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TODAY   |  December 19, 2013

Officials want to limit controversial NSA program

A report commissioned by President Obama recommends tighter legal control over the way an NSA data gathering program collects and use information it collects. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>>> looking into government programs, a major overhaul affecting the phone calls of every american. nbc's justice correspondent pete williams has the latest on this. hi, pete.

>> reporter: matt, good morning. civil liberties groups are applauding this report, especially its recommendation that the phone companies, themselves, not the government, store the records of every phone call made in the united states to be checked only when there is a specific need. commissioned by president obama , after the revelations that edward snowden's leaks, the report says the government has a legitimate reason for wanting access to the records of all phone calls made in the u.s. but it recommending ending the way they are gathered now in a massive collection by the national security agency . instead the phone company , themselves, should store the data or some private entity they set up to hold it all. it calls for tighter control on how individual phone numbers are checked to see if there is a connection to terrorism.

>> the report recommends stopping, bury them, if anything. what it focuses much more on is the way in which information should be checked, who should approve that and how that information might be used in the future.

>> reporter: among other recommendations the nsa should get a court order each time it wants to check a phone number in the data bank and phone and internet companies should be allowed to reveal what kind of information the government requires them to turn over. it also says the director of the nsa, who has always been a zmr military officer should instead be a civilian confirmed by the senate to provide more oversight. it recommends cutting back on under surveillance of foreign leaders and exploring agreements with more countries to stop spying on each other's officials. civil liberties groups say it's a good start.

>> if these recommendations were implemented and the president in congress took the review groups recommendation, we'd be back to the america we knew fired from the under surveillance program.

>> reporter: these recommendations are not binding, but they do provide new ammunition to those in congress that want to make the kind of recommendations it makes. matt.