President Obama on Friday announced several new efforts designed to reform and increase transparency of US surveillance programs. On the surface, it's a positive development given the Administration's defense of the programs in the wake of widespread concerns about their potential for abuse, and violation of rights to privacy and due process. But initiating Congressional talks on the PATRIOT Act and the gathering of an expert advisory group to examine U.S. surveillance technologies won't necessarily translate into greater transparency or policy changes. The lack of crucial details (Will the latter group's report be made public? How seriously will Obama or other policymakers consider its recommendations?) do little to assuage current concerns, including OTI's, especially if you believe the adage that, "if you want to kill any idea in the world today, get a committee working on it."
More frustrating for concerned non-Americans is the fact that the Obama administration continues to overlook the international dimensions of surveillance programs like PRISM. There is still significant work to do if Obama wants Americans and non-US citizens alike to join him in feeling "comfortable that the programs are not being abused."