Think tank: NSA reforms would 'damage' U.S.

President Obama’s planned reforms to the National Security Agency (NSA) “will do serious damage to U.S. intelligence collection capabilities,” a think tank warned on Monday.

The report from the hawkish Center for Security Policy criticized the president’s planned reforms and said that his speech announcing a path forward seemed to deride intelligence agency staffers.

Obama this month said that the NSA should require a court order before searching the bulk collection of records about nearly all Americans’ phone calls. He also announced his intent to transfer the database out of government hands. 

The Center for Security Policy report said that requiring court orders will “bog [the program] down with bureaucracy and lawyers, making it much harder to use.”

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“Moreover, this rule will put judges in an intelligence policy role that should be left to senior intelligence officials,” it added.

The president also announced new privacy protections for foreigners and said he would limit spying on foreign leaders, a practice which has gotten him in hot water after reports emerged that the U.S. had eavesdropped on the phone calls of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others.

According to the think tank's report, those steps would degrade the U.S.’s national security.

The administration’s priority, it added, should be to improve the security clearance process and better protect classified documents like the kind exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

“Given the enormous damage that Mr. Snowden has done to U.S. intelligence programs and recent reports that he may be a Russian agent, President Obama must announce a comprehensive program to tighten the security clearance process, reduce the number of clearance holders and improve the security of classified computer networks,” the report said.

Top lawmakers like House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) have accused Snowden of colluding with Russia in leaking documents about the NSA, though he has denied it