Task Force Recommends Limits on NSA Spying

4:09 PM, Dec 18, 2013   |    comments
The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland. (Photo credit: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
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Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON --A White House advisory panel has recommended to President Obama that the National Security Agency no longer keep a massive phone database and that the president create a new process requiring high-level approval to spy on foreign leaders.

The proposals are among 46 recommendations set out by the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies that were delivered to the president last week and abruptly released by the White House on Wednesday.

Obama will review the recommendations in the coming weeks and announce potential policy changes next month, according to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Obama met with the five-member review panel in the secure White House Situation Room on Wednesday to discuss the report.

"I do believe as a 33-year veteran intelligence officer that the recommendations will not undermine in any way the intelligence community's ability keep the country safe," Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director, told reporters following the group's meeting with Obama.

Among the recommendations from the review panel:

 

  • Amend Section 215 of he Patriot Act, which gives the government broad authority to compel a third party to produce private information relevant to a terrorism investigation. The panel says Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts should only order third parties to provide the information if the government proves that the particular information sought is relevant to an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.
  • Legislation should enacted requiring intelligence community to regularly report to Congress and the American people on business records and meta-data collected.
  • In deciding whether to conduct surveillance of foreign leaders, certain criteria should be considered, including determining whether there is a need to engage in such surveillance to address security threats to the U.S. and if there is a reason to believe that foreign leader may be being "duplicitous in dealing with senior U.S. officials."

 

The release of the report comes after a federal judge said this week that bulk collection of phone and Internet data is probably unconstitutional.

Obama met Tuesday with tech executives from 15 American companies who urged him to "move aggressively" to overhaul the way the U.S. government conducts surveillance.

Obama tasked the panel with coming up with policy recommendations after domestic and international outrage over revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden,

"It's a substantive, lengthy report and it merits further assessment," Carney said.

Carney said administration officials decided on an early release of the report because of "inaccurate and incomplete reports in the press about the report's content."

"We felt it was important to allow people to see the full report to draw their own conclusions," Carney said. "For that reason we will be doing that this afternoon."

The panel also included Richard Clarke, a former U.S. cybersecurity adviser; Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor; Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law School professor; and Peter Swire, who served earlier on Obama's National Economic Council.


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