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    Washington Post: NSA shouldn’t keep phone database, review board recommends

    The Washington Post has news of a report (archive pdf) from the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies concerning surveillance and collection of phone records by the National Security Agency. The surveillance program, which a judge recently ruled (archive pdf) as likely to be unconstitutional, was revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The group, created by President Obama in August after Snowden revealed various surveillance programs by the NSA, says “recommendations are designed to protect our national security and advance our foreign policy while also respecting our longstanding commitment to privacy and civil liberties, recognizing our need to maintain the public trust (including the trust of our friends and allies abroad), and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosures.” The Post reports:

    A panel appointed by President Obama to review the government’s surveillance activities has recommended that the National Security Agency no longer keep a database of virtually all Americans’ phone records, and that decisions to spy on foreign leaders be subjected to greater scrutiny.

    These are two of the more significant recommendations in a 308-page report issued by the White House Wednesday in an effort to restore public confidence in the nation’s spying apparatus.

    The panel made 46 recommendations in all, which included moving the NSA’s information assurance directorate–its computer defense arm–outside the agency and under the Department of Defense’s cyber policy office. Allied foreign leaders or those with whom the U.S. shares a cooperative relationship should be accorded “a high degree of respect and deference,” the panel said. [...]

    Obama met Wednesday morning with the panel, whose suggestions are advisory only. The White House has said it will announce in January which recommendations it has chosen to adopt, as it concludes its own internal review of surveillance activities.

    The panel is urging that Congress pass legislation to end the NSA’s storage of phone records–estimated by some former officials to number more than 1 trillion, and to mandate that the phone companies or a private third party maintain the data instead.

    Access to the data would be permitted only with an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court based on reasonable suspicion that the information sought is relevant to an authorized terrorism investigation. Each phone number that the NSA wants to search on would require a court order. [...]

    Currently, the NSA holds for five years of phone records gathered daily from U.S. phone companies. The records include the numbers dialed, and call times and durations, but no actual call content or subscriber names. But U.S. District Judge Richard Leon on Monday described the technology NSA uses to search its database as “almost Orwellian,” and civil liberties and conservative groups have sued to end this “bulk collection.”

     The Post has more details of the report, which can be read here.

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