
  • NSA’s logic is = since 2G/3G/Broadband internet also works via phone lines so “we have powers” to moniter it!
  • Then starts all snooping and scandals. NSA begins watching over Chinese leaders, Germany’s Angela Markel and so on.
  • Under the Patriot Act, NSA/FBI doesn’t need to “prove” any terrorist connection, to being the recording.
  • They only need to show that information is “relevant” and further investigation is necessary.
  • Hence the provisions of Patriot Act were misused by NSA for bulk collection of all call records- both within USA and outside USA.

Obama’s reforms:

  • After much furore against NSA, both at domestic and international level, President Obama decided to clean up the mess.
  • He decided to stop this practice of systematically storing Americans’ telephone data. (under Section 215 of the Patriot Act)
  • NSA will not record all telephones BUT it’ll require telephone companies to keep such metadata.
  • And Intelligence agencies would then have to get court approval to access specific records (meaning, Americans are still being monitored!)

Limitations of Obama reform

  • Obama is firing from the shoulder of Congress.
  • He wants Congress to amend Patriot Act in such way that
    1. NSA cannot bulk collect data
    2. but phone companies will still have to record such data
    3. and later NSA can access it with Court permission.
  • That’s all.
  • But Patriot Act gives draconian powers to Intel agencies, section 215 is mere a tip of an iceberg.
  • For example, Section 315 empowers CIA to bulk collect records of international money transfers from any private company like Western Union. Other provisions to intercept (postal) mails and so on.
  • Thus, as long as the fundamental premise of Patriot Act remains the same (that Government doesn’t need to “prove” any connection to a terrorist)….. Until then, powers will be misused, and mass collection of private data will continue.

By the way,

Difference: Patriot Act vs Freedom Act
After 9/11 attack on World Trade Centre. after NSA snoopgate, 215 program, project prism, Snowden leaks (=all thanks to misuse of Patriot act)
passed in 2001 This bill was introduced in 2013. Yet to be passed.
Aims to give superpowers to US agencies to fight against terrorism. Aims to curtail those superpowers given under Patriot Act.
This is a new bill by Republican party. Although democrats also support it because of angry junta.
President Bush signed it President Obama will sign (If the bill is passed in both houses of US Congress.)

D2: Obama hands over ICANN to world

What is ICANN?

  • Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. HQ: near Los Angeles.
  • ICANN is a non-profit corporation, manages internet protocol (IP) numbers and Domain name system (DNS).
  • Example: Yahoo.com (domain name) and (IP address).
  • Domain name service (DNS) provides translation between that domain name vs IP addresses. so aam-juntaa doesn’t need to mugup the list of IP address for any website.

US control over ICANN:

  • ICANN works under contract of US dept. of commerce.
  • Mar 2014: Commerce department decide it’d not renew the contract. (Expires in Sep15). But instead, they asked ICANN to design new plan to run this system, with global-participation of  stakeholders across the world.

Why is US giving up control over ICANN:

  • Now USA thinks that Internet should run under global internet governance (!!) and defend the right to free speech.
  • However, its decision came after wide opposition by countries against US snooping/NSA-Snowden controversy. Great opposition by Brazil. Germany went on to declare separate European internet.

Impact on World

  • The impact of this decision depends upon the how and what alternative mechanism would be conceived by the international leaders.
  • China and Russia want to have internet under auspice of international organisation like UN or ITU, through which it can be regulated as well as constrained.

India’s stand?

  • India welcomed US decision.
  • India wants democratisation of internet with freedom of expression. (and measures to stop its misuse e.g. hate speech.)
  • India fears that US, Russia and China together may form an alternative mechanism that fulfils their own interest- something akin to UNSC/veto power.
  • India favours internet governance under a multi-lateral UN body, whose stake-holders are not from government but from civil society, academia and businesses.

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