clear
Sunday July 5th, 2015 10:58PM

Government panel urges end to phone data spying

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A sharply divided government task force that reviewed the National Security Agency's surveillance program for four months has urged President Barack Obama to shut down the agency's bulk collection of phone data and purge its massive inventory of millions of Americans' calling records, The Associated Press has learned.

The recommendation from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to abandon the NSA's phone surveillance was even more sweeping than a similar proposal from another panel of experts. That panel, the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, advised Obama in December to restrict phone surveillance to limited court-ordered sweeps.

The oversight board's new 234-page report - a copy of which was obtained by the AP - contained several strong dissents from two members of the five-member board - former Bush administration national security lawyers who recommended that the government retain its broad phone surveillance authority. The board disclosed key parts of its report to Obama earlier this month before he unveiled his plans during a speech last week to the nation.

In that speech, Obama said the bulk phone collection program would continue for the time being. He directed the Justice Department and intelligence officials to find ways to end the government's control over the phone data. And he narrowed the NSA's bulk collection by insisting on close supervision by a secret federal intelligence court and reducing the wide chain of calls that the NSA may track. Phone companies have said they do not want to take responsibility for overseeing the data under standards set by the NSA.

Warning that the NSA's massive daily intake of calling records "raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties," a three-member majority of the oversight board said the government should end the surveillance program and "purge the database of telephone records that have been collected and stored during the program's operation." The board said the NSA should instead seek records directly from phone service providers using "existing legal authorities."

The NSA's surveillance programs and other operations began coming to light last year - and drawing intense criticism - after revelations fueled by an estimated 1.7 million documents taken by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden and handed over to several journalists around the world.

Most controversial has been the NSA's collection of data on Americans' telephone calls and Internet messages. The NSA says it does not listen in on the phone calls or read the Internet messages without specific court orders on a case-by-case basis as it tracks potential terrorist plots.

Along with its call for ending bulk phone surveillance, the oversight board report outlined 11 other recommendations on surveillance policy, calling for more government transparency and other reforms aimed at bolstering civil liberties and privacy protections. The board called for special attorneys to provide independent views in some proceedings before the secret spy court - as opposed to Obama's plan for a panel of experts that would participate at times. The board also urged the administration to provide the public with clear explanations of the legal authority behind any surveillance affecting Americans.

Legal opinions and documents "describing the government's legal analysis should be made public so there can be a free and open debate regarding the law's scope," the board said. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have been criticized by civil liberties advocates and by tech industry officials for failing to provide clear public explanations of the decision-making behind their surveillance policies.

While the oversight board found consensus in some of its recommendations for transparency, its members were sharply divided when it came to the surveillance programs and their judicial oversight.

Two members, former Bush administration Justice Department lawyers Rachel Brand and Elisebeth Collins Cook, defended the bulk phone sweeps and said they were too valuable to shut down.

"I am concerned about the detrimental effect this superfluous second-guessing can have on our national security agencies and their staff," said Brand, who as a Justice lawyer defended USA Patriot Act legislation that provided the NSA with its authority to make the bulk phone collections.

But the oversight board's three other members - executive director David Medine, former federal judge Patricia Wald and civil liberties advocate James Dempsey - held firm for broad changes.

"When the government collects all of a person's telephone records, storing them for five years in a government database that is subjected to high-speed digital searching and analysis, the privacy implications go far beyond what can be revealed by the metadata of a single telephone call," the majority wrote.

The oversight board was created in 2005, urged by the independent commission on the 9/11 attacks as a key organizational reform needed to balance counterterrorism policy with civil liberties concerns. The board functioned fitfully for several years, often short on members because of Congress' inaction. It finally won legislative approval last year for all five members and staff and took on its study of the NSA programs at the urging on Obama and congressional leaders.

The rival Review Group urged Obama to consider expanding the oversight board's purview to include all intelligence operations. As part of that change, the Review Group also wants the oversight board's name changed to the Civil Liberties and Privacy Protection Board. Medine has balked at that change, worried the group will become known as the CLPP board.
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 6 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 6 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 6 months ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 6 months ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 6 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 6 months ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 6 months ago )
Local/State News
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 6 months ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 6 months ago )
More Georgians signing up for health insurance
A federal report says more Georgians have selected health insurance plans through a federally facilitated marketplace.
4:16PM ( 6 months ago )
Politics
Greece enters uncharted territory after referendum 'no' vote
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece lurched into uncharted territory and an uncertain future in Europe's common currency Sunday after voters overwhelmingly rejected demands by international creditors for mor...
10:46PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Man shoots off firework from top of his head, dies instantly
CALAIS, Maine (AP) — A 22-year-old man who was drinking and celebrating the Fourth of July tried to launch a firework off the top of his head, killing him instantly, authorities said Sunday.Devon Stap...
8:41PM ( 2 hours ago )
Back at work: Congress facing busy agenda, funding deadline
WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of Congress return from July Fourth fireworks and parades Tuesday facing a daunting summer workload and an impending deadline to fund the government or risk a shutdown in the...
3:02PM ( 7 hours ago )
Obama: Freedom is paid for by men and women of US military
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says U.S. service members make it possible to enjoy the "incredible blessings" in the greatest country on earth.He says "freedom is not free" but is paid for b...
12:45AM ( 22 hours ago )
At least 14 hurt in deck collapse at North Carolina beach
EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (AP) — A deck collapsed at a North Carolina beach house as a family got set to take a group photo Saturday evening, leaving at least 14 people injured with two of those in critical...
11:58PM ( 23 hours ago )