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Obama panel said to urge NSA curbs

WASHINGTON — A presidential advisory committee charged with examining the operations of the National Security Agency has concluded that a program to collect data on every phone call made in the United States should continue, although under broad new restraints designed to increase privacy protections, according to officials with knowledge of the report's contents.

The report, the officials said, also favors codifying and publicly announcing the steps the United States will take to protect the privacy of foreign citizens whose telephone records, Internet communications or movements are collected by the NSA. But intelligence officials have argued they should be under few restrictions when tapping communications of non-Americans abroad, who don't have constitutional protections.

The advisory group is also expected to recommend that senior White House officials, including the president, directly review the list of foreign leaders whose communications are routinely monitored by the NSA.

Administration officials say the White House has already taken over supervision of that program.

But resistance from the intelligence agencies is likely. In an interview two months ago, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the soon-to-retire director of the NSA and the commander of the military's Cyber Command, suggested that a major cutback in U.S. spying on foreign nationals would be naive. And officials who have examined the NSA's programs say they have been surprised at how infrequently the agency has been challenged to weigh the intelligence benefits of its foreign collection operations against the damage that could be done if the programs were exposed.

One of the expected recommendations is that the White House conduct a regular review of those collection activities, the way covert action by the CIA is reviewed annually.

Another likely recommendation, officials say, is creation of an organization of legal advocates who would argue against lawyers for the NSA and other government organizations in front of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the nation's secret court that oversees the collection of information aimed at terrorism and espionage suspects.

The advisory report offers the first signs documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden may lead to changes in the programs he exposed.

Obama panel said to urge NSA curbs 12/12/13 [Last modified: Thursday, December 12, 2013 11:23pm]
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