News / USA

    US Intelligence Reforms Debated Ahead of Obama Speech

    Michael Bowman
    U.S. intelligence reforms to be unveiled by President Barack Obama will be informed, at least in part, by a panel of legal scholars and spy experts that submitted recommendations to the White House for overhauling the National Security Agency. 

    Even before the president’s address, some proposals are already generating resistance on Capitol Hill.
     
    Friday, Obama is expected to deliver his most comprehensive response to U.S. spying disclosures made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
     
    Obama will seek to address mounting privacy concerns, and is likely to ask Congress to help decide thorny issues pitting civil liberties against national security.  Those issues were aired Tuesday, when members of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence discussed their recommendations with a Senate panel.  
     
    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.
    Legal scholar Cass Sunstein said the review group's proposals will not undermine national security.

    “Much of our focus has been on maintaining the ability of the intelligence community to do what it needs to do to.  Not one of the 46 recommendations in our report would, in our view, compromise or jeopardize that ability in any way," said Sunstein.

    Last month, the review group issued a 300-page report urging private storage of bulk data collected by the NSA and enhanced privacy protections for U.S. and non-U.S. citizens.   It also recommended privacy advocates play a role in secret courts that authorize wiretaps, and improved oversight of NSA programs, particularly surveillance operations of foreign leaders.
     
    Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy says reforms are needed.

    “We are really having a debate about Americans’ fundamental relationship with their own government, " he said. "The government exists for Americans, not the other way around."

    ​But Republican Senator Chuck Grassley cautioned that intelligence reforms must not return federal agencies to a pre-September 11, 2001 mentality.

    “Some of the recommendations in the report appear to make it more difficult to investigate a terrorist than a common criminal," he said. "And some appear to rebuild the wall between our law enforcement and and national security communities that existed before September 11, 2001."

    Former U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte described the challenge facing Obama

    “How do you make improvements in an issue such as privacy and the treatment of our friends and allies abroad without prejudicing somehow the effectiveness of our intelligence collection efforts?  It is a balance, and it is a balance that is being looked at now as it has been in the past and I am sure it will be again in the future," he said.

    In its report, the presidential review panel warned that striking a balance between liberty and security may not be possible or even desirable in all cases, saying, “some safeguards are not subject to balancing at all.”

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.