Task force suggests NSA needs tighter constraints and greater transparency

Posted at 4:20 PM, Dec 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-18 16:20:44-05

(CNN)– The NSA data collection program predominantly covering phone records and e-mail must have tighter constraints and greater transparency, according to an independent review of agency snooping ordered by President Barack Obama.

Details of the report were to be formally released later in the day, but CNN confirmed some of the details ahead of time.

Additionally, Obama will deliver a speech in January on the path forward following the report recommendations, which include presidential oversight of monitoring of foreign leaders and agreements with nations like France and Germany on what is acceptable and what is not.

The 300-page report was submitted on Friday by an outside panel and includes some 40 recommendations, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

It is part of an overall review of U.S. intelligence gathering that is “a fairly broad assessment,” Carney said, noting it was substantive submission that “merits serious review.”

Asked about responding to security threats, Carney said that whatever changes may result from the review process, “we will not harm our ability to face those threats.”

“We need to make sure we’re not gathering intelligence solely because we can, but because we must,” Carney said.

Obama met on Wednesday with members of the review group to discuss their findings.

He has to decide which of the recommendations will be accepted, which could be revised and which will be rejected.

Obama vowed this month to find ways of reforming the NSA, though he also defended the agency’s work.

Release of the findings come two days after a federal judge in Washington ruled preliminarily that NSA data collection of telephone metadata was probably unconstitutional on privacy grounds.

That program was revealed last summer by Snowden, a former NSA contractor, triggering outrage from civil libertarians and some members of Congress, who believe the spy agency has overreached in post-9/11 surveillance.

Most recently, tech giants have pressured Obama to make changes to the federal surveillance programs after the NSA admitted following Snowden leaks that it received secret court approval to collect vast amounts of data from telephone giant Verizon and leading Internet companies, including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo and Facebook.

Company executives met with Obama on Tuesday, and sources told CNN’s Jake Tapper that those present got the impression from the President that NSA metadata collection would not stop anytime soon but that more efforts at transparency would be made.

Congress broadened the government’s ability to conduct anti-terrorism surveillance in the United States and abroad following 9/11, eventually including the metadata collection.

Snowden’s explosive revelations portrayed the vast reach of NSA surveillance, keeping tabs not only on U.S. call data but also global Internet and e-mail traffic. Disclosures about snooping have even swept up foreign leaders.

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