In the wake of Edward Snowden's leaks about the vast extent of US internet and phone spying programs, President Obama promised Americans earlier this month that he would enact reforms to make government surveillance more transparent. Today, one of those reforms has come to pass...in the form of a Tumblr blog. The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the highest intelligence agency in the country, just unveiled its "IC On the Record" Tumblr, promising to post newly unclassified documents about various government surveillance programs. The ODNI is the organization in charge of all the other big US spy organizations, including the NSA and CIA.
"provide the public with direct access to factual information."
"The goal," writes director James Clapper in a new post on the Tumblr, "is to provide the public with direct access to factual information related to the lawful foreign surveillance activities carried out by the intelligence community." Clapper also points to President Obama's speech from August 8th, in which the president outlined four reforms he wanted to see happen, including a "a website that will serve as a hub for further transparency, and this will give Americans and the world the ability to learn more about what our intelligence community does and what it doesn’t do, how it carries out its mission, and why it does so." Apparently, the Tumblr is supposed to serve these functions, though it currently doesn't contain any new information and is not even linked to by the main ODNI website.
Separately, Clapper today also authorized the release of classified court orders showing that the NSA was collecting emails of Americans unrelated to terrorism investigations since 2011, which goes against the NSA's assertions that its email targeting has been careful.
If Clapper's name sounds familiar, it should, as he's the man who has taken lots of criticism from US lawmakers and privacy advocates since the Snowden leaks first surfaced in early June. Namely, Clapper has come under fire for statements he made before Snowden's leaks indicating that the NSA wasn't conducting mass surveillance on US internet users. As it turns out, Clapper later admitted that some of those remarks were "erroneous."
"America is not interested in spying on ordinary people."
And yet, as part of President Obama's pledges to reform the US government's surveillance programs, Clapper was also given the responsibility of receiving a report from an upcoming independent review of NSA surveillance. That review report, and today's ODNI Tumblr, are both the outcomes of the president's speech, in which Obama said: "America is not interested in spying on ordinary people." Coming on the heels of today's court opinions and earlier reports this week that the NSA was surveilling up to 75 percent of US internet traffic, the ODNI's new Tumblr doesn't yet conclusively prove that case, unfortunately.