Mr. Obama said everyone who has examined U.S. intelligence programs in detail recognizes that the United States faces real threats from terrorist groups.
"We are expected to protect the American people," he said, but added that government workers must observe high standards of conduct in intelligence work. Reflecting the concerns of those who oppose the National Security Agency's massive surveillance programs, Mr. Obama agreed it is not enough to simply trust the government will act responsibly with the information it collects.
Changes are coming in the way the United States gathers intelligence, Mr. Obama said, and those reforms will take into account the country's relations with allies abroad. He promised "greater transparency" about policies covering collection and analysis of information.
The president pledged to conduct an annual review of orders issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court - the semisecret judicial body that reviews and approves surveillance warrants - to determine which forms of classified information can be made public.
Mr. Obama said the vast program of collecting electronic data - records of the telephone numbers Americans call, along with the dates and lengths of the calls - must continue. He said the content of those conversations are not recorded, and added that such a restriction must remain in effect.
The president said emphatically that the government collects no information intended to suppress dissent.