White House to release independent report on NSA spying

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 2:07pm

An independent assessment of National Security Agency surveillance ordered by President Barack Obama following classified leaks by Edward Snowden will be released Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The report was submitted on Friday by an outside panel, but Carney said news reports about its more than 40 recommendations were "inaccurate" so the White House has decided to release the findings now rather than in January as previously planned.

The 300-page report 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.

President Barack Obama met on Wednesday with members of the review group to discuss the report.

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

Reports published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times last week indicated the recommendations from the review group included transferring the command of the NSA from military to civilian leadership and handing over control of cell phone records to a third party.

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

Release of the findings would 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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