White House releases task force report with recommended changes to NSA spying

BY Associated Press  December 18, 2013 at 4:25 PM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) — A presidential advisory panel has recommended dozens of changes to the government’s surveillance programs, including stripping the National Security Agency of its ability to store Americans’ telephone records and requiring a court to sign off on the individual searches of phone and Internet data.

White House Government Surveillance Report

Read the full White House report on the United States’ surveillance programs

The panel did not recommend that the NSA stop seizing phone and Internet data entirely, and it was unclear whether the changes would limit the scope of the collections. President Barack Obama ordered the review board to submit recommendations following disclosures earlier this year about the vast nature of the government’s surveillance programs, but he is under no obligation to accept their proposals.

The White House authorized the release of the review group’s report Wednesday, weeks ahead of schedule.

The panel called for more independent review of what the NSA collects and the process by which it goes about gathering data. The group also proposed that a court sign off on the individual searches of the metadata.

In addition, the panel called for tightening federal law enforcement’s use of so-called national security letters, which give authorities sweeping authority to demand financial and phone records without prior court approval in national security cases. The task force recommended that authorities should be required to obtain a prior “judicial finding” showing “reasonable grounds” that the information sought was relevant to terrorism or other intelligence activities.

Update 4:38 p.m. EST:

The White House released this statement on the report:

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 18, 2013 President Obama’s Meeting with the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies Today, President Obama met with his Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies — Richard Clarke, Michael Morell, Geoffrey Stone, Cass Sunstein and Peter Swire — to discuss the report they submitted to the President on December 13. This meeting offered President Obama an opportunity to hear directly from the group’s members and discuss the thinking behind the 46 recommendations in their report. The President noted that the group’s report represented a consensus view, particularly significant given the broad scope of the members’ expertise in counterterrorism, intelligence, oversight, privacy and civil liberties. The President again stated his expectation that, in light of new technologies, the United States use its intelligence collection capabilities in a way that optimally protects our national security while supporting our foreign policy, respecting privacy and civil liberties, maintaining the public trust, and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosure. The President expressed his personal appreciation to the group members for the extraordinary work that went into producing this comprehensive and high quality report, and outlined for the group how he intends to utilize their work. Over the next several weeks, as we bring to a close the Administration’s overall review of signals intelligence, the President will work with his national security team to study the Review Group’s report, and to determine which recommendations we should implement. The President will also continue consulting with Congress as reform proposals are considered in each chamber. You can find the Review Group’s report HERE. While the Administration’s internal review is ongoing, including our review of the report itself, we will not be in a position to comment on the proposals made by the Review Group. In January, the President looks forward to speaking to the American people, as well as to the international community, to outline the outcomes of our work, including our plans to address the Review Group’s recommendations.