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Many expect that more stringent rules will be placed on the NSA

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to discuss the changes planned for the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance programs this week. 

According to The Washington Post, Obama will announce the changes Friday, January 17. Many expect that more stringent rules will be placed on the NSA, more clearly spelling out what it can and cannot do. 

Back in December 2013, a presidential review panel made 46 recommendations regarding greater restraint on the NSA's surveillance programs, which will have to be accepted by President Barack Obama and U.S. Congress before being put into practice. The recommendations were submitted that same month. 
 
One of the major recommendations involves the elimination of bulk collection of phone call records (known as "metadata"). The NSA said it collected metadata in bulk and filtered through it afterward in an attempt to make connections when searching for terrorist threats.

However, the panel said that this method of data collection hasn't proved to be more effective or beneficial than more targeted forms. It further stated that the program has made "modest" contributions at best, and that there's no proof the outcome would have been any different without the metadata bulk collection. 
 
The NSA has defended the bulk collection of metadata, saying it's necessary to keep the country safe. NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander even said it's the only way the NSA can "connect the dots." 
 
Another big recommendation from the panel was to conduct five tests before Washington decides to spy on foreign leaders: U.S. leaders should determine whether such surveillance is merited by major threats to national security; whether the other nation involved has leaders we should accord a high degree of respect and deference; whether there is reason to believe the foreign leader has been deceitful; whether there are other ways to obtain the information, and weigh the negative consequences if the surveillance were to become public knowledge. 
 

President Barack Obama
 
Yet another major recommendation is the limitation of on National Security Letters, which allow certain government agencies demand business records from both individuals and companies without any independent or judicial review. The panel said these letters should only be issued after a judicial review, and gag orders should also be limited.

The NSA has been under the microscope ever since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked details about the NSA's secret spy programs to the media early last year. In August 2013, reports said that the NSA admitted to touching 1.6 percent of total globe Web traffic. Its technique was to filter data after harvesting it, which led to over-collection on a major scale. It was later revealed that Snowden conned between 20 to 25 NSA employees to give him their login credentials and passwords while working at the NSA regional operations center for a month in Hawaii last spring. Snowden reportedly told the NSA employees that he needed their passwords in order to do his job, and after downloading secret NSA documents, he leaked the information to the media.

Snowden told the media last month that his mission is complete after spending the last year leaking secret NSA documents. 
 
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” said Snowden. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.

“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed. That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.”

However, the NSA's questioning is just beginning. Earlier this month, the NSA refused to answer a direct question from U.S. Senator Bernard "Bernie" Sanders (D-Verm.) regarding whether the NSA "spies" on Congress. It said it couldn't address the question because of national security. 

Source: The Washington Post





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