White House releases report advising new NSA limits

Obama not required to accept proposals from presidential advisory panel, which did not recommend stopping surveillance

An NSA surveillance protester near the U.S. Capitol in October held imitation NSA cameras made of cardboard.
Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images

A presidential advisory panel appointed by the White House to review the National Security Agency's spy program on Wednesday recommended new criteria that should be met before the U.S. engages in surveillance, but did not advise that the NSA stop seizing phone and Internet data entirely.

It was not immediately clear whether the proposed changes would limit the scope of the data collection, and President Barack Obama is not obliged to accept the recommendations.

In one of the panel's 46 recommendations, it advised that before spying on foreign leaders, U.S. officials should determine if there are other ways to obtain the necessary information and weigh the negative effects if the surveillance becomes public.

The panel, whose members met with Obama on Wednesday at the White House, called for limits on a U.S. government program that collects metadata — or basic call information — on billions of telephone calls.

It said the U.S. government should explore agreements on spying practices "with a small number of closely allied governments." 

Obama ordered the review board to submit recommendations in the wake of explosive revelations by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden on the scope of the spy agency's operations.

The White House has said it has no intention of stopping the program that it says keeps Americans safe from "terrorist threats."

Glenn Greenwald, a former Guardian reporter through whom Snowden leaked the documents, downplayed the report, claiming that the goal of the spy agency is to "eliminate privacy globally ... literally."

"Remember, these recommendations are from an advisory board that President Obama created and then staffed with his allies," he said in an Al Jazeera America interview Wednesday ahead of the report's release.

Greenwald added that a federal court on Monday ruled NSA surveillance was unconstitutional, saying it violated Americans' privacy under the Fourth Amendment.

The White House decided to release the advisory group's report Wednesday, weeks ahead of schedule.

An NSA official revealed last week that Snowden has released only a tiny fraction of what he has, adding that the former NSA contractor is believed to possess 1.5 million additional documents

Al Jazeera and wire services

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