July 2 The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA)'s
data collection program has been an effective tool to enhance
the country's security but some elements of the cyber-spying
raises privacy concerns, a U.S. federal privacy watchdog said in
Privacy issues have become a hot topic since former NSA
contractor Edward Snowden exposed the spy agency's phone and
Internet spying programs.
But the program has allowed the government to collect a
greater range of foreign intelligence "quickly and effectively,"
the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said in a report
released on Wednesday. (bit.ly/1iT4vZZ)
It added, however, that certain aspects of the program raise
questions about whether its impact on U.S. persons pushes it
over the edge into "constitutional unreasonableness".
The watchdog said it was concerned about the incidental
collection of U.S. persons' communications and the use of
queries to search the information collected under the program
for the communications of specific U.S. persons.
The program, part of the United States' Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act (FISA), collects electronic communications,
including telephone calls and emails, where the target is a
non-U.S. citizen located outside the United States.
The board, set up in 2004, is an independent government
agency within the executive branch that advises the U.S.
president and Congress on how to ensure that counter-terrorism
operations also protect Americans' privacy.
The report was the oversight board's second involving NSA
programs. In January the watchdog said that NSA's bulk
collection of phone records provides only minimal benefits to
countering terrorism, is illegal and should end.
The five-member board also offered several recommendations
so that the program could strike a better balance between
privacy, civil rights, and national security.
(Reporting by Supriya Kurane in Bangalore, editing by Foo Yun