The report’s authors made clear that they were weighing the N.S.A.’s surveillance requirements against other priorities like constitutional protections for privacy and economic considerations for American businesses. The report came just three days after a federal judge in Washington ruled that the bulk collection of telephone data by the government was “almost Orwellian” and a day after Silicon Valley executives complained to Mr. Obama that the N.S.A. programs were undermining American competitiveness in offering cloud services or selling American-made hardware, which is now viewed as tainted. [...]The report echoes many of the concerns of NSA critics, including U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who ruled the National Security Agency's bulk collection of metadata was likely unconstitutional. The panel found that "the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215 telephony metadata was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional section 215 orders," (page 104). Some of the 46 recommendations of the group mirror what's included in legislation from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) to curb the NSA, including an advocate in the secret FISA court to argue against the NSA.
Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who has been an outspoken critic of N.S.A. surveillance, said it echoed the arguments of the N.S.A.’s skeptics in significant ways, noting that it flatly declared that the phone-logging program had not been necessary in stopping terrorist attacks.
One of the most important recommendations, however, is potentially one of the most dangerous. The review group advises maintaining bulk collection of electronic data, but that it be held with the telecommunications companies rather than the government, accessed by warrants as necessary. Masses of data being held by the companies, where Leahy's bill, with its companion in the House from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) would end bulk collection outright.