Reports: Presidential panel would curb NSA spying

A presidential advisory committee plans to recommend major changes to the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, officials told the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The report, expected to be delivered to President Obama this weekend, would would make changes to the NSA's controversial practice of collecting records on all U.S. phone calls. The New York Times wrote that the report would allow the bulk collection to continue under "broad new restraints." 

But the Wall Street Journal quoted one person familiar with the report saying that it "aligns very closely" with the USA Freedom Act, a bill from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that aims to end the bulk collection. 

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According to the Journal, the report also recommends having a civilian director of the National Security Agency. The NSA has been led by military officers since its creation in 1952. The panel will also recommend removing the NSA director's authority over U.S. Cyber Command, a team of military hackers. 

The report will recommend that the president and other senior White House officials directly review the list of any foreign leaders under surveillance, the Times reported. German Chancellor Angela Markel and other leaders expressed outrage after learning that the NSA was spying on their phone calls. 

The panel will also likely recommend the creation of a public advocate to argue for privacy rights before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to the Times. The court currently only hears argument from the government in favor of surveillance.  

President Obama created the advisory panel in August to review the NSA's programs in the wake of leaks by Edward Snowden.

The members of the review panel are: Michael Morell, a former CIA official; Richard Clarke, a former counterterrorism official; Cass Sunstein, a law professor and former regulatory official; Peter Swire, a former privacy official; and Geoffrey Stone, a constitutional law professor.

Caitlin Hayden, a White House spokeswoman, declined to comment on the draft report, saying it is not final and has not been delivered to the White House. She said the White House still expects to receive the report by the Dec. 15 deadline.