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NSA panel to appear before Senate committee

Dec. 23, 2013 at 1:30 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. surveillance programs must be truly reformed and not just for show, a Democratic Senate committee chief said in announcing a hearing on overhaul proposals.

The Jan. 14 hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss the 46 recommendations of President Barack Obama's outside review panel, which urged the president to impose major oversight and some restrictions on the National Security Agency, said committee Chairman Patrick Leahy D-Vt.

"The recommendations from the president's review group make clear that it is time to recalibrate our government's surveillance programs," Leahy said in a statement.

The panel called for a revamping of the NSA phone-records collection program, as well as changes in the way it spies on foreign leaders and prepares for cyberattacks abroad.

It proposed an end to the NSA's bulk collection of phone records and instead require the agency to do focused searches -- with court approval -- of data held elsewhere.

"The Judiciary Committee plays a critical role in this discussion," Leahy said in his statement, "and that is why I have invited all members of the review group to testify publicly before our committee next month.

"Momentum is building for real reform," he said.

The panel members are former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell, former U.S. cybersecurity adviser Richard Clarke, University of Chicago law Professor Geoffrey Stone, Harvard Law School Professor Cass Sunstein and Georgia Institute of Technology business Professor Peter Swire, a former member of Obama's National Economic Council and an internationally recognized expert in privacy law.

Leahy made the statement and announced the hearing date after appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" to debate the issue with Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

King defended the NSA and denounced former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified NSA documents to several media outlets, revealing operational details of the NSA's global surveillance apparatus.

"I think Edward Snowden [is] a defector and a traitor," King said.

"I think it's absolutely indispensable to our national security. The president said it's essential," said King, who in September became the first Republican to say he would run for president in 2016.

"I don't think everyone has to know what a spy agency is doing. By their nature, a spy agency, it's kept secret. That's the purpose of it," he said.

"And the fact is there is no agency that is more monitored and more watched than the NSA," he said, citing the country's secret national-security court, the Justice Department and the Senate and House intelligence committees.

Leahy insisted more oversight was needed.

"I think the Founding Fathers would be astounded to see what NSA and others are doing," Leahy said.

"You know, it's not Snowden. In a way, he's irrelevant on this. It's a question of how well this has been looked at and how much the American public knows about it."

Leahy said his committee's hearing next month would "go into that at great length."

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