The U.S. government is mulling ways it might disclose the number of Americans who have been caught up in government surveillance under the Prism program, set to expire in 2017.
Speaking to reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, James Clapper, director of National Intelligence, said his office is “looking at several options right now, none of which are optimal,” according to a Reuters report.
"If such an estimate were easy to do and explainable without compromise, we would have done it a long time ago," the report cited Clapper as saying.
“The fact that the U.S. government is taking responsibility to acknowledge the shortcomings in its security operations is a step in the right direction in its attempt to address and fix the problems,” Chenxi Wang, chief strategy officer for Twistlock, said in comments emailed to SCMagazine.com.
On Friday, a bipartisan group of 14 legislators in a letter pressed the intelligence head to give over the data so Congress could “properly evaluate” Prism before its end of 2017 expiration date.
“Transparency will be the key, especially when re-evaluations and reforming a program that can potentially affect millions of Americans,” said Wang, who noted that the information should be disclosed “in a way that respects the privacy of those affected and aligns with privacy mandates. “Recklessly or inadvertently disclosing this kind of sensitive information could ultimately derail security efforts and set the government backwards in terms of achieving trust and confidence from its citizens.”
On Monday, a coalition of civil liberties organizations and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University sent Clapper a letter praising what they see as progress in bringing greater transparency to the upcoming Fundamental Classification Guidance Review (FCGR) and making a pair of suggestions.
“We believe it would be helpful if you explicitly instructed the agency directors to address not only those guidance topics that are obsolete or redundant, but also those that are inappropriately vague,” the letter read, noting that vagaries force derivative classifiers to act as OCAs, thus exceeding their authority and opening the door to overclassification.”
In addition, the group suggested that Clapper “go further and seek input from a wide range of stakeholders, including members of the public.”