An NSA review panel composed of five advisers met with President Obama on Wednesday for a briefing on a report delivered over the weekend to the White House. The over 300-page report contains 46 recommendations that address the NSA’s controversial practices. These recommendations stress increased executive oversight of the NSA but does not encourage the imposition of significant limits.
The NSA had been under fire since August, when The Guardian began publishing a series of reports based on leaked documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The reports exposed the vast range of the NSA’s spying activities. In response to the outcry, Obama proposed a plan to increase the agency’s transparency, of which the NSA surveillance probe is part.
In August, Obama said at a White House press conference: “Given the history of abuse by governments, it is right to ask questions about surveillance, particularly as technology is reshaping every aspect of our lives.” In the interest of increasing transparency of NSA surveillance program, the panel’s report, Liberty and Security in a Changing World, was made public today.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s statement in response to the report begins: “The President’s Review Group today recognized the severe risks caused by the government’s mass spying on Americans and people around the world, joining the global consensus that the NSA has gone too far.” Nevertheless, the statement criticizes the report for not addressing the constitutional issues involved in NSA surveillance practices and for not taking strong enough measures to prevent future abuses.
The report does recommend that the president and advisers should only have authority to decide to monitor the communications of foreign leaders after a careful evaluation of the potential consequences. The report also recommends curtailing surveillance of ordinary non-Americans. Nevertheless, an adviser to the review panel, Sascha Meinrath of the Open Technology Institute, described as “shameful” the panel´s decision to leave in place the majority of the spying programs.
President Obama met with 15 technology company leaders on Tuesday, who are demanding more strenuous reform. They are calling for a ban on the agency’s bulk data collection practices. On Monday a federal judge called the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records “almost Orwellian” and identified them as likely to be incompliant with the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment.