Morning Security Brief: Obama to Announce Changes to NSA, Study Exposes Government Security Threat, And More

By Megan Gates

► President Barack Obama is expected to announce changes to the NSA’s surveillance programs in a speech this morning at 11 a.m. at the Department of Justice. According to early reports by The New York Times, Obama plans to require intelligence agencies to obtain permission from a secret court before tapping into telephone data. Some officials have also called for telephone metadata—phone numbers, times of calls, and lengths of calls—to remain in the hands of private phone companies instead of being stored by the government, but Obama doesn’t plan to make changes to that part of the program at this time, The Times said. His speech will also outline a plan to “tighten privacy safeguards for foreigners, particularly heads of state, and propose a new public advocate to represent privacy concerns at a secret intelligence court.” Obama’s speech comes one month after the release of a report by a panel of presidential advisers, which made numerous recommendations to change the scope of the NSA’s surveillance programs.

► Forty-one percent of government employees are putting themselves and their agencies at risk through the use of insecure mobile device practices, according to a study by Mobile Work Exchange and Cisco Systems. The study, The 2014 Mobilometer Tracker: Mobility, Security, and the Pressure in Between, assessed that while government respondents are taking steps to secure agency data on their desktop computers, they’re not showing the same caution with mobile devices by not using private Wi-Fi, multifactor authentication or data encryption, or passwords for work-related devices. “Even when employees use passwords, almost one in three acknowledges using an ‘easy’ password and six percent have written them down,” GSN Magazine reports.

► Congress has made moves to block President Obama’s plan to shift control of the U.S. drone campaign from the CIA to the Department of Defense (DoD) by inserting a provision in the government spending bill introduced this week that would maintain the spy agency’s role in lethal counterterrorism operations, according to The Washington Post. “The measure, included in a classified annex to the $1.1 trillion federal budget plan, would restrict the use of any funding to transfer unmanned aircraft or the authority to carry out drone strikes from the CIA to the Pentagon,” the Post reports. Congress’s actions reflect concerns some members have about the U.S. military’s ability to conduct strikes against al-Qaeda and its affiliates without hitting the wrong targets and killing civilians, such as the drone strike last month in Yemen that killed 12 people in an 11-vehicle convoy that was said to be part of a wedding procession.


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