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NSA spy program hurting U.S. vendors

NSA reporms needed to help restore worldwide trust in U.S. tech industry, trade group says

By Grant Gross
February 5, 2014 05:49 AM ET

IDG News Service - The U.S. Congress needs to help restore global trust in the nation's technology vendors by reining in surveillance programs at the National Security Agency, an industry representative told lawmakers Tuesday.

Recent revelations about NSA surveillance programs have created a "misimpression" about the U.S. technology industry and are eroding trust in those companies, said Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI). The furor over the NSA surveillance programs could lead to lost income in the tens of billions of dollars for U.S. cloud providers, and many U.S. tech vendors are already hearing complaints, he said.

The U.S. needs a "public policy course correction" on NSA surveillance, Garfield told the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

"Made in the U.S.A. is no longer a badge of honor, but a basis for questioning the integrity and the independence of U.S.-made technology," Garfield said. "Many countries are using the NSA's disclosures as a basis for accelerating their policies around forced localization and protectionism."

To stop a "protectionist downward spiral," Congress needs to ensure greater transparency over NSA surveillance and provide stronger oversight, including a civil liberties advocate at the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Congress also needs to find ways to restore trust in the encryption standards process at the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), he said, after revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the NSA worked to compromise the process.

Some witnesses and lawmakers seemed to call for larger changes to NSA surveillance programs, with several calling for President Barack Obama's administration to scrap the NSA's bulk collection of U.S. telephone records.

Representatives of Obama's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, which recently recommended major changes to the phone records program, and the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which called the program illegal, testified at the hearing.

Several lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, questioned the legality of the phone records program. Representative Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, questioned how many criminal cases federal investigators have filed using information from the phone records program.

There "may be one," said James Cole, deputy attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice.

"One criminal case?" Poe said. "[The program] is an invasion of personal privacy, and it's justified on the idea that we're going to capture these terrorists. The evidence that you've told is all this collection has resulted in one bad guy having criminal charges filed on him."

Cole defended the phone records program, saying the information it provides helps with large investigations. "The point of the statute is not to do criminal investigations," he said. "The point of the statute is to do foreign intelligence investigations."

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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