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Member of electronic monitoring panel defends report

CHICAGO, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- The panel that reviewed U.S. electronic surveillance cut through "intense polarization" on the issue in its report, a member of the group said Sunday.

Geoffrey R. Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, said in an op-ed piece in the Chicago Tribune the five members of President Barack Obama's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies said the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks split the country into two groups -- one that believes intelligence agencies need a free hand to prevent future attacks, and one that fears encroachments on civil liberties.

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"The intense polarization in these positions, so typical of American political discourse today, is destructive of reasoned decision making," Stone said. "I believe the president appointed the review group in an effort to cut through the hysterical rhetoric and overblown claims of the competing sides and to get sound and dispassionate guidance on how to think sensibly about these profoundly difficult and important issues."

The panel released a report last week with 46 recommendations, including creation of a non-governmental group to hold information gathered through electronic monitoring, and a requirement that the FBI get judicial approval before tracking U.S. citizens' communications.

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