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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

NSA Review Panelist: ‘Potential For Abuse’ Is Greatest Concern

The National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., in an undated photo. (

The National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., in an undated photo. (

President Obama will speak at the Justice Department on Friday to announce his plans to reform the controversial National Security Agency surveillance programs.

The president’s plan comes after a panel he appointed to review the programs recommended sweeping changes to the NSA’s spying practices. In particular, panelists said that the NSA’s mass collection of telephone data was not effective and should be fundamentally reformed. The group had 46 recommendations in all, and called for increasing oversight of spying programs and greater transparency.

“The real concern with this program is with the potential for abuse.”

“We’re not saying the bulk collection itself is necessarily a bad idea,” Geoffrey R. Stone, a member of the president’s NSA review panel and a law professor at the University of Chicago tells Here & Now’s Robin Young. “What we’re saying is that it has to be done in a way that is consistent with the values of privacy and civil liberties.”

Stone stresses that a private entity — not the government — needs to hold the metadata, not the government.

“The real concern with this program is with the potential for abuse, and the way to protect against that is to have the data be held by a private entity that both can see what the government is doing, and also that is not part of the government and would resist illegal attempts to access the data,” Stone said.

Obama appointed the panel after intelligence contractor Edward Snowden released documents showing the massive extent and reach of NSA spying, both at home in the U.S. and abroad.

Obama has been holding a series of meetings to formulate his plans for NSA reform. Today, all five members of the president’s panel will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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  • Geoffrey R. Stone, member of President Obama’s NSA review panel and professor of law at the University of Chicago.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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