Obama national security review panel: Strip NSA of power to collect phone data records

19 Dec

by Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian
Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory

Edward Snowden (Photo credit: The Guardian)

The National Security Agency should be banned from attempting to undermine the security of the internet and stripped of its power to collect telephone records in bulk, a White House review panel recommended on Wednesday.

In a 300-page report prepared for President Obama, the panel made 46 recommendations, including that the authority for spying on foreign leaders should be granted at a higher level than at present.

Though far less sweeping than campaigners have urged, and yet to be ratified by Obama, the report by his Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology comes as the White House faces growing pressure over its so-called “bulk collection” programs from US courts and business interests.

Earlier this week, a federal judge ruled that the bulk collection program, first revealed by the Guardian in June through a court order against Verizon, was likely to be in violation of the US constitution, describing it as “almost Orwellian” in scope.

The White House was stung into releasing the report weeks earlier than expected after meeting America’s largest internet companies on Tuesday. The firms warned that failure to rebuild public trust in communications privacy could damage the US economy.

In its report, the review panel, led by former security officials and academics including the husband of one of Obama’s top advisers, said the NSA should be removed of its power to collect the metadata of Americans’ phone calls. Instead, it suggested that private companies such as phone carriers retain their customer records in a format that the NSA can access on demand.

This is likely to anger the intelligence community, which argues for direct access, but also fall foul of telephone companies, who have privately warned those drafting more ambitious reforms in Congress that such a scheme would be impractical and dangerous.

Read the full article on The Guardian
 

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