Independent review: NSA program 'must end'

Jan. 23, 2014 at 5:19 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- An independent review released Thursday says the National Security Agency's massive data collection program is illegal and "must end."

In addition, the report by the bipartisan Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created by Congress, says the NSA surveillance program may be unconstitutional.

"Since 2006, the government has argued before the [special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court that Section 215 of the Patriot Act provides a legal basis for the NSA's bulk telephone records program. The FISA court has agreed and has authorized the program."

But the review board said, "Having independently examined this statutory question, the board disagrees with the conclusions of the government and the FISA court."

The board said it found "there are multiple and cumulative reasons for concluding that Section 215 does not authorize the NSA's ongoing daily collection of telephone calling records concerning virtually every American."

The program "has been operated in good faith to vigorously pursue the government's counter-terrorism" efforts, the review said, but it "concludes that Section 215 does not provide an adequate legal basis to support this program. Because the program is not statutorily authorized, it must be ended."

In a constitutional analysis, the review said, "although the program is supported by a compelling government interest in combating terrorism, which can justify some intrusions on First Amendment rights, it is not narrowly tailored. The extraordinary breadth of this collection program creates a chilling effect on the First Amendment rights of Americans."

The NSA program was revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, now being given temporary asylum in Russia.

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