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Panel recommends NSA changes after 'cataclysmic' Snowden affair

A review handed in to the White House says the NSA should continue its work, with some provisos. The investigative panel's head also said an amnesty for whistleblower Edward Snowden should be considered.

A group looking into surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) has given more than 40 recommendations to President Barack Obama about changes that need to be made.

The proposals are to be considered by the White House, with a complete internal review set to be complete in January.

Disclosures about the NSA's activities had been "cataclysmic" for the eavesdropping agency, according to Richard Ledgett, who led a task force responding to the leaks. In an interview with the broadcaster CBS, he outlined changes that could be made to the NSA's work that would restore the confidence of the public.

While the five-member task force kept its recommendations secret, US news media organizations mapped out proposals that would let the NSA continue.

Among the possible changes were restrictions on spying on allied nations, the New York Times said. The Wall Street journal proposed moving the ownership of the documents over to individual companies, rather than having them owned by the government.

'Worth having a conversation about'

Ledgett also told CBS that that he would be open to granting an amnesty to intelligence leaker Edward Snowden if he agreed to stop releasing secrets. "My personal view is, yes, it's worth having a conversation about," said Ledgett in the interview at the NSA's heavily guarded Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters (pictured).

Ledgett added that Snowden would need to provide more than just assurances. "My bar on those assurances would be very high… more than just an assertion," he said in excerpts of the interview that were distributed in advance of a full broadcast on Sunday.

Obama's administration said on Friday it would keep one person in charge of both the NSA and the military's Cyber Command.

Snowden is reported to have stolen some 1.7 million classified documents, with about 58,000 of them passed to news media outlets, according to Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Among the worst excesses alleged are that the NSA spied on foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The agency is also said to have mined metadata and information from millions of emails and phone calls, some of it from US citizens.

rc/jm (AP, AFP)