WUSTL privacy law expert says Obama’s surveillance reforms a good but incomplete start

3.5 out of 12 — That is the score the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave President Obama’s highly anticipated address on NSA spying last week. And while lauding Obama for recognizing the dangers of government surveillance and the importance of discussing it, Washington University in St. Louis privacy law expert Neil Richards agrees that the president did not quite go far enough to protect individual privacy.

“Missing entirely from the president’s promises was any repudiation of the third-party doctrine, which denies Fourth Amendment protection of data shared with anyone else,” Richards said.

“Also missing was protection for whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden, without whom we would not be having this urgent conversation.”

Richards explains that while Obama’s proposed reforms are a good but incomplete start, he is also concerned that they will not take effect, since without congressional action they can “easily be abandoned by a change of mind or a change of administration.”

Richards, a professor of law at WUSTL, asserts that what the country really needs right now is permanent and explicitly laid-out reform. “Clear and understandable laws that give our security services appropriate but limited powers and that protect privacy for the vast majority can be good for everyone [including the government],” Richards said.

“Obama’s speech could not have come at a better time, and our obligation now is to ensure that we institute effective and permanent legal reform to protect our civil liberties.”

Read more of Neil Richards commentary in the Boston Review at http://www.bostonreview.net/blog/richards-nsa-obama-surveillance.