News / USA

Obama Spying Changes Draw Cautious Praise

Obama Spying Changes Draw Cautious Praisei
X
January 18, 2014 1:40 AM
President Barack Obama's proposals to reform U.S. surveillance have earned partial backing from intelligence experts and some critics. As VOA's Kent Klein reports, however, many are waiting to see whether Friday's speech results in action.
Obama Spying Changes Draw Cautious Praise
Kent Klein
President Barack Obama's proposals to reform U.S. surveillance have earned partial backing from intelligence experts and some critics. Many are waiting to see, however, whether Friday's speech results in action.

"I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities, at home and abroad," said the president.

After months of controversy, Obama has proposed limits on some activities by the National Security Agency.

Among the suggestions from a presidential review board are having the NSA give up control of phone records, ending spying on the leaders of U.S. allies, and giving some privacy protections to foreign citizens under surveillance.

Bruce Riedel, who leads the Brookings Institution's Intelligence Project, said the president struck a blow for transparency. "But I don't think we've ever had a document like this, that lays out the protocols, principles for American signals intelligence collection. And I think that's good in two respects. It's good for the American public, the global public, to be able to read it and see what those principles are. And it's good for the National Security Agency, because the National Security Agency can say, 'See, what we did was legal,'" he said.

Former acting CIA director John McLaughlin is taking a wait-and-see approach. "I suspect what he said today will not lead to great cheers among those who want strong limitations placed on the NSA, nor will it lead to great cheers among those who think very little or nothing should be done. So he has charted a middle ground here," he said.

At Washington's American University, national security law expert Stephen Vladeck said the plan's success depends on its implementation. "Are these reforms actually going to be carried into force? How meaningful are they going to be? Are the intelligence communities going to find ways around these reforms through other programs, through other technologies?"

One of the NSA's sharpest critics, former agency analyst Bill Binney, gave Obama credit for seeking advice on the issue from the intelligence community. "He seemed to be open to even more suggestions than what he laid out, which is a positive, because I think he needs to go quite a bit further than he has," he said.

Binney said the president needs to scrap bulk data collection entirely and use a more tightly focused approach.

Obama's attention to the privacy rights of foreigners was praised by Brookings Institution senior fellow Benjamin Wittes, who said, "The president, for the first time - and it's a very important statement at a kind of spiritual level - that we acknowledge that non-U.S. persons have privacy rights in the context of our overseas collection."

That, and the order to stop spying on friendly leaders, should improve U.S. foreign relations, according to Stephen Vladeck at the American University School of Law.

"So no longer collecting foreign intelligence just because we can, but actually collecting foreign intelligence when we have a cognizable identifiable individualized need for specific information on specific individuals and you know that could be a very dramatic step, certainly a very positive one from the perspective of diplomatic relations with our friends and partners overseas," said Vladeck.

Several experts say that if the president's speech accomplishes nothing else, it will help build morale at the beleaguered NSA.

You May Like

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid