White House releases NSA reforms report ahead of schedule

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that any reforms to the NSA that result from an independent task force’s report will not harm national security.

Evan Vucci/AP

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that any reforms to the NSA that result from an independent task force’s report will not harm national security.

WASHINGTON — Stop collecting records on all our phone calls.

That’s the critical recommendation of a presidential advisory panel which has analyzed the National Security Agency’s surveillances practices and reported back to President Obama.

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A group of legal and intelligence experts made 46 recommendations to Obama. They include calling for:

President Obama Vice President Biden met with tech executives Tuesday regarding the economic impact of NSA spying. The execs reportedly told Obama the ongoing revelations had affected their bottom lines, particularly with customers abroad.

MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA

President Obama Vice President Biden met with tech executives Tuesday regarding the economic impact of NSA spying. The execs reportedly told Obama the ongoing revelations had affected their bottom lines, particularly with customers abroad.

—An end to the government’s collection and storage of bulk telephone metadata. Instead, it urges leaving them in private (phone company) hands, with court orders mandated for certain investigations.

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—Greater restrictions on surveillance of non-U.S. citizens. It would apply the same protections now received by Americans under privacy statutes and limit information that could be disclosed about them.

—Greater transparency and public reporting about non-classified programs.

The NSA’s massive Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah. The White House will release a report on the agency’s surveillance programs Wednesday, a month ahead of schedule.

Rick Bowmer/AP

The NSA’s massive Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah. The White House will release a report on the agency’s surveillance programs Wednesday, a month ahead of schedule.

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—Creation of a Public Advocate to respond to government requests before the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. It also seeks greater transparency in how that court operates and a new method of appointing the judges (now the purview of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts).

—Creation of new privacy oversight agencies and officials.

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NSA Director Keith Alexander has aggressively defended the agency’s spying programs as within the law and vital to national security.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

NSA Director Keith Alexander has aggressively defended the agency’s spying programs as within the law and vital to national security.

—The U.S. government to take steps to encourage greater protection internationally of internet freedom.

—Improving our ability to protect secrecy when secrecy is necessary.

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The NSA will be dead set against many of the proposals, which will present an interesting set of decisions for Obama.

NSA documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden have revealed the agency’s broad spying both at home and abrad.

Patrick Semansky/AP

NSA documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden have revealed the agency’s broad spying both at home and abrad.

In sum, if approved the report would sharply reduce the NSA’s authority and place new authority in the hands of Congress, courts and the President.

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Obama has tipped his hand already on one major recommendation: diluting the jurisdiction of the NSA by separating command of the agency from the U.S. Cyber Command, the Pentagon’s unit involved in cyber warfare.

The panel believes control of both places too much power in the hands of the NSA and the military. Obama disagrees.

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The five-member board was appointed after the disclosures of the NSA’s spying on communications of both Americans and foreigners. Those resulted from leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

A federal judge on Monday ruled that the bulk collection of phone records was likely unconstitutional. He called it “almost Orwellian” but stayed any impact from his ruling pending certain appeals.


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