Zee Media Bureau
Washington: After a White House presidential panel sought to impose limitations on the surveillance operations conducted by the National Security agency (NSA), a former chief of the spy agency has expressed doubts that the new curbs could hamper the effectiveness of the intelligence gathering.
Michael Hayden, who was the NSA chief till 2005, told in an interview to the BBC that he supported the transparency but the new curbs, if implemented would make the spying operations tougher.
"Making this more public will shave points off of operational effectiveness....if we don`t do that it won`t matter because the American people won`t let us do it in the first place," he said,
The five-member advisory panel which was set up as a part of response by the White House in wake of the damaging leaks exposed by Edward Snowden, has recommended a slew of changes in a bid to make the working of the NSA more transparent.
Out of 46 recommendations made in a 300-page report, the most significant point was reining in NSA`s ability to gather bulk telephone records data, known as metadata.
The panel has suggested that the metadata must be possessed only by the phone companies or a third party and the NSA would be able to access the data only by an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
“With regard to the bulk metadata of phone calls, we think there should be judicial review before that information is accessed, and we don`t think the government should retain it," said Richard Clarke, one of the task force member.
"We don`t see the need for the government to be retaining that data," said Clarke, who is also a former White House counterterrorism adviser.
The report concludes that telephone information collected in bulk by the NSA and used in terror investigations "was not essential to preventing attacks."
The five-member panel also proposed greater scrutiny of decisions to spy on friendly foreign leaders, a practice that has outraged US allies around the world.
The task force said it sought to balance the nation`s security with the public`s privacy rights and insisted the country would not be put at risk if more oversight was put in place.
"We`re not saying the struggle against terrorism is over or that we can dismantle the mechanisms that we have put in place to safeguard the country," said Richard Clarke, a task force member and former government counterterrorism official. "What we are saying is those mechanisms can be more transparent."
It remains to be seen, however, how many of the panel`s 46 recommendations will be accepted by President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress. The panel`s five members met with Obama at the White House on Wednesday.
NSA officials have staunchly defended the bulk metadata program, saying it is essential to "connect the dots" between terrorist plotters overseas and co-conspirators inside the United States.
"There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots," Army General Keith Alexander, NSA`s director, told a Senate committee last week. "Given that the threat is growing, I believe that is an unacceptable risk to our country."
With Agency Inputs