According to the New York Times, an independent federal privacy watchdog has determined that the NSA's "program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only 'minimal' benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down."
The findings are laid out in a 238-page report, scheduled for release by Thursday and obtained by The New York Times, that represent the first major public statement by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress made an independent agency in 2007 and only recently became fully operational.
The report is likely to inject a significant new voice into the debate over surveillance, underscoring that the issue was not settled by a high-profile speech President Obama gave last week. Mr. Obama consulted with the board, along with a separate review group that last month delivered its own report about surveillance policies. But while he said in his speech that he was tightening access to the data and declared his intention to find a way to end government collection of the bulk records, he said the programs capabilities should be preserved.
Further reading: Snowden Calls Russian-Spy Story Absurd in Exclusive Interview.
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