Fundamental to all of the problems surrounding NSA spying is the fact that the government’s notorious secrecy shields it from any sort of meaningful oversight or accountability. This appears, among other places, in the overclassification of documents that should not actually be secret, in the executive branch’s ruthless campaign against whistleblowers, and in its continued abuse of the “state secrets” privilege in the courtroom. Obama could have announced changes to these secrecy standards, embracing transparency as a default, and making some good on his now laughable election promise to be “the most transparent administration in history.” Instead we got nothing.El Reg fisks the speech for you.
The transparency and oversight issues are perhaps the most important, and I'm unconvinced that the improvements will be substantial; certainly agencies hate oversight and will work to undermine them, and we're starting from a very bad spot:
This morning I spent an hour in a closed room with six Members of Congress: Rep. Lofgren, Rep. Sensenbrenner, Rep. Scott, Rep. Goodlatte, Rep Thompson, and Rep. Amash. No staffers, no public: just them. Lofgren asked me to brief her and a few Representatives on the NSA. She said that the NSA wasn't forthcoming about their activities, and they wanted me -- as someone with access to the Snowden documents -- to explain to them what the NSA was doing. Of course I'm not going to give details on the meeting, except to say that it was candid and interesting. And that it's extremely freaky that Congress has such a difficult time getting information out of the NSA that they have to ask me.The idea that multiple congressmen need to ask an outsider for a classified briefing on what the NSA is doing, because NSA won't tell them, says everything that you need to know about oversight.