A review board established by the White House to investigate the National Security Agency’s controversial surveillance operations believes that the NSA should make drastic changes to its bulk phone data collection program.
More than 40 recommendations are included in the 308-page report released by the White House on Wednesday afternoon, four months after United States President Barack Obama ordered an independent committee to convene and consider the NSA’s activities in the wake of an international surveillance scandal started in June by the unauthorized disclosure of top-secret national security documents.
Pres. Obama announced the creation of the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology on August 9, two months to the day after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed himself to be the source of a leaked document that proved the US government has been compelling telecommunication companies for the phone records of millions of Americans on a daily basis.
The Review Group suggests in their report that the NSA stop pressuring tech companies to put government-friendly “backdoors” into their programs and halt their habit of stockpiling so-called zero-day exploits — or otherwise-unknown software and hardware vulnerabilities than when relied upon may allow for unfettered access to a target’s system.
Among those recommendations, the panel wrote, is for the US government to “fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards,” and “not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken or make vulnerable generally available commercial software.” Later in the report, the group also suggests that the government adopt measures to diminish surveillance missions targeting foreign leaders and non-Americans.
Perhaps the most serious of suggestions, however, are the ones in which the panel implores the government to make adjustments to the way it collects telephone data from US persons under an interpretation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, which currently permits all call records to be routinely relinquished to the NSA.
“We recommend that, as a general rule and without senior policy review, the government should not be permitted to collect and store all mass, undigested, non-public personal information about individuals to enable future queries and data-mining for foreign intelligence purposes,” reads the fourth of 46 suggestions made by the panel. “Any program involving government collection or storage of such data must be narrowly tailored to serve an important government interest.”
Elsewhere, the panel asks that that information fall into the hands of the applicable telecom or a third-party, and not the federal government.
“We recommend that legislation should be enacted that terminates the storage of bulk telephony meta-data by the government under section 215, and transitions as soon as reasonably possible to a system in which such meta-data is held instead either by private providers or by a private third party,” the group wrote, referencing the Patriot Act provision that currently is interpreted to allow for some aspects of the NSA’s surveillance operations.