White House releases NSA report recommending ‘significantly more far-reaching’ changes

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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The White House released a report Wednesday calling for 46 changes to the National Security Agency’s counterterror operations, including an end to bulk telephone data collection.

The White House team — made up of five intelligence experts and one privacy specialist — was tasked with examining and recommending changes to NSA policy after the leaks of widespread domestic and overseas surveillance programs earlier this summer.

Its 300-page report wasn’t due until January, but is being released early following leaks of its recommendations, which are “significantly more far-reaching than many expected,” according to a White House official.

As reported earlier this week, the biggest change is the end of NSA’s direct access to bulk domestic telephone records and metadata.

The team recommends transitioning such databases into the control of service providers themselves or another third-party, and forcing the agency to adhere to stricter guidelines to specifically access individuals’ information.

The agency would also be forbidden from requesting or accessing “back doors” into the networks of service providers like Verizon or Google to download encrypted data. It would also be forbidden from storing or using hacking tools with the capability of damaging or destroying computers and networks.

Securing the federal government’s computer systems would no longer be the NSA’s responsibility under the group’s recommendations — instead the agency would focus solely on its mission of infiltrating and intercepting foreign systems and intelligence.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — which grants warrants agency programs in secret — would have a new public interest advocate for privacy and civil liberties under the proposal.

One recommendation the White House has already squashed is the proposal to separate authority over U.S. Cyber Command — the government’s online offensive front — from the NSA director’s position.

The suggestion to appoint a civilian to head the signals intelligence agency — as opposed to the traditional military appointee — was also included, with the justification that a non-military officer would better divide the line between privacy and security.

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