Panel urges curbs on NSA; moving computer defense unit to Pentagon

Dec. 19, 2013 at 9:58 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Limits, including ending the National Security Agency's collection of nearly all Americans' phone records, were presented by a panel named by President Obama.

In its report, released Wednesday, the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies also recommended phone companies or a private third party maintain the data instead of the government, with access granted only by a court order, and that decisions to spy on foreign leaders undergo greater scrutiny, the Washington Post reported.

The panel also recommended legislation be approved that would require the FBI to receive judicial approval before it can use a national security letter or administrative subpoena to get financial, phone and other records of U.S. citizens.

The review group also recommended banning warrantless NSA searches for records of Americans' phone calls and emails contained in large caches of communications collected legally because the program targeted foreigners overseas.

The panel said the NSA's storage of phone data "creates potential risks to public trust, personal privacy, and civil liberty," the Post reported.

The panel also said the government, in general, "should not be permitted to collect and store mass, undigested, non-public personal information" about Americans to be examined for foreign intelligence purposes.

The NSA surveillance programs have been in the news since summer, when reports based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were published in the Post and the Guardian, a British publication.

The panel made 46 recommendations in all, which included shifting the NSA's computer defense unit to the Defense Department's cyber-policy office.

Despite the proposed curbs and constraints, panel member Michael Morell, a one-time CIA deputy director, said, "We are not in any way recommending the disarming of the intelligence community."

"The review committee has reaffirmed that national security neither requires nor permits the government to help itself to Americans' personal information at will," Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center for Justice's Liberty and National Security Program, told the Post. "The recommendations would extend significant privacy protections to Americans."

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