World News

Obama Curtails NSA Spying

U.S. President Barack Obama says he is curtailing the country's vast surveillance operation, reining in spying by the clandestine National Security Agency.

The president outlined a series of changes Friday, including virtually ending spying on foreign allies and initiating judicial oversight of the government's collection of records of millions of telephone calls Americans make. He said the government would continue to collect the phone data but would move to relinquish control of it by the end of March to a yet-to-be-determined entity after consulting with Congress.

Mr. Obama announced the changes in the country's intelligence gathering in a long-awaited speech prompted by the massive leak of NSA documents over the last several months by former national security contractor Edward Snowden. The NSA says he stole 1.7 million documents before fleeing to asylum in Russia.

Some of documents showed that the U.S. has listened in on calls by foreign allies, including the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. But Mr. Obama said that would end, unless there is a "compelling" concern about U.S. national security.

"I have made clear to the intelligence community that - unless there is a compelling national security purpose - we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies."

He also said he has directed U.S. intelligence and legal officials to develop some of the same surveillance safeguards for foreign nationals that are afforded U.S. citizens.

In a 43-minute speech, Mr. Obama sought to craft a careful balance between the needs of the country to collect information to thwart future terrorist attacks like the 2001 assault on New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000 people and concerns that the surveillance is violating the civil liberties and privacy of Americans.

He said the country has "real enemies and threats, and that intelligence serves a vital role in confronting them."

But he said privacy concerns dictated changes in the phone data collection program. He ordered limits on the extent of the searches of the phone data and said the information can only be looked at after a judicial review or a "true emergency."

He said the changes should give Americans more confidence that their privacy is being protected even as authorities seek to protect the country.

"The reforms I'm proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe."

Mr. Obama said that because of the country's continuing criminal investigation of Snowden, he would not "dwell on Mr. Snowden's actions or motivations."

The U.S. has been unsuccessful in seeking Snowden's extradition to stand trial on espionage charges. He took the documents while working at an NSA outpost on the Pacific island state of Hawaii.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs