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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora