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NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander defended the NSA's programs as its only way to "connect the dots"

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) may have to rethink its methods of surveillance as a presidential review panel is set to submit draft proposals on changes within the NSA this weekend.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the panel will turn draft recommendations in to the White House this Sunday, which aim to change how the NSA collects and accesses Americans' data such as phone records. 

The panel consists of Peter Swire, former Office of Management and Budget privacy director under President Bill Clinton; Michael Morell, Obama's former deputy CIA director; Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism coordinator under Clinton and later for President George W. Bush; Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago, was an informal adviser to Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, and Cass Sunstein, Obama's former regulatory czar. 

The review panel's recommendations seek to change the NSA's leadership from military to civilian, and limit how the agency collects and holds onto Americans' digital information. In fact, the panel proposed that most phone calls made in the U.S. be held by the phone companies or a third-party organization instead of the NSA. 

Further, the panel suggested that stricter standards be put in place regarding the NSA's access to digital data. One particular recommendation sought to end bulk collection of Americans' data, which captured the personal information of American citizens without any evidence of terrorist links first, then filtered later them out later. 

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander disagreed with the suggested limitations of its surveillance programs, saying its the only way the NSA can "connect the dots." 

"How do we connect the dots?" said Alexander. "There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots. Taking these programs off the table is absolutely not the thing to do."

Last month, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) said that Alexander should take responsibility for the leaks this year by leaving his position or getting fired.  

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 earlier this year. The agency has said that the bulk data collection was meant to identify terrorist threats, but it's been discovered that the data of Americans has been collected without any clear evidence of terrorist links. 
In fact, Democratic Sens. Mark Udall (Colo.), Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (N.M.) filed a brief last week in support of a lawsuit that aims to end the NSA's bulk collection of phone records, saying that a more "targeted" form of surveillance would be more effective. 

In August, 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.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that the NSA even went as far as spying on citizens through online gaming networks like Xbox Live, World of Warcraft and Second Life. These efforts never revealed any terrorist threats, nor was it ever apparent that terrorists used these games to communicate. 

Many public tech figures have even spoken out against the NSA's spying methods, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckberberg, who said the NSA "blew it" with the controversial spying, and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, who said the NSA's spying on data centers was "outrageous." 

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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