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December 19, 2013

White House task force urges limit on NSA snooping

WASHINGTON — A presidential advisory panel has recommended sweeping changes to government surveillance programs, including limiting the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records by stripping the National Security Agency of its ability to store that data in its own facilities. Court orders would be required before the information could be searched.

In a 300-page report released Wednesday, the five-member panel also proposed greater scrutiny of decisions to spy on friendly foreign leaders.

While the panel’s 46 recommendations broadly call for more oversight of the government’s vast spying network, few programs would be ended. There’s also no guarantee that the most stringent recommendations will be adopted by President Barack Obama.

The task force said it sought to balance the nation’s security with the public’s privacy rights and insisted the country would not be put at risk if more oversight was put in place. The report concludes that telephone information collected in bulk by the NSA and used in terror investigations “was not essential to preventing attacks.”

The review group was set up as part of the White House response to leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the scope of the government surveillance programs. Snowden is now a fugitive from U.S. authorities and was granted temporary asylum by Russia. The White House is conducting its own intelligence review, and Obama is expected to announce his decisions in January.

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