Intelligence panel leaders slam NSA review

The leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees came out against a recently released report suggesting reforms to the National Security Agency.

A White House-convened group of privacy and national security experts issued a report to President Obama about U.S. surveillance programs, including 46 reform recommendations. 

In the report, the review panel questioned the efficacy of an NSA program that involves collecting data about virtually all American phone calls and suggested that phone companies hold the data instead of the NSA.

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The Intelligence lawmakers — Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) — took issue with the report’s “misleading conclusion” that the NSA’s phone call data program hasn’t prevented terrorists attacks.

“Intelligence programs do not operate in isolation and terrorist attacks are not disrupted by the work of any one person or program,” the group said in a joint statement.

The lawmakers called the phone call data program “lawful” and “a valuable analytical tool that assists intelligence personnel in their efforts to efficiently ‘connect the dots’ on emerging or current terrorist threats.”

Earlier this year, Feinstein introduced a bill that would codify and add transparency measures to the NSA phone data program. The Senate Intelligence Committee passed the bill 11-4.

“The necessity of this program cannot be measured merely by the number of terrorist attacks disrupted, but must also take into account the extent to which it contributes to the overall efforts of intelligence professionals to quickly respond to, and prevent, rapidly emerging terrorist threats,” the Intelligence Committee lawmakers said Friday.

The group said some of the report’s recommendations were “constructive,” including steps to increase transparency around surveillance programs.

They look forward to working with the White House as the president considers the review panel’s recommendations and “appreciate the assurances we have received that this consultation will happen,” the lawmakers said.