A group of former NSA executives and intelligence agents have released a document detailing how the National Security Agency should be reformed so that the agency no longer violates the constitutional rights of American citizens. The group, which includes former NSA insiders William Binney, Thomas Drake, Kirk Wiebe, and Edward Loomis, has asked to meet with President Barack Obama to brief him on the manifold illegalities and failures of the NSA.
They offer 21 recommendations on how to reform the NSA in ways that protect the rights of American citizens while still enabling the agency to gather intelligence on possible threats to the U.S. Their recommendations go much further toward protecting Americans from unconstitutional surveillance than the 46 proposed by the president's handpicked review board last month.
The group's recommendations chiefly aim to force the NSA to end bulk collection of electronic data on innocent American citizens. The agency would be required to respect the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures and would need a warrant based on probable cause to search data relevant to individual citizens.
Another crucial feature of their recommendations is much increased transparency, including the installation of technology that automatically tracks all accesses to and manipulations of NSA, FBI, and CIA databases. This enables the establishment of audit trails so that an outside oversight body, consisting of members of Congress, tech industry and privacy experts, would be able to trace how agency bureaucrats handle information obtained through surveillance.
In addition, oversight would be enhanced through the creation of a Signals Technical Team (none of whose members can ever have worked for any intelligence agency) that would have unfettered access to all NSA, FBI, and CIA databases to monitor compliance with privacy protections. Whistleblowers would have full confidential access to the STT.
In an attempt to prevent further lying and misdirection by agency officials, the group recommends that when spies testify before Congress about any aspect of inteliigence collection that they use the terminology as defined by the Department of Defense's Architecture Framework Dictionary.
Some specific recommendations are:
(1) Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC): Reject ability to interpret Constitution, requiring that FISC rely on US District, Appeals and Supreme Court precedents; make all rulings public, with the legitimacy of any security redactions verified independently; revoke 2008 FISA Amendments Act and other restrictions on FISC so that it may again reject applications for warrants on substantive grounds; provide for expert attorneys arguing the case for US residents' privacy and for application of the national security qualification regarding foreign collection.
(4) Immediately outlaw the business records, un-notified searches and general warrants practices under PATRIOT Act, FISA, FISC and any other precedents, requiring individual court warrants based on probable cause to acquire the records of US residents. Mandate that individual companies turning over records to the federal government publish annual statistics on the number and types of records and they notify their affected customers as a norm within  days and in exceptional circumstances within  days.
(9) Outlaw national security letters and for US citizens require a Federal District Court warrant based on individual probable cause standard.
According to the New York Times, President Obama is currently seeking balance in plan for spy programs. He should meet with them and he would do well to adopt the recommendations made by this group of former NSA officials.
Don't miss Reason's interview with William Binney.