Issa's Panel to Obama: Take 'Immediate' Steps to Reform NSA

Monday, 27 Jan 2014 10:23 PM

By Cynthia Fagen

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A bipartisan group of House members sent a scathing letter to President Barack Obama criticizing him for not going far enough to curtail the NSA's surveillance programs, The Hill reported Monday.

Six lawmakers led by House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sent the letter to the White House calling on the Obama administration to "take immediate and effective safeguards" to reform the National Security Agency and saying it should not allow Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to be involved in any changes.

"The continued role of James Clapper as director of national intelligence is incompatible with the goal of restoring trust in our security programs and ensuring the highest level of transparency," they wrote.

Earlier this month, Obama proposed new limits on the agency's ability to collect and store data on nearly all Americans' phones calls, among other measures. He called on Clapper and Attorney General Eric Holder to come up with reforms.

In the past, Clapper denied under oath to lawmakers that the NSA spied on millions of Americans.

"Asking Director Clapper, and other federal intelligence officials who misrepresented programs to Congress and the courts, to report to you on needed reforms and the future role of government surveillance is not a credible solution," the lawmakers wrote, adding that the president's instructions for overhauling the NSA "fall short."

"We cannot effectively guard our constitutional liberties and operate our national security programs with unresolved administrative questions. Additional layers of bureaucracy and reporting directives cannot act as a substitute for concrete reforms and overdue transparency," the letter says.

Documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden also revealed that the NSA had spied on social media giants Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo, among other tech companies. Last week, the Obama administration brokered a deal that will allow the Internet companies to disclose more information about government surveillance requests targeting their users.

Civil-liberties advocates and lawmakers say the measure stops short of what is necessary for effective surveillance reform, Politico reports.

Signers Reps. Ted Poe, R-Tx.; Paul Broun, R-Ga.; Doug Collins, R-Ga.; Walter Jones, R-N.C.; and Alan Grayson, D-Fla., along with Issa, also called for higher standards for using National Security Letters, which require people and businesses to turn over information to the government.

A federal judge ruled that so-called national security letters are unconstitutional because the FBI bars recipients from disclosing to anyone, including their customers or legal counsel, that they received the demands.

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