White House to release NSA reform report

The White House on Wednesday will release an independent report outlining 46 recommendations to reform the nation's top-secret surveillance programs, press secretary Jay Carney said.

"While we had intended to release the review group's full report in January, given inaccurate and incomplete reports in the press about the report's content, we felt that it was important to let people see the full report to draw their own conclusions," Carney said.

The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the panel has recommended major changes to how the National Security Agency collected records of U.S. phone calls.

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According to the Journal, the group — empaneled by President Obama amid the controversy following the disclosure of the program by leaker Edward Snowden — will recommend ending the practice of the government collecting metadata on American phone calls. Instead, phone companies would maintain the records for search.

The papers also reported that the group has recommended a civilian director of the NSA, that the president directly review the surveillance of any foreign leaders, and that a public advocate argue for privacy rights before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Earlier Wednesday, Obama met with members of the panel at the White House.

Carney insisted that the administration was still reviewing the report, and said Obama was not likely to present what reforms he would undertake until that process was complete. He will do so when ready in an address.

The press secretary indicated that speech would likely occur between the president's return from Hawaii for the holidays and the State of the Union, slated for Jan. 28.

On Tuesday, Carney said that Obama appreciated the work of the review group.

"The president is grateful to the group — Richard Clarke, Michael Morell, Geoffrey Stone, Cass Sunstein and Peter Swire — for devoting themselves to this effort over the past several months and providing thoughtful input for the administration to consider as we conclude the ongoing interagency review of signals intelligence collection, being led by the White House," Carney said.

"The review group’s report draws on the group members’ considerable expertise in intelligence, counterterrorism, civil liberties, law and privacy matters, and on their consultations with the U.S. government privacy and civil liberties advocates in the private sector."

The release comes just a day after top tech executives visiting the White House pressed the president to curb the surveillance programs at the NSA. They said the fallout from the spying is threatening their businesses and the broader economy.

Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said Wednesday that "99 percent" of that meeting was dedicated to the surveillance programs, which include the collection of Internet “metadata” from people overseas.

Following the meeting, technology companies issued a one-sentence statement calling on Obama to "move aggressively" to implement reforms limiting the surveillance programs.

"We appreciated the opportunity to share directly with the President our principles on government surveillance that we released last week and we urge him to move aggressively on reform," the companies said.

Companies have complained that the data mining programs have hurt consumer trust in their services and led users to flee their networks.

Separately, a federal court judge on Monday ruled that the administration's phone surveillance program appeared to be unconstitutional. The judge's order has been stayed pending appeals.

The Justice Department has said that it believes the program will ultimately be upheld as constitutional, and that it was undertaking a legal review of the ruling.