The Week in Intelligence

on December 2 | in Intelligence Reform, NSA, Terrorism

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Here are the key developments that caught our eye over the last week:

Rebecca Richards, the NSA’s recently appointed Civil Liberties and Privacy Director, took to the web to answer a litany of questions about the agency and her new position. Although the first question asked was “Is this all a joke?” the overall response to her session online was positive. Though not always answering with much detail, her decision to hold a public Q&A can be commended for the mere fact that the NSA has lots to do to regain public trust; a situation where even the simplest actions like this may help.

A new report from the Wall Street Journal claims that the Justice Department is gathering data from thousands of cellphones through the use of small airplanes that are able to mimic cellphone towers. Though used as a high-tech way to track criminals, the devices allegedly capture information from average Americans. The revelation of this program has once again fueled the debate over privacy versus prevention and where the U.S. government should stand.

Under pressure from the White House Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel submitted his resignation early last week after only serving a short tenure of less than two years. Although his departure was said to be a mutual agreement between him and the White House, the growing tension between the two was undeniable. The most notable dissension had been the handling of foreign policy issues in regards to the Middle East. With such significant issues on the foreign policy agenda cooperation between the White House and Pentagon is imperative.

The CIA’s bid to delete its employee’s emails once they leave the agency has recently garnered attention from the National Archives and Records Administration and is currently being reassessed. Normally, emails belonging to all but the top 22 officials are destroyed, however; according to the Senate Intelligence Committee, this “could allow the destruction of crucial documentary evidence.”

In June of 2015 certain core provisions of the US Patriot Act are set to expire. This looming deadline has led many to believe that NSA reformers may begin to splinter, according to the National Journal. Those in favor of curbing the powers of the agency have argued that it may be best to allow the provisions to be killed. Overt Action editor Marshall Erwin argued last week that this is the wrong approach. Check out his argument on why reform is better than expiration.

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