UK & World News

  • 19 December 2013, 5:04

NSA Spying Sweeps 'Have Gone Too Far', Report

A panel has recommended curbing the secretive powers of the National Security Agency, warning its mass spying sweeps in the war on terror had gone too far.

The report, commissioned by President Barack Obama, said the NSA should halt the mass storage of domestic phone records, and called for new scrutiny on snooping on world leaders.

It also called for privacy safeguards for foreigners and fresh transparency over US eavesdropping.

The 300-page report unveiled 46 recommendations to reshape US surveillance policy following explosive revelations by fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

There is no guarantee the president will accept the non-binding recommendations but he will consider his next move ahead of a public statement in January.

The panel urged reforms of a secret national security court that oversees clandestine surveillance operations.

It also called for the NSA to be stripped of its ability to store telephone records - instead handing that duty to phone companies or a third party.

The report said the intelligence and security infrastructure launched after the September 11 attacks had perhaps gone too far.

"It is now time to step back and take stock," it said.

"We conclude that some of the authorities that were expanded or created in the aftermath of September 11 unduly sacrifice fundamental interests in individual liberty, personal privacy, and democratic governance."

Review board member Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism aide, called for mechanisms that were more transparent and have more independent oversight to give the public a new "sense of trust".

Throughout, the report argued that a new equilibrium needed to be found between national security, and privacy and individual Constitutional rights.

It steered away from calling for outright curbs on gathering intelligence on foreign leaders, following embarrassing revelations that US spies had snooped on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone.

But it said US spy chiefs should be forced to justify surveillance on world leaders to the president and his aides.

The release of the report comes amid deepening political pressure on the White House for significant reforms in the massive NSA telephone and internet data mining operations across the world.

A federal judge in Washington this week ruled that NSA programmes, which have scooped up millions of details on telephone calls and Internet traffic on Americans and foreigners, were probably unconstitutional.

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