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Bridget Johnson

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December 19, 2013 - 8:47 am

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee just began reviewing a report of intelligence gathering recommendations ordered by President Obama in the wake of the NSA firestorm, and said he already sees problems with it.

The President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology submitted its report to the president on Friday. The group includes Richard Clarke, Michael Morell, Geoffrey Stone, Cass Sunstein, and Peter Swire.

“We have received the report of the President’s Review Group. Though I am still studying the details, I have serious concerns with some of the report’s 46 recommendations,” Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said in statement.

“Any intelligence collection reforms must be careful to preserve important national security capabilities,” he added. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Congress to enact meaningful reforms in the near future.”

Obama met yesterday behind closed doors with members of the review group.

“The President noted that the group’s report represented a consensus view, particularly significant given the broad scope of the members’ expertise in counterterrorism, intelligence, oversight, privacy and civil liberties. The President again stated his expectation that, in light of new technologies, the United States use its intelligence collection capabilities in a way that optimally protects our national security while supporting our foreign policy, respecting privacy and civil liberties, maintaining the public trust, and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosure. The President expressed his personal appreciation to the group members for the extraordinary work that went into producing this comprehensive and high quality report, and outlined for the group how he intends to utilize their work,” the White House said.

“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. The President will also continue consulting with Congress as reform proposals are considered in each chamber.”

The 308-page report declares “the current storage by the government of bulk meta-data creates potential risks to public trust, personal privacy, and civil liberty.”

“We recognize that the government might need access to such meta-data, which should be held instead either by private providers or by a private third party. This approach would allow the government access to the relevant information when such access is justified, and thus protect national security without unnecessarily threatening privacy and liberty. Consistent with this recommendation, we endorse a broad principle for the future: as a general rule and without senior policy review, the government should not be permitted to collect and store mass, undigested, non-public personal information about US persons for the purpose of enabling future queries and data-mining for foreign intelligence purposes.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), one of the co-sponsors behind legislation to rein in the NSA, called the report “a clarion call for intelligence program reform – powerfully boosting the credibility and momentum of sweeping, fundamental change.”

“It specifically endorses my Special Advocate proposal to assure that privacy rights and civil liberties are protected through a genuine adversarial proceeding,” Blumenthal said. “Also, it urges significant change in the selection of FISA Court members to assure greater diversity in ideological perspective, background, and geography. Greater transparency, making public more rulings and opinions, is another key, necessary recommendation that I and others have urged. Overall, the report recognizes a fundamental truth: Reform is vital to restore and retain public confidence and trust in our intelligence programs. Doubt, suspicion, and distrust will only deepen, and jeopardize our democracy without reform.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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