News / USA

Panel Recommends Limits on NSA Spying

FILE - National Security Agency (NSA) Director Gen. Keith Alexander testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 11, 2013.
FILE - National Security Agency (NSA) Director Gen. Keith Alexander testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 11, 2013.
A special panel appointed by President Barack Obama has released its report on U.S. surveillance activities.  Obama ordered the report and a wider government-wide review earlier this year amid leaks by exiled former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.  

Leaks by Edward Snowden about NSA eavesdropping programs created a huge problem for the U.S. intelligence community, and for Obama.

Obama has described the programs, approved and modified at various points by Congress and overseen by a special court, as important to keeping Americans safe, but has called for more "self-restraint" by the NSA.

Here are a few of the recommendations made by an outside review panel for wide-ranging changes to the U.S. government's surveillance programs:

1.    The government now stores bulk telephony metadata, understood as information that includes the telephone numbers that both originate and receive calls, time of call and date of call. We recommend that Congress should end such storage and transition to a system in which such metadata is held privately for the government to query when necessary for national security purposes.

2.    Restrictions on the ability of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to compel third parties (such as telephone service providers) to disclose private information to the government.

3.    Legislation should be enacted requiring information about surveillance programs to be made available to the Congress and to the American people to the greatest extent possible.

4.    Significant steps should be taken to protect the privacy of non-US persons.

5.    The president should create a new process, requiring highest-level approval of all sensitive intelligence requirements and the methods that the Intelligence Community will use to meet them.

6.    We believe that the director should be a Senate-confirmed position, with civilians eligible to hold that position; the president should give serious consideration to making the next director of NSA a civilian.

7.    We recommend that Congress should create the position of Public Interest Advocate to represent the interests of privacy and civil liberties before the FISC.
Revelations added significant new layers to what is known about government information gathering, including data on telephone calls and activities on the Internet.

In its 300-page report, the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies makes 46 recommendations.  

One is to end bulk storage of so-called "metadata" of the telephone records of Americans by the government, in favor of storage by private companies or a third party, rather than the NSA.  

It also says the government should not "as a general rule" and without "senior policy review, be permitted to collect and store all mass, undigested, non-public personal information about individuals to enable future queries and data-mining for foreign intelligence purposes."

Other recommendations include: requiring a court to approve individual searches of phone and Internet data, and limiting the NSA's emergency authority regarding tracking of known targets of counterterrorism surveillance who enter the United States.

The panel urges a new process to identify "uses and limits of surveillance on foreign leaders and in foreign nations."  It says decisions should consider negative effects, and whether other means or targets of collection could reliably reveal needed information.  

The review group met with Obama on Wednesday although its report was submitted last week.  

Press secretary Jay Carney said the decision to release the report was made because of "inaccurate and incomplete" media reports about its content.

He said Obama will be "very deliberate" in assessing the document during his upcoming holiday vacation and speak to the nation in January, when a separate overall internal U.S. government review is completed.

"The president has made clear that even as we review our efforts and make some changes in how we do things, we will not harm our ability to face those threats; that is his number one obligation as commander-in-chief," he said.

Carney said there is no doubt that the Snowden leaks created an intense focus on the surveillance issue, both in the U.S. and abroad.

The official U.S. position on Snowden remains unchanged, with the White House saying he should return to the U.S. to face felony charges.

The White House disagrees with suggestions that Snowden receive amnesty to prevent him from releasing additional information that could further damage U.S. security and relations with allies.

The Obama administration faced more pressure this week from a federal court ruling that found the bulk collection of data about telephone calls made by Americans is likely unconstitutional.

Obama also faced pressure from high-tech executives who met with him.  They are reported to have urged aggressive reforms, and voiced concern about damage to U.S. credibility and business interests abroad.

Interviewed on CBS's 60 Minutes, NSA chief General Keith Alexander denied that the agency is collecting email or monitoring the phone conversations of Americans, saying the NSA's job is foreign intelligence.

He said the NSA can target communications of a U.S. person only with a probable cause finding under a court order. But he voiced concern about any decision to allow phone records to reside with private phone companies.

You May Like

Analysis: China Raises Hong Kong Rhetoric to Tiananmen Level

A front-page commentary in The People’s Daily called the current demonstrations 'chaos,' the same word Party officials used 25 years ago to describe the Tiananmen Square protests More

US Airstrikes Anger Syrian Civilians Fleeing Their Homes

Pentagon officials say they have seen no credible evidence of civilian deaths caused by US airstrikes against Islamic State militants More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid