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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

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