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Presidential review group urges reform of FISA Court and end to bulk metadata collection

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  1. Newsgathering
A group appointed by President Obama to review U.S. surveillance policies recommended today that the government end bulk storage of…

A group appointed by President Obama to review U.S. surveillance policies recommended today that the government end bulk storage of telephone metadata, and, instead, contact private companies directly in the individual cases that it needs that information.

The panel also called on the government to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by creating a public interest advocate to represent privacy and civil liberties interests; instituting declassification reviews to increase the court's transparency; and dividing the power to appoint judges to the FISC among the Supreme Court justices. The group also recommended that the government not undermine efforts to create encryption standards.

In all, the five intelligence and legal experts on the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies issued 46 recommendations in a 300-page report called “Liberty and Security In a Changing World.”

The report also encourages the government to adopt such principles in its surveillance efforts as protecting personal privacy and civil liberties. “A particular concern involves preservation of the rights, and the security, of journalists and the press; their rights and their security are indispensable to self-government,” the review group wrote.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and 36 other media organizations, filed public comments with the panel in October, urging it to enact reforms to the FISA Court that are similar to the ones proposed.

The Reporters Committee also urged the government to write protections for newsgathering into the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and to be careful not to over-classify information, which would make its power to investigate leaks more sweeping. The review group did not address those suggestions but did recommend that the government scrutinize people more closely before granting high level security clearance and after it is obtained.