White House to Release Full Report on NSA Surveillance Today

The White House today will release the full report of a five-member panel that scrutinized data harvesting by the National Security Agency and recommended steps to address concerns raised by technology companies, civil liberties groups and U.S. allies.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama will deliver his plan for changing the way the spy agency collects communications data next month.

“We will be reviewing the review group’s report and its 46 recommendations as we consider the path forward, including sorting through which recommendations we will implement, which might require further study, and which we will choose not to pursue,” Carney said.

The advisory panel recommended the government should continue collecting bulk records on every U.S. phone call with new restrictions to protect privacy, according to an administration official familiar with the report. It also said the White House should review eavesdropping on foreign leaders and recommended creating a legal advocate to argue privacy rights before a secret court that approves spy programs.

Obama met with the panel at the White House this morning, a day after a group of technology company executives pressed him to restrict the NSA’s broad access to their users’ data and be more transparent about surveillance of Internet and telephone communications.

International Backlash

Obama appointed the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology in August after international and domestic backlash against U.S. spy programs exposed in documents leaked by fugitive former government contractor Edward Snowden.

As a result of the disclosures, U.S. companies are facing the loss of billions of dollars in overseas business, stricter regulations and trade barriers, and erosion of consumer trust.

The revelations about the extent of data and communications swept up by the NSA since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks also have complicated U.S. relations with other nations, including Brazil and Germany.

Earlier this week, a U.S. district judge ruled that collecting bulk phone records -- such as numbers dialed and call durations -- of millions of Americans is probably unconstitutional.

Executives’ Warning

Yahoo! Inc. Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer, one of 15 company representatives at yesterday’s meeting, warned Obama that a backlash over U.S. spying may splinter the Internet as countries adopt different standards to thwart surveillance, according to an industry official, who asked not to be named because the discussion was private.

Google Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt discussed five principles the companies favor for changing the NSA programs, including limiting collections and being free to tell the public and their users what data the government is seeking from them, the official said.

Snowden’s leaked documents revealed that the NSA collects bulk phone records, such as numbers dialed and call durations, on billions of people worldwide. The task force proposed that the records be held instead by phone companies or a third-party organization, the administration official said.

The panel also suggested the imposition of stricter standards before allowing NSA permission to search the data.

Advisory Group

The report being released was compiled by a panel made up of Richard Clarke, a former U.S. cybersecurity adviser; Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director; Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor; Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law School professor who once worked in the administration; and Peter Swire, who served on Obama’s National Economic Council.

The group made 46 recommendations, and Obama may decide to adopt or reject any of them, Carney said.

Obama has defended the NSA’s work as necessary to prevent another terrorist attack, while also saying he will propose some limits to guard against unwarranted snooping in Americans’ private affairs.

The meeting with the panel and the decision to release its report wasn’t prompted by the issues raised by the executives in yesterday’s meeting, Carney said.

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