The report says the U.S. commitment to protecting privacy and civil liberties has at times “been eroded by excessive intelligence collection.”
The panel recommended 46 reforms, including amending Section 215 of the Patriot Act to ensure the government only has access to metadata if it has “reasonable grounds” to believe that information is relevant to an “authorized investigation.” Otherwise, the information should be left with the third party — in this case, the phone companies.
“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,” the report said. “Any program involving government collection or storage of such data must be narrowly tailored to serve an important government interest.”
Further, the report vindicates Rep. Justin Amash's amendment from July 2013 by recommending legislation 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.”
Opponents of the NSA’s spy programs praised the report and encouraged Obama to enact the panel’s recommendations.
“When combined with the U.S. District Court ruling on the likely unconstitutionality of bulk phone collection earlier this week, this report will help to galvanize support for surveillance reforms both with the public and within Congress,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said.
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, also praised the report, and urged Obama “to accept his own review panel's recommendations and end these programs.”
Snowden revealed the mass collection program in June 2013 and is currently living under temporary asylum in Russia. He suggested in an open letter published Tuesday in the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that he would like to come to Brazil to aid in that country's ongoing investigation of NSA spying but feared U.S. interference in his freedom of movement.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Wednesday she would not respond to Snowden's letter because he had not presented a formal request for asylum. But her administration is being lobbied by a group of senators who want to give asylum to Snowden on humanitarian grounds.
Brazil also announced Wednesday that it has chosen Sweden's Saab to build 36 jet fighters for its air force at a cost of $4.5 billion, over Boeing, which had offered its F-18 fighter jet. Analysts noted that fallout from Snowden's revelations helped put the U.S. aircraft maker at a disadvantage in the competition.