NSA reform proposals would 'eviscerate' important program, report says

The recommendations a panel made to President Obama about the National Security Agency’s metadata collection would “eviscerate an important counterterrorism program,” a new report says.

The Center for Security Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, released the report, which also rejects most of the other recommendations the review group provided Obama. 

Some of the recommendations include ending the NSA’s telephone metadata collection program, imposing new legal pathways to obtaining communications data and changing how the U.S. spies on foreign governments.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked highly classified government documents last year that revealed the scope of the metadata program. 

This new report comes just days before Obama will announce his proposed reforms to the agency, which he’ll do on Friday.

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“The Center for Security Policy (CSP) disagrees with most of the Review Group’s recommendations and believes many would undermine U.S national security,” the report says.

While the CSP says the metadata program must be further justified to Americans, it adds that the review panel’s recommendations would “seriously weaken the program’s effectiveness.”

The center opposes all of the panel’s recommendations “on this program as they would place so many limitations on the metadata program that it would be rendered virtually useless." 

If telephone companies hold onto their records, barring the NSA’s immediate access, the CSP says that would “create real privacy concerns.”

The think tank also rejects the review panel’s charge that the metadata program “was not essential to preventing terrorist attacks.”

The president, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander and some lawmakers, such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), have all said the program has thwarted dozens of plots.

The CSP applauds lawmakers who have worked on intelligence legislation to address concerns about the NSA, saying, for example, the FISA Improvements Act is a “step in the right direction.”

The bill is sponsored by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Her committee advanced the legislation in October, but it has not been taken up by the full Senate. 

“We ask the President to work with the congressional intelligence committees on new legislation to bolster the 215 program and not adopt the Review Panel’s recommendations,” the CSP’s report says.