Obama Task Force Makes Recommendations for US Surveillance Overhaul

By Sean Michael Kerner  |  Posted 2013-12-18 Print this article Print

"Legislation should be enacted requiring information about surveillance programs to be made available to the Congress and to the American people to the greatest extent possible (subject only to the need to protect classified information)," the report states. "We also recommend that legislation should be enacted authorizing telephone, Internet, and other providers to disclose publicly general information about orders they receive directing them to provide information to the government."

The need for greater transparency is one that U.S.-based technology vendors have been advocating for in an open letter published earlier this month asking for a reform of government surveillance.

Looking beyond the borders of the United States, the report also recommends greater sensitivity and privacy outside the United States, as well.

"To reduce the risk of unjustified, unnecessary, or excessive surveillance in foreign nations, including collection on foreign leaders, we recommend that the president should create a new process, requiring highest-level approval of all sensitive intelligence requirements and the methods that the Intelligence Community will use to meet them," the report states.

NSA Reorganization and Edward Snowden

The report also takes aim at the NSA and recommends that the position of NSA director require Senate confirmation and that civilians also be considered for the role. General Keith Alexander is currently NSA's head.

The report also includes recommendations that are designed to limit the risk from insider threats from within the U.S. government.

"A governing principle is plain: Classified information should be shared only with those who genuinely need to know," the report states. "We recommend specific changes to improve the efficacy of the personnel vetting system."

That recommendation could be seen as specifically aiming to ensure that another whistle-blower like Edward Snowden does not emerge in the coming year.

The report is now set to be reviewed by President Obama to determine the next steps and what recommendations should be implemented.

"Over the next several weeks, as we bring to a close the administration’s overall review of signals intelligence, the president will work with his national security team to study the review group’s report, and to determine which recommendations we should implement," a White House statement explained. "The President will also continue consulting with Congress as reform proposals are considered in each chamber."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.


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