The independent committee appointed by President Obama to review the US government’s spying practices has issued its final report (PDF), making 46 recommendations for how to reform the programs.
Obama promised the review in August while taking steps to “increase transparency and restore public trust.” He went on to appoint five men for the task. The committee has been criticized as not actually being independent because it includes several veterans of the White House.
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As noted by The New York Times, the report recommended that the government split control of the NSA from the US Cyber Command and reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by adding a “public interest advocate.” In the committee’s opinion, the head of the NSA should be confirmed by a Senate and would preferably be a civilian.
In particular, the committe recommended “a series of significant reforms” with respect to the surveillance of US citizens.
“In our view, the current storage by the government of bulk meta-data creates potential risks to public trust, personal privacy, and civil liberty,” the report read. “We endorse a broad principle for the future: as a general rule and without senior policy review, the government should not be permitted to collect and store mass, undigested, non-public personal information about US persons for the purpose of enabling future queries and data-mining for foreign intelligence purposes.”
Earlier this week, a federal judge issued a preliminary ruling with the opinion that the NSA’s mass collection of domestic telephone metadata was unconstitutional.
The report also endorsed restrictions on the practice of sending National Security Letters by requiring prior judicial review in non-emergency cases. The committee suggested new laws that would allow service providers to release more information about the types of government requests they have received, such as the number of orders received, categories of information and the number of users affected.
Surveillance of foreign citizens was also addressed in the report. The committee put forth six constraints for the monitoring of non-US citizens. It also advised the government to put new processes in place to guard against the unnecessary monitoring of foreign leaders.
The report also affirmed the continued existence of a free and open Internet, describing it as critical to “both self-government and economic growth.”
NSA leaker Edward Snowden seems to have been alluded to in the report. The committee submitted recommendations for curbing “insider threats,” noting that changes should be made to the personnel vetting system.
The ACLU offered a quick response to the report with the following statement from executive director Anthony D. Romero:
We welcome this report, which advocates for many of the ACLU’s positions, including an end to the government’s dragnet collection of telephone metadata and its undermining of encryption standards. NSA’s surveillance programs are un-American, unconstitutional, and need to be reined in. We urge President Obama to accept his own Review Panel’s recommendations and end these programs.
➤ Liberty and Security in a Changing World [White House, PDF]
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