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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs